The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous serve to get an addict sober from a specific addiction, but often times, there are addicts who suffer from underlying mental illnesses. Though sobriety alone can stop the exacerbation of these mental illnesses, the mental illness itself cannot be solved through sobriety alone.

There is a trend for many in the AA community to view all medications in a negative light. There is not a completely unfounded reason for that assumption. Many addicts abuse medications and can transfer addictions from alcohol to prescription medications. For example, an alcoholic may get sober from alcohol, but still struggle with crippling anxiety. He or she will go to the doctor, get a prescription for Xanax, and start abusing the prescription. There is a fine line between treating mental illnesses and ensuring that another form of addiction does not take hold.

However, there is no reason for another member in the community to tell someone what he or she should not take. If one is struggling with a mental illness of some kind, and is still depressed, anxious, manic, or dissacociative after getting sober, he or she must figure out the best steps forward. Here are some suggestions for those suffering from dual diagnoses.

1. Speak to a physician while being completely honest about an addiction. Unfortunately, addicts have a tendency to be sneaky or even ashamed, sometimes years after sobriety. Oftentimes, the addict is afraid to tell a doctor that he or she is an ex alcoholic or drug addict. There is no need to be frightened of being honest with a doctor. Doctors will be relieved and grateful that the addict is honest with them. This allows the doctor to prescribe a course of treatment for the mental illness, keeping that knowledge in mind. For those suffering from anxiety, for example, the doctor could choose to give a medication like Buspar instead of Xanax, considering Buspar is a non-addictive treatment for anxiety.

If there is no choice but to prescribe something addictive, the doctor will be able to monitor the medication more closely. If refills are filled too closely together, or the addict requires more and more of the medication upon each subsequent visit, then the doctor will know how to handle the problem. There is no need for the addict to be worried about “getting in trouble.” Most doctors view addiction as a disease, and understand that once the addict starts abusing a drug, much of it is out of their control.

2. Do not let a weak mental state interfere with what’s right for you as an addict. In other words, many addicts and alcoholics are broken when they arrive to an AA recovery group or rehab program. They are very susceptible to suggestion, and are willing to listen to anybody who can provide a “quick fix.” Though most members of the AA or NA community are well meaning, they are not qualified to provide advice regarding medication. Only the addict and doctor are qualified to plan out a treatment course for any mental illness.

3. Be completely honest with yourself. Before the addict goes to a doctor or starts self-diagnosing, he or she needs to sit down with a sponsor, counselor, or trusted friend and discuss the situation at hand. How bad is the anxiety? How bad is the depression? How long has it been going on for? What kinds of effects are happening as a result of these conditions? Very often, addicts are not completely honest with themselves and end up abusing prescription drugs as a result.

For example, the addict may feel anxious, but is it really a condition that needs assistance, or is it a condition that could go away with more exercise and nutritional changes? Does the addict truly care about getting rid of the anxiety as a mental illness, or are they secretly looking for a doctor who will prescribe them something to take the edge off? Many times, the addict doesn’t even know himself or herself whether or not they are looking for a medication for the right reasons. That’s why speaking with a counselor or certified therapist can be helpful in these types of situations.

Honesty will lead to sobriety. When the addict is fully honest with themselves, their doctor, and their sponsor about the nature of their mental illness or condition, then he or she no longer has to worry about what others consider “sober.” The addict will know deep down within whether or not they are truly sober-whether that means being prescribed a medication or taking the natural route. It is of no concern what others consider sober, because it is the addict himself who must be comfortable, productive, and content with his own life.

Are you struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? If so, contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health. Call 949-558-4723  to start your roadmap towards recovery today.