Dual diagnosis - A journey of recovery

I can’t tell you exactly when mental illness became a part of my life but I can tell you that I started to drink at age 14. I added pills to the alcohol at 16 and progressively went on a downhill, self destructive slide.


At age 8 my father died from cancer and even my mother said I really never recovered, I worshipped him and all of a sudden he was just gone!

My mother’s relationships with dysfunctional men (2 in particular) certainly didn’t help, after that my mother married one of them.

I grew up after that with the unpredictability that alcoholism and violence brings in a household.

But I did start drinking and after my uncle sexually abused me when I was 16 I drank 10 times more.

Due to being raised in a dysfunctional household I never learnt how to express feelings or really even know what they were.

I wasn’t taught by example what a functional relationship was, therefore my first and only long term relationship ended in disaster after nearly 7 years.

Intentional overdoses and attacking my own body with razors became normal from 18 onwards.

After my relationship ended at 23, sedatives joined the cocktail I was taking and became my best friend.

After going through a harrowing detox I tried a number of rehabs in Sydney and the A.C.T. — finally leading to my first admission to a program that ultimately worked for me, in August 1991.

It took several admissions over 4 years for me to finally rehabilitate myself enough so that I could lead a reasonably functional life. No one ever lost hope for me and never gave up trying.

I can honestly say that most rehabs would not have coped with my behaviours and the fact that I was battling mental illness as well.

When mental illness took hold of me completely it felt like dark clouds were closing in and I was slowly being suffocated. The fear is indescribable, I would then become disassociated with life around me, at times seeing and hearing things in slow motion — I would then at times cut myself to make sure I wasn’t dead and in hell.

I still have the battle scars from the war I raged against myself but they are now a reminder that I can survive anything. Even when clean and sober I became ill and received shock treatment, I survived that too.

So in summary battling addiction and mental illness can be extremely hard, but recovery is possible.

I am now at 36 a qualified Welfare Worker and work part-time in the industry. I take certain medications to keep myself well, but through everything I have endured, one thing can be said without doubt — I am strong and I can achieve anything.