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Sean Roush - Hope for dual diagnosis test
Published: June 24, 20
Commentary
By Sean Roush
Anonymity is a core principle of all 12-step recovery programs, so I'll just call my friend "Doug."
For years, he's gone to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in McMinnville. He still does.
But what you need to know about Doug is that he hasn't struggled only with addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Doug is also mentally ill, or what those of us in the profession call being "dually diagnosed."
People like Doug may have any of a number of psychiatric challenges, such as having schizophrenia or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder that may prompt them to drink to escape. They may become depressed, hear voices or think people are watching them.
If you are thinking that these people might have difficulty in a traditional 12-step meeting, you're on the right track.
That is why an item on Doug's calendar is the weekly meeting of a relatively new-to-Oregon 12-step group called Dual Diagnosis Anonymous, or DDA. It meets every Friday in McMinnville and has just started a chapter on the Blanchet Farm outside of Carlton on Thursday evenings.
The meetings are among more than 30 each week where people across Oregon gather to get support for staying clean and sober and coping with their mental illness.
I went to the McMinnville meetings initially, mostly to ensure that one of the members took the lead, to make coffee and to ensure that things were running smoothly; through the county program where I work, I still see that people who need transportation have rides. But I stopped going several months ago. They no longer needed me.
Let Doug explain: "When you bring two or more people together who understand your problem firsthand, it's a lot more helpful than talking to a counselor or a professional who's studied it but doesn't really have the problem."
Doug says it kindly, but I understand his point. So do my colleagues in the Oregon Department of Human Services, who support these DDA groups because they can help people discharged from our state hospitals as well as those enrolled in community mental health services. (If today is typical, five or six Yamhill County residents are patients in our state hospitals.)
This may surprise you, but the number of Yamhill County residents who are dually diagnosed is estimated at 750 or more, or about equivalent to student enrollment at Patton Middle School.
The sparkplug energizing startup of DDA chapters in Oregon is Corbett Monica, an alcohol and drug counselor for the past 30 years who himself is dually diagnosed. "I'm Corbett," he'll say at a meeting, "and I'm dually diagnosed." He travels the state starting chapters, going to meetings and supporting the groups.
This is the 10th anniversary of his decision to start the first DDA chapter, this after an acquaintance named Ruben didn't fit in at traditional 12-step meetings. As Corbett tells the story, that's because Ruben's mental illness caused him to rock, mumble and pace. Finally, he was asked not to come back.
In other words, people at a traditional 12-step meeting can relate to one another's addictions. But people whose challenges are limited to addictions cannot always relate to another person's mental illness.
The linking of traditional 12-step principles to a group that supports people with both addiction and mental illness comes at a time that professionals also are marrying the professional disciplines serving both. This is changing the culture in which dually diagnosed persons would be shuffled back and forth, going to a mental health specialist and being told "take care of your alcohol and drug issues first," and going to an addictions specialist and being told "first, you need to address your mental illness."
Attending the DDA meetings, it's easy to see what Doug is talking about when he says it's helpful to talk with people who have similar life experiences. A young man says that on the fifth of next month, he'll have five months clean and sober. Others in the room break into applause.
"I've been to psychiatrists, I've been in therapy and I've been in hospitals," a woman says at one DDA meeting, "and I've finally found a place I can call home." Another fellow, who describes himself as a former gang member, says he is about to mark 60 days clean and sober. "What DDA means to me is I have a family. I never had a family. And I know God has my back."
My friend Doug tells about a dually diagnosed woman who came to a meeting several years after seeing people die in a tragic accident. She wanted to talk, to cry, to share her emotions. "Sometimes," Doug says, "listening to the person is just as important as telling them what you think they need to do."
Sidebar
Dual Diagnosis meetings held 30 times weekly in Oregon (bold)
Yamhill is one of eight Oregon counties in which Dual Diagnosis chapters have formed so far. The are more than 30 meetings held weekly across the state are open to interested persons, including family members and friends of persons who are dually diagnosed. For information about Dual Diagnosis Anonymous meetings: Contact Corbett Monica at corbettm@ddaoforegon.com or phone

1-503-737-4126.

Guest writer Sean Roush of McMinnville is an occupational therapist with the Abacus program, which delivers psychiatric, social and vocational services through the Yamhill County Health and Human Services Department. He, his wife and two young sons enjoy outdoor activities, especially at the beach.

 

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