Margaret’s Story: From Self-Medicating to Sober Living

Margaret’s Story: From Self-Medicating to Sober Living | Transcend Recovery Community

There are many options for rehabilitating from an addiction. They include a live in residential center, sober living homes, halfway houses, community-based services, and a rehab center that also includes mental health services.

Regardless of the level of care you’re in – an outpatient treatment program or a residential treatment center, it’s important to heal from the psychological undercurrents of an addiction as well, and not just the addiction itself. Of course, in the beginning, withdrawing from alcohol dependency and healing the physical body will be central. However, later in the recovery process, healing the emotional and psychological ailments will also become necessary.

In fact, more recently, it has become a common trend that drug rehab centers and sober living facilities also address mental health issues. It is frequently found that a drug or alcohol addiction will accompany a mental illness and that often the addiction began because of the illness. Research indicates that approximately, 60-75% of those who abuse drugs or alcohol also have a mental illness. Mental illnesses that tend to co-exist with addiction includes (but is not limited to):

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety
  • Major Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Margaret was diagnosed early with Bipolar Disorder. She is a waitress living in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, and has a difficult time managing her emotions. To make matters worse, her home life is not supportive and hasn’t been for years. When Margaret thinks about her childhood, she cannot recall a time when her mother was completely attentive to her needs. One time, they were waiting in the lobby of a physician’s office where she and her brother we bothering all of the other patients who were also waiting and their mother ignored them despite their misbehavior.

Because her mother was never really tended to her, Margaret never learned the important skill of emotional self-regulation. It’s something that most healthy adults do naturally. When sadness takes over in the middle of the workplace, most people can put that sadness on the shelf for a time being and attend to their responsibilities.  Furthermore, many adults experience sadness as an emotion separate from their sense of self. Yet, Margaret and most people with Bipolar Disorder tend to easily lose their sense of identity, particularly when they experience intense emotions.

The inability to regulate emotions can easily lead to drug use, which was the case with Margaret. Two years ago, she began drinking and hasn’t stopped. She knows that a drug abuse rehab center and/or a sober living facility would be good for her. Since she’s already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she also recognizes that the drinking is only a symptom to a larger problem. What she needs is to find a rehab center that will not only address the addiction but also her mental illness.

When this is the case, sober living rehab treatment must thoroughly address the addiction, the mental illness, as well as any underlying issues that might also be contributing to substance use. There are drug rehabilitative centers are clinically oriented and do their best to address both the substance addiction as well as the mental illness. However, there are facilities that do not. This usually leads to chronic relapse because the primary cause for the addiction was not addressed and treated. When an addiction is the way that a person self-medicates, just like Margaret’s attempt to regulate her emotions through alcohol, treating the addiction alone will not permanently resolve the problem. The underlying issues must also be treated. This means not only the mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder, but also the factors that might have led to the mental illness in the first place.

For Margaret, drug abuse rehab might include drug counseling, therapy, if possible, family therapy, learning new coping mechanisms, a physiological and psychological examination, and more. If her underlying issues are thoroughly addressed, she’ll have more of a chance of staying sober and avoiding relapse.


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