There is an epidemic in America that is running rampant and untreated, killing hundreds of people every year. This epidemic is that of the dual problems that often show up together but rarely are treated together: mental illness and substance abuse. Many people with mental health problems turn to something to help them cope, and that something is often drugs or alcohol.
But how do you solve a problem like substance abuse when it seems to be the only way to cope with something as crippling as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder? How do you tell someone with schizophrenia to stop drinking or doing drugs when it is their only way of dealing with life? There is one place that is specifically set up with situations like this in mind: dual diagnosis treatment centers. Dual diagnosis treatment is a way of treating both mental illness and substance abuse as separate—but equal—entities. Here are eight things you need to know before you enter a dual diagnosis treatment center:
- Substance abuse and mental illness are not the same things. However, they may not be as separate as you think. Often, one can lead into the other. Substance abuse can easily begin as a way to cope with a mental illness, and disorders such as depression and anxiety can develop after prolonged exposure to substance abuse. Dual diagnosis seeks to treat both ends of the issues.
- No two cases are alike. Your specific situation is different from anyone else’s, and therefore your treatment will not be the same as anyone else’s. There are hundreds of ways to treat mental illness, and as many ways to treat substance abuse, so put together there are limitless ways to treat a dual diagnosis.
- What are your options? Well, as discussed in the preceding paragraph, there are many options. You may be in therapy—group or one-on-one. You may choose to live in a facility with people in similar situations as you, to completely detox yourself. Beyond the obvious (getting sober and getting help), there is no exact rulebook you will be following.
- You are not alone. Support is available. Dual diagnosis treatment centers exist for a reason: there is a need for them. If there weren’t a need, if you were alone in needing help, there would be no such thing as a dual diagnosis treatment center. If you feel like you are alone, take comfort in the fact that you are neither the first nor the last person to need help with this type of problem.
- But you should also build your own safety net. Having support from complete strangers—although they are indeed going through the same kind of struggle as you—is one thing, but having the support of loved ones is quite another. In order to find support, look to those closest to you, or try joining a support group; remember, the intent of a support group is just that—support.
- Recovery is not easy. There is nothing easy about getting sober or staying sober. It will be very difficult—that’s why you need a good support system. It will try your willpower, and you will need to remember why you started it in the beginning on some days because giving up will absolutely look easier.
- It is a lifelong process. It is highly unlikely you will wake up one morning, feeling completely recovered, after two weeks of being in a dual diagnosis program. Recovery is a hard fight, yes, but it is also a long one. You will continue to fight every single day of your life.
- But, above all, it is worth it. Recovery is a process that is and will always be worth it. Recovery means something different to everyone, and once you’ve figured out what recovery means to you, you will know what you are fighting for. And one day you will wake up, and you will realize that you have fought for where you are in your life, and at that moment, you will understand why it was worth it.
Is a dual diagnosis treatment center the right option for you? Well, there’s no easy answer to that, as every situation is unique. But if you feel like you would be helped by any of the features that a dual diagnosis treatment center offers, you are encouraged to consider it. Remember, recovery is not easy, but it is worth it.
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