I’m one of those members who thought folks on mental health meds or any “mood or mind- changing drugs” should go to another fellowship or ‘we’ should start a new fellowship, or we should start ‘complete abstinence’ meetings.
I changed sponsors early on because she started taking a new type of antidepressant. Was I open minded? No. All I saw was the fact that “I used to abuse my mom’s antidepressants and I was afraid that if I started thinking they were okay to take, I’d use that as an excuse to take them myself and relapse.
When I had 9 years clean my brother-in-law tried to get clean. He reached out to me for help. I took him to a meeting. He said the doctor prescribed him anti-depressants and that he wasn’t going to take a drug to get off another drug. Unfortunately, I agreed with him. I told him I was depressed too when I first got clean. He committed suicide not long after that.
I sponsored various women over time and while I didn’t tell them to get off their medication, I pushed the idea that NA was a program of complete abstinence from ALL drugs. After all the Basic Text says: ‘There is no safe use of drugs for us.”’
I even tried to get NAWS to change something on their website because it alluded to the fact that you were clean if you were on mental health meds. Why did I have a problem with that? Because maybe not everyone is taking them for the right reason, and they can be abused too!! I was not fond of the In Times of Illness booklet because it had a chapter on mental health and medication (that I thought was an outside issue).
Anytime someone would talk about their medication in a meeting, I would share behind them, things like: ‘I was depressed too, who’s not depressed when they get clean, I cried in every meeting I was in, and etc, and proceed to quote our literature.
The only good things I did during this time regarding this topic was that I started referring women on medication who asked me to be their sponsor to other ladies who had this type experience and could better help them.
Fast forward to 2012. I was at one of my very favorite conventions, the Mississippi Delta Convention. One of their workshops was Double Trouble. There were several of us like-minded members talking about this workshop. How dare they have a workshop on this outside issue at an NA convention!! Most folks I was talking to wouldn’t even go into the workshop. But I went because I wanted to see what kind of messed up stuff they said!
Well, let me tell you. I came out of that workshop with my thinking on this issue 180 degrees changed. There were 3 speakers who shared their personal experience strength and hope on this topic… all who lived with addiction AND mental health problems. When it was over and there was some time for sharing, a member from Memphis shared briefly.
About a week or so after this convention a member from Memphis committed suicide. At the time I heard she did not get the support in meetings she needed. She needed to have a safe place to talk about everything affecting her recovery, including her mental health.
I made copies of the CD I bought of the Double Trouble Workshop from the convention and gave it to anyone who would take it. When I’d go on road trips with folks to region or other conventions, I’d bring that CD along to play.
I desperately wanted someone to start a special interest meeting on “in times of illness” so folks would have a safe place to go and share about any illnesses that affected their recovery. (I was also VERY opposed to special interest meetings up until this time as well!) It Works How and Why says: “Does the Tenth Tradition tell us that, as individual recovering addicts, we must not talk in NA meetings about the challenges we face? No, it does not. While a particular problem may be an outside issue, its effect on our recovery is not; everything affecting a recovering addict’s life is material for sharing. If a problem we are having impacts our ability to stay clean and grow spiritually, it’s not an outside issue.”.
I was thrilled when the motion passed at the World Service Conference to create the IP, Mental Health in Recovery.
While I was good early on at spouting the traditions and literature on this issue that I thought agreed with my opinion, I was overlooking the 1st tradition: “Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends on NA UNITY.” It’s first for a reason. As we read at every meeting: “Understanding these traditions comes slowly over a period of time…” That has been true for me.
I’m grateful that our fellowship has slowly changed over the years as well – we now have a great new piece of literature on the subject
I was not alone in my opinion on this topic back in the day. I have a feeling that others have also slowly changed their understanding that when we say ‘’complete abstinence” it does not include meds prescribed by a doctor for our health, mental or otherwise. Can we abuse these meds even if prescribed by a doctor? Yes. And, that’s why we have a sponsor, close friends in the fellowship, and doctors we trust.
Most of all I’m grateful for that Double Trouble workshop or I might be stuck back in the 80s with the closed mindedness I carried with me for so many years on this subject.
“Everything we know is subject to revision, especially what we know about the truth.”