Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

JAMA: Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Update from this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association: People with addiction and bipolar disorder are more likely to have a more rapid-cycling form of bipolar, according to a study funded by three big federal agencies—the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Listen up, those in recovery:

Based on the findings, the authors emphasize the importance of treating bipolar patients even if they have an active substance abuse disorder.

“Treatment” might include therapy, hospitalization if needed, and medication.

Ever heard people say you’re not really sober if you take antidepressants or other psychoactive medication, even under a physician’s oversight?

Over the weekend I talked with a friend of mine who’s been sober for 30-some years. She told me the story of a woman who got sober some years back, had a few years under her belt, and hit a real rough patch. Got extremely depressed, couldn’t climb out. Finally asked for what my sponsor calls “extra help” and went to a therapist, who suggested a psychiatrist, who in turn diagnosed bipolar disorder and prescribed medication. Which she threw out, because she was told by a number of people that if she took it, she’d no longer be sober. And she hung on as long as she could, and when she couldn’t endure anymore, she killed herself.

“It’s just as much self-will NOT to accept help as it is to go drink or engage in active addiction,” my friend said.

I’m reminded of that old story about the guy who’s flooded out to the top of his house, and along come a raft, a boat, and a helicopter, all of which he turns down, telling himself he’s waiting for “God” to save him. After he drowns and gets to the Pearly Gates, God chews him out: “I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter—what were you bloody thinking??”

For full article: JAMA 2010;303(20):2022


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate your comments. I have heard people be told in Al-Anon not to take medication which is ridiculous. If one has a mental health problem, and medication can help, then take the medication!

  2. Thanks for this! I always think of that guy on the roof when I see people pass up opportunities. I just got sober and am rapid-cycling, and it’s nice to know that’s “normal.”

  3. I would like to know more about this study. I do have a theory, which even the Big Book talks about of the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. That even ‘clean’ the personality remains. My friend recently tried to have a romantic relationship with a recovering alcoholic, she first said that it seems that he was nice and then nasty. I couldn’t help making the bridge between the two disorders. I have also known other Bi Polars and as a semi recovering alcoholic, like really how do you know. Be warned I read all my mom’s psychology books and was able to fake the results on early tests for my benefit. Now I’m 35, struggling with sobriety and possible a tendency to go dark, never happened when I was hung over…self medicating?

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