QUESTION: I read your blog on bipolar disorder the other day. Do you think your bipolar disorder caused your porn and alcohol addictions?
ANSWER: I think it certainly played a role. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I got myself lost in the addictions, but to deny that there wasn’t some influence is ludicrous.
When you’re an addict and have mental health issues, it’s called having co-occurring disorders. It’s not rare. More than half of drug addicts and around 40% of alcoholics have co-occurring disorders. I have not found statistics on porn/sex, gambling or video game addiction.
An important revelation I’ve come to accept during recovery is that everything is connected in our lives.
I became an addict because I had some childhood trauma, which stunted development of certain coping skills. I became an addict because of a rich history of addiction on both sides of my family. I became an addict because I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so different than my peers. I became an addict because despite being properly educated on the danger, I had a bit of a defiant, curious, pleasure-seeking personality that was open to trying anything.
But then again, maybe all those things happened because of the bipolar disorder, or both.
I have a chicken-and-egg debate with myself about whether I entered the critical phase of addiction because I stopped taking my bipolar medication or whether I stopped taking my bipolar medication because I entered the critical phase of addiction.
At that point, my sleep tumbled to 2-3 hours per night, my relationships with family and business partners grew distant and strained, my physical appearance became of little concern and I eventually stopped caring about almost everything. Was that because I was a critical addict or because I was mentally ill?
I think you’d need a pie chart to graphically represent what led to me being who I was. I don’t know what the biggest piece would have been. Some might have labeled me as an addict, some may have labeled me as mentally ill while others would have just labeled me as somebody they didn’t want to be around because of those other little parts of the pie chart put together. It doesn’t matter really. It was all connected.
As somebody who had already been in and out of therapy for several years prior to accepting my porn and alcohol addictions, I knew that not only would I have to get help for the addictions, but the therapy was going to have to not only continue at a higher frequency, but start exploring my life in a different direction. I needed to learn how to manage my mental health and addictions. I had to have co-occurring solutions to co-occurring disorders.
Sadly, only 7-10 percent of people suffering from co-occurring disorders get help for both simultaneously. Unfortunately, most therapists who deal with the kind of mental health issues that come with bipolar disorder are not schooled in addiction counseling or solutions, and vice versa. At the first rehab I went to for alcoholism, they’d basically start shutting you down if you talked about other facets of mental health.
This question was part of a much larger email from the person who wanted an answer. My final words to them are the final words I’ll write here: In the end, you have to take care of the entire person, but that means simultaneously taking care of a lot of little parts. You’ve got a doctor for your teeth, one for your eyes, one for your general physical health. You see a specialist for your heart, or another specialist if you need an operation. It’s OK to see one therapist for addictions and another for dealing with bipolar. We have a lot to take care of as humans because after all, it’s all connected.
If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE
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DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.