Everyone is susceptible to the onset of mental illness in their lifetime. A variety of factors contribute to the development of mental illness, from life circumstances to chemical imbalances, to genetics and ancestry. Whatever causes our mental illness to arise, it is of critical importance that we learn to recognize the symptoms, receive a proper diagnosis, and create a plan of action for treatment.
Too often, people with long-term sobriety ignore the growing signs of their mental illnesses and allow their conditions to worsen to the point of dysfunctional anxiety, severe depression, or other problematic issues. Pride, fear, shame, stigma, and stereotype, as well as the idea that mental illness in recovery is a failure of some kind, prevent people from seeking the help they need to feel better.
If there is a lesson we learn from the process of becoming recovered from drug and alcohol addiction, it is that life does not have to be lived in a state of pain, struggle, and misery. Substance use disorder is a mental illness and can be overcome. Other mental illnesses can be overcome as well through treatment, therapy, and many of the same lifestyle changes we make in our recovery journey from drug and alcohol addiction.
Sobriety Does Not Eradicate Mental Illness
Living sober and maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol is life-changing. There is no way other way to explain what happens when someone who has lived in the danger and desperation of active addiction finds themselves in the “sunlight of the spirit” brought on by recovery. Our perspective truly changes.
But recovery does not create immunity from mental illness. Though we find ourselves free from addiction, we are not free from the other natural ups and downs of life. We might experience sudden and inexplicable loss. We might suffer sickness or disease. Despite the focus on mental health and wellness, later in life we might develop a mental illness, or see the resurgence of symptoms of a pre-existing mental health condition, which stems far beyond our power of control. No matter how well we work a program of recovery, how full our life becomes, and even how well we take care of both our body and our mind, mental illness can onset at any point in our lives.
The Onset Of Mental Illness Is Not A Result Of Failure
Our misconception that recovery offers us resistance against all things we perceive as “bad” in life often transforms into the idea that anything “wrong” is a sign of failure in our recovery – particularly mental illness. If we are practicing gratitude, being of service, attending meetings, fellowshipping, exercising, eating a nutritious and well-rounded diet, then surely we should be clear of developing major depression years into our recovery. Though all the components of a recovery lifestyle do contribute to better mental health, none of them are a proven cure or preventative for mental illness. Meaning, we are still vulnerable and at risk, like anyone else.
The onset of mental illness in our recovery is not a result of any kind of failure. Mental illness in and of itself is not any kind of failure or a result of any kind of failure. This idea results in the shame, stigma, and stereotype which surrounds mental illness as a whole. It could never be said enough, with enough emphasis: mental illness is not a failure.
If You Are Struggling
If you have multiple years of sobriety under your belt and are struggling with the signs and symptoms of untreated mental illness, help is available, despite your time in sobriety. We always have work to be done on ourselves. Our challenge is to rise to the occasion whenever the work presents itself, in whatever capacity. Just like you did when you hit bottom in your addiction, reach out and ask for help. Just as you are instructed to do in your sobriety, talk to someone about what you are going through. Know that there is a solution, most likely a few of them, and that you can and will feel better soon.
Mental illness struggles can be accompanied by thoughts of suicide. If you are have suicidal thoughts or ideations, please reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 1800-273-8255
Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance abuse, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.