I happened to receive an email a while ago form ‘Facing Addiction.’ The email was about if I wanted to write and share some of my story of being a person who lives dually diagnosed, meaning I maintain recovery from gambling and alcohol addictions and live with mental health challenges.
I was very honored to do so. Today, Facing Addiction says; “Every 4 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from an overdose or alcohol-related cause – the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every day with no survivors.”
- 22 million Americans are suffering — 23 million more are in recovery 1 in 3 households are directly impacted.
Since we have had several high profile celebrities recently choose suicide over life, I thought I would share some of what I wrote for Facing Addiciton with you this month in our column in hopes of sharing my voice to shatter stigma around these critical topics that are touching and claiming too many lives.
See, suicide is only a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Depression, anxiety, bipolar or any other mental health issue should never have to end with SUICIDE … Make the call if you have any thought of suicide – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 24/7 Everyday – 1-800-273-8255.
“My recovery journey restarted in 2006. I woke up in a hospital as the result of my second failed suicide attempt and then went back to an addiction and mental health crisis center for another 14-day stay. The problem wasn’t that I gambled again and relapsed; the problem was not taking my psych medications for a few weeks. I thought I didn’t need them; that I could be normal like everyone else around me, but as you read my story, you’ll see that didn’t work out too well.”
I had a few severe financial crises happen, and since I had not taken my medication and had already worked through all of our savings, I panicked and chose to steal from someone. What a mess! Of course, they person pressed charges. I was arrested, went through the courts and was sentenced to many hours of community service, two years of probation and paid restitution that I’m still paying today. My point?
You have to do the work in all areas of maintaining your recovery, including your finances. I had not done all the work necessary for a well-rounded recovery. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still needed to do more work, so I did with a gambling addiction specialist. After my problems occurred, I worked with a specialist for a year while I went through the legal mess I created. Why am I sharing this? Our recovery stories and words are powerful tools to help others.
After this second suicide attempt and crisis, as my first was where I spent my 40th Birthday after my first suicide attempt, I spent another 14-days in a Mental Health/Addcition crisis center. This time, I learned I had a lot more work to do, and I also learned that God, my higher power, had bigger plans for me, a purpose that involves helping those reaching out for recovery from the cunning illness of compulsive gambling addiction. After my release from the crisis center I started working with a gambling specialist and got my mental health under control; I began to see the stigma surrounding those of us who live dually diagnosed. Those of us who have a mental illness also have a huge hurdle in our path, STIGMA.
Since I am a dual-diagnosed person who maintains recovery and has mental health challenges, it can make obtaining recovery a wee bit more work, as I discovered. The old habits, behaviors and diseased thinking needed correcting. Working with the gambling specialist was eye-opening. He helped me break down “the cycle of the addiction,” and we also worked with tools and skills for dealing with financial problems that may arise while in recovery. I was given a fantastic relapse prevention workbook as well. Although I didn’t relapse into gambling, this workbook has helped me develop a plan for any financial or life event that may arise during my recovery journey. You need a plan beforehand as these life events will come.
(Courtesy of Getty)
Another tool that helped was journaling every day. I have always done this, but my specialist showed me how to relieve stress and learn more and see my growth from my journaling. I used my journals in writing my current published book as well. Writing my story and experiences in memoir form was a very healing and letting go process for me. I learned to be vigilent in managing my medications I need to stay stable.
It can be both scary and tough sharing about my gambling addiction with alcohol abuse, my past childhood abuse and sexual trauma and what it is like living with mental illness. But the open doors and blessings I could never dreamed happening since I do advocate, and loudly. Never thought I would be a published author, recovery advocate, writer and blogger, but these are just a few of the amazing blessings I have received in my journey thus far.
By writing my book, using my recovery blog and sharing them with the world, I hope it shatters stigma around gambling addiction, recovery, mental health. I want to be a voice for those who are childhood sex abuse survivors wh feel alond and voiceless. I have chosen not to be anonymous as I want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how quickly one can become addicted.
It indeed is a real disease and illness, and even more complicated when you are dually diagnosed with mental illness along with it! I want others to be informed and educated, and I raise awareness of the effects it has in our communities and in families’ lives. 1 in every 5 attempt suicide from this addiction. And the above stats for mental illness is no better.
“A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. Suicide doesn’t discriminate as it is true that most people who die by suicide have a mental or emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder.” ~MHA – Mental Health America
The expansion of casinos and state lotteries is making gambling more and more accessible today and is now touching our youth. Currently, 2.9% of our population are problem gamblers. The best advice I can give? When starting early recovery, learn about this addiction. Work with a specialist or recovery coach to determine the cycle and then learn the tools and skills to interrupt it.
Work a well-balanced recovery that encompasses mind, body, spirit and finances. There are many ways to recover including in or outpatient treatment and GA – 12-step meetings for support. Anything and everything you can find? Do it. Only one option may not be enough for success in long-term recovery. I learned this the hard way but have found a way to make it 11+years maintaining my recovery.
I know it is my job, my duty, to be of recovery service to others, to advocate about mental illness, and speak about childhood sexual adbuse! Life today is good! My husband and I learned that we could weather any storm together. I know “sharing” my experiences and our recovery with others is just as important as the professional or clinical side of how to recover.
Sharing one’s story is a powerful tool for others to listen, hear, and take action. You are not alone.
The time is now to start the conversation about these topics and shine a bright light on ALL of THESE ISSUES. It is beyond the TIME to start the conversation, it is NOW the time to HAVE the conversation to Shatter Stigma around Mental Illness, Gambling Addiction, Depression, Bipolar, Mania, Alcoholism, SUICIDE.
You Get The Message,
Author/Advocate, Catherine Townsend-Lyon