Alcohol is rarely the whole story.

Alcoholics are often diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and a myriad of other psychological disorders. And those who aren’t generally could be. This is not to say that all alcoholics need psychiatric help, though many do seek it. Alcoholism tends to mimic, cause, or be caused by these disorders. Many alcoholics report terrible emotional lows, suicidal thoughts, manic highs, and schizophrenic feelings (defined as “experiencing or maintaining contradictory attitudes, emotions, etc.”) leading them to be diagnosed with psychological disorders which may or may not exist.

Alcoholics who are so diagnosed face unique difficulties in recovery. While the worlds of psychiatry and AA are not at odds with each other, the alcoholic himself may come to feel that he is attempting to serve two masters until he can find the proper balance. He may ask himself whether his recent anxiety and melancholy is due to becoming lax in his program or if he has withdrawn from participating due to clinical depression. Likewise, a more buoyant mood could be attributed to a manic episode, finding the proper medication or a spiritual awakening. So much of what is “wrong” in an alcoholic is measured by feeling. Intangible, ethereal measures left in the hands of those who are chronically obsessed with feeling numb are not always interpreted correctly by sponsors or medical professionals… or the alcoholic himself.

My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic… and I also have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. The hardest part of this is learning to be completely honest with myself, my sponsor and my doctors about how much work I am putting into the program and how I am feeling. It is not up to me to determine the best course of action. I must trust those with proper expertise to guide me in the right course of action.

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