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Siuslaw News
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

“New support group is resource for mental illness and addictions: Dual Diagnosis Anonymous offers peer support for mental illness and addictions”

Every family has its cherished son, daughter, sister, uncle or cousin battling intertwined personal disasters of mental illness and substance addiction.

With luck, help and constant struggle, over loved one wins the daily battle with dignity and success despite these handicaps. Far too frequently, help and fortitude come too seldom or not at all. Good human beings can become litter beneath freeway underpasses, in homeless shelters and jails. In many other cases, such stereotypes fail to capture the day-to-day existence of people who may blend in but still suffer in silence with the pain and stigma of debilitating brain dysfunctions.

Corbett Monica a Sandy, Oregon man suffers from mental illness and addiction, but has been sober for 23 years. And for those 23 years he has helped others find sobriety. Many people who suffer from mental illness also have substance abuse problems. The combination of these conditions is considered dual diagnosis.

“I have not met an addict or alcoholic who does not have an underlying mental illness,” Monica said.

Monica served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in the 1960s. He was addicted to intravenous drugs at the time, and after serving in the war had a deep sense of hopelessness. He was placed in a psychiatric hospital after a couple of suicide attempts in California.

But in 1986 he realized he had to get sober. He began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Eventually he was hired in Riverside County, California, to provide services for people in the county who were dual diagnosed. In 1996, Monica took a group of dual diagnosed consumers to a 12 Step meeting in Fontana, California. But one of his clients, known as Ruben G., who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and alcoholism, disrupted the meeting—pacing, mumbling and laughing to himself because he heard voices.

Monica was asked not to take Ruben G. to any more meetings, but Ruben G. was disappointed because he loved the 12 Step meetings. It was at that moment Monica realized that dual diagnosed folks didn’t fit in with other 12 Step clients. And conditions of substance abuse and mental illness had to be treated equally, so he began DDA.

There’s no single answer to this complex tragedy, but Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is a valuable step toward a reponse. With the help of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) advocates, DDA has found its way to Florence, becoming part of the solution to the growing concerns of families and the community.

DDA is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous peer-support, faith-based 12-Step program, in which addiction sufferers accept responsibility for their activities and conditions. But it goes further, adding five steps in which the participants admit to having mental illness in addition to their addictions and accept responsibility for taking their medications.

Obtaining a lasting buy-in from a mentally ill addict to the concept of responsibility is an enormous initial obstacle, as anyone with experience in this situation knows. And even assuming the sufferer is willing to stick with a program, the vagaries of America’s health care system mean that professional treatment and ongoing management of recover usually are not adequately covered by insurance, if at all. Is it really any wonder that so many with mental illnesses end up self-medicating with alcohol and illicit drugs? This makes peer support groups like DDA all the more essential, serving as a sort of life raft into which previously floundering victims can grab hold of.

With the addition of the Florence chapter, there are now 84 around Oregon. These chapters can be found at mental health and residential outpatient facilities, acute care hospitals, churches, shelters and prisons. DDA is a non-profit funded by the state of Oregon and private donations. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so on the website at www.ddaoforegon.com

Corbett Monica will be holding a presentation introducing the Dual Diagnosis Anonymous program on Friday, August 28th, from 1:30 to 4:00 pm at Spruce Point Assisted Living Community, 375 Ninth St. You won’t want to miss this dynamic and entertaining speaker. The public is welcome. The event is sponsored by NAMI in West Lane, Emergence Counseling of Florence and Peace Health Siuslaw Region.

After the presentation will be Florence’s first DDA meeting at 6:30 pm at the Apostolic United Pentecostal Church, 1525 12th St., Suite 28. Meetings will continue at the same place and time every Friday.

For more information contact: Julia Youngblood at 997-2026 or Bianca Deris at 997-8509.




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