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Voices for Recovery

Sandra Potter (01/07/2009)

In hindsight, I realize that I began experiencing symptoms of mental illness and addiction during my childhood. My early teenage years were cluttered with self-doubt and anguish that far exceeded the usual angst of adolescence. Recurrent depression threatened to engulf me, becoming more severe with each onslaught, and I began to self-medicate with narcotics and alcohol beginning in my early teens. I continued to use substances to ease my emotional pain, oblivious to the havoc that substance abuse was wreaking in my life.

Unfortunately, I did not begin to receive treatment until I was 31 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, polysubstance abuse disorder and borderline personality disorder, just to name a few. Suddenly I was challenged to develop healthy ways to meet the demands of daily living without self-medicating. This task was met head-on, and I have remained drug-free since 1989 by consistently working a program of personal growth. But recovery from substance abuse was just the beginning.

I was simultaneously challenged to develop an understanding of the mental health ?labels? I had been given, and to begin to cultivate a healthier lifestyle using effective coping and self-care skills. I had an amazing psychiatrist and therapists who challenged me to abandon the maladaptive behaviors I had been using for three decades, and to replace those with healthy behaviors and thinking. During one of my many psychiatric hospitalizations one of the staff persons stated very simply, I will believe in you until you can believe in yourself. Almost simultaneously my psychiatrist told me a story regarding something of value each of us possesses. These two concepts had a profound effect on my personal recovery.

My last psychiatric hospitalization was more than 14 years ago. I have since completed a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling. I now work as the supervisor of a community mental health crisis intervention services program, reaching out to those in need at their most desperate moments. I am fortunate to now be living a full and exciting life, moving from 'recovery' to 'discovery' as I gain valuable personal insight and approach each new day with wonder and delight. I am now able to 'give back' what was given so freely to me. What an amazing adventure!

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