Anonymous in Memphis
I’ll keep my name anonymous, but I am an addict, and I’m an NA member from Memphis. I came to NA from treatment where I was diagnosed with not only drug addiction but mental illness. This is not the exception. I am not unique.
The first and most important thing I want to stress is that If I hadn’t found recovery, I would have died from overdose or suicide. NA saved my life! For the first time in my adult life, I had hope that the horrors of addiction could be paused, and I could find a new way to live. I was given this gift by NA members who brought H&I presentations while I was hospitalized. Two to three times a week, I heard the message that an addict – ANY addict – can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live.
As a using addict, I spent decades not taking “appropriate” medications for my mental health because the pills and capsules doctors gave me didn’t make me high. In my opinion, they didn’t do anything for me. That was all I was looking for in those years. I tossed aside dozens of scripts without second thoughts and just went to another doctor who would prescribe me what I was really looking for: uppers and downers and if those weren’t available, I would go to find drugs on the streets. I was self-medicating myself and didn’t know it.
In recovery and by outside resources, I learned that my mental illness was like any other medical illness. This is an important fact for addicts. Not only was I a drug addict but the traumatic events of my life had caused brain lesions. I also learned that I had a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters which was a result of years of drug use, mental, physical, and emotional trauma.
I also had developmental disorders which had been caused by continuous stress, abuse, and abandonment. Like many addicts, my life was a physical and emotional hell growing up and continued to be that way as an adult.
I learned that I couldn’t just wish this condition away or only apply a 12-step program to it and be done. I didn’t get better just because I suddenly quit using or began going to NA meetings, but I did raise my odds when I did this. My life started improving.
For me, participation in Narcotics Anonymous allowed for the physical healing of my brain to begin as well as my emotional healing to start. In early recovery, I found an NA sponsor and began doing the basics: using that sponsor, reading literature, doing steps, praying to my higher power, doing service, and carrying the message of recovery to other suffering addicts. But I also followed the directions of my psychiatrist who told me it was vital that I commit to 12-Step meetings indefinitely, and they prescribed non- narcotic and non-addictive medications as indicated.
While I have struggled at times, having a life worth living has certainly been worth it. I am grateful that I am able to continue moving forward and making progress in my recovery. It has only been through my faith in NA, my higher power, my physicians, and the program of Narcotics Anonymous that I remain clean and committed to my recovery, healing, and growth.
As a recovering addict with mental illness, I was very relieved to see the NA approved IP called Mental Health in Recovery. While some addicts in the rooms understand and support people like me and our need to take medication, the stigma of mental illness in NA is a real thing that can cause lasting harm or even death. It is my hope that this pamphlet and other articles like mine can begin the work of removing that stigma and allow other addicts like me to recover.
Another message that I want to leave you with is that it takes hard work, dedication, and support to recover mentally, physically, and spiritually. Don’t give up.
Finally, if you can relate to my story, it is my wish that I have given you some hope. By telling you part of my story, I leave you with this…Remember. You are not alone, and We Do Recover.