I feel like I often gloss over the role that bipolar disorder played in my life as I contended with my addictions. I know being the guy who’s open about his porn addiction is what makes me more unique than most addicts in the public’s eyes, but I often feel like I’m leaving out a big factor in my story when I don’t explain the nuances of bipolar disorder.

I believe that all addiction stems from three areas: Your DNA, your environment/upbringing and your own faulty choices. I think most of us who are addicts have different percentages of each that make up our individual formulas, but few addicts – be it alcohol, porn, food, drugs, etc. – have told me it wasn’t some combination of the three.

I’m not going to go into long definitions or scientific explanations of bipolar disorder or even a “greatest hits” of my experiences. If you’d like to read a story I wrote for the magazine I once owned, you can find it HERE. It’s a long read, but it will get into my entire personal story. Ironically, it was also written in January 2013, just before my addictions got to the critical point that eventually took me down.

Many people who have to deal with bipolar disorder express similar side effects, with one of the most common being the desire to pull yourself off of your medication. It’s a hard thing to explain. I think it’s a combination of remembering through the lens of nostalgia what the mania felt like and reaching a conclusion that the medication did its trick and now you’re better.

I know one of the only reasons I was able to maneuver myself into a position as a publisher of a magazine at 34 was because of the hard work I did at 18 or 22 or 25. My willingness to get fully engulfed at whatever job in journalism or publishing I had at the time opened doors that led me to this high-ranking position 15-20 years earlier than most.

That hard work was fueled by the manic side of the bipolar disorder. I recall after quitting college (the first time) that there were many days I worked at the local daily newspaper office writing stories between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., then I’d have a break for an hour and come back at 5 p.m. to design pages until 1 a.m. I’d go home, fall asleep around 4 a.m., wake up at 7:30 a.m. and repeat the process without an ounce of fatigue.

For those of you who are addicts, but not manic, I think you may understand mania best in terms of your addiction. Take that great dopamine hit your addiction gave you and halve it. Then, replace the other half with the rush caffeine gives you after a couple strong cups of coffee.

I recall this as a never-ending supply of positive energy, but I know I’m romanticizing it. It was that way most of the time, but about 20% of the time, it was the opposite. It was crippling depression. It was like wearing a wet fur coat on a stiflingly hot day. It was about forcing myself to stay awake and do my job because I needed money to live, despite the fact I didn’t want to on most days. When I was flying high, I told myself the depressive episodes were the trade-off.

I know there is some controversy over the medications used to treat bipolar disorder and how and why they exactly work, not to mention the long-term side effects. The most effective drug I was on, nefazodone (marketed as Serzone in the US), was pulled when it was found to destroy a lot of users’ livers. The drugs worked for me. Once banned, it took a while to find the right cocktail and we still need to change things up every 3-4 years, but they worked.

In early 2013, the magazine started showing signs of weakness. We had been operating for four years at that point and while costs rose, revenue stalled, then slowly decreased. I think this was half my fault and half market conditions I couldn’t adapt to…maybe that means it’s all my fault.

I don’t remember the moment I decided to stop taking my meds. I don’t know if it was like a light switch, or if I realized I’d forgot for a few days and happened to be feeling good that day and drew a correlation. Somehow, the idea that if I stopped taking my meds I would increase the likelihood of saving the business seemed to make sense.

When I talk about taking responsibility for what I did, I think it starts here. While I couldn’t control many of my thoughts and actions while in the deepest throes of addiction, in deciding that avoiding medicating was a good move, I made the decision to live with the consequences. I just didn’t have the consequences I was hoping for. I think it’s like driving my car off a cliff. It’s not my fault gravity will pull it down and the impact will likely kill me…that’s just nature. It’s my fault for driving off the cliff in the first place.

I believe the bipolar diagnosis may have hid the addictions because it gave my sometimes erratic behavior a plausible explanation. I could be flat-out drunk, do something stupid, but explain it away as a bipolar episode…and everyone else bought it. Crazy behavior in Amsterdam or Japan had to do with the bipolar was the story I told people for years…and they agreed. I did for a long time, too.

I almost always end these articles by telling people to seek help for their addictions if they need it, but I also want to urge anybody who feels off a lot, or feels like their highs and lows are a little more pronounced than most people appear to be to please get yourself checked out. It’s a curse that has been just as important, just as debilitating and just as much in need of constant attention as my addictions.

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