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Penny's Story

I have never been to a DRA meeting but I hope you’ll let me post this anyway. There are none in my small town. We have two meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous a week, and I’ve been to every one of them for the last six months.

I’ve been taking antidepressants for the last eight years. I tried Norpramin, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, and I would usually stop taking them after a couple of months and then I’d see the doctor and maybe start again for a while.

I don’t think I ever gave them a fair chance to work. I drank wine and smoked pot almost every evening because it seemed to help me to relax and get to sleep.

Last year I had a nervous breakdown. I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I quit going to work and I didn’t bother to call in. I locked myself in my home, disconnected the phone, and just went to bed. At that time I just wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. I never seriously thought of suicide, just sleeping forever.

My neighbor Mary got worried about me, and came pounding on the door. I wouldn’t answer so then she started beating on my bedroom window. I finally let her in because she refused to go away and I was afraid she’d break the glass.

We had been next-door neighbors for several years but never really friends. That day she was my guardian angel.

Mary took me to the hospital and I stayed for two weeks. On the fourth day in the hospital she came to visit me. She sat and talked with me for a long time. She told me that she was a drug addict and alcoholic who didn’t need to drink or use drugs anymore. I would have never guessed it.

Here was this smiling, kindly, gray-haired woman who was telling me she was a drunk She told me her story and told me about the fellowship of A.A. She left some A.A. pamphlets for me to read and told me to contact her any time I wanted to attend a meeting.

Mary took me to my first meeting the day after I got out of the hospital. She gave me a Big Book and suggested I read it carefully. I heard a lot of my story at that meeting. I felt accepted and felt a new sense of hopefulness. I haven’t missed a meeting since.

A few weeks later I discovered the DRA website while surfing around late at night from one of those websites that have all the recovery site links. I read through the Q & A, and the other pages and knew the ideas of dual recovery would help me with my A.A. program.

I sent for the books and Mary and I both read them. It put my recovery in perspective. The people in my A.A. meetings didn’t seem to mind when I talked of my medications and depression-like I heard they do in some localities, but the DRA books validated my feelings and needs in a way that the Big Book couldn’t do.

They have made the Steps more meaningful to me because they relate to my psychiatric illness too. They described how both my illnesses affect each other and my recovery.

They helped me to really understand that I am not guilty or bad for having these illnesses and how to live in the solution one day at a time.

Today I know that smoking pot and drinking changed how my medications worked and made all my problems worse. I view sticking to my treatment plan from the hospital just as important to my recovery as going to meetings and staying clean and sober. I have found a whole new world of friendship and purpose by going to meetings.

I know being sober for six months isn’t a lot of experience but to me, it feels so good. Some days I still feel depressed but I do feel better than I have in years and now I look forward to waking up in the morning.

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