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
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.