Illness in Recovery

Taking Medication and Staying Clean

To just about any addict, the phrase, “Take as prescribed” is considered as a suggestion. Instead of one every four hours, they take 4, every hour. To recovering addicts, this is a joke. To others that think they don’t have a problem, this may be a warning sign.

Talk to Your Doctor, Sponsor and Friends

An addict’s body doesn’t know the difference between prescribed drugs and street drugs. A drug, is a drug, is a drug. So, when we go to the doctor for anything we explain that we are recovering addicts and ultra-sensitive to any mood or mind-altering drugs. We take a sponsor or another recovering addict with us to our appointment. We talk to our doctor about any alternative treatments that may be available. We find out if we can take a smaller dose. We can go to meetings and share about our upcoming surgery or let our support group know we’ve been suffering, and been in pain. The best policy is always honesty.

One of the most important things to remember, is not play doctor. We self-medicated during our active addiction. Our homegroup, sponsor and other recovering addicts may actually know better than us when it comes to medication. Although neither fellowship, AA or NA has an opinion about medication, as it is an outside issue (Tradition Ten: NA/AA has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the NA/AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.) But we as addicts, are not unique. We are going to be pain, we’re going to be in accidents, we’ll need surgery, we’re bound to fall and get hurt. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. No one is asking you to be a martyr, just to be cautious. Be aware of what’s going on with you, really when you talk to your doctor about prescription medication.

Medication for Mental Illness

Many people used drugs to self-medicate. We were abused as children, we suffer from depression, we are bi-polar. The medical term for an addict with an additional mental illness is Dual-Diagnosis. It help, if early in our recovery, we are correctly diagnosed. Once we stop using drugs, the reason we got high may continue to haunt us. We will need to ask for a professional help in dealing with our other “disease.” Just as we’d go to a dentist for a toothache, so we must consult a doctor if we are suffering with mental health issues. Many times, what we call in NA/AA, “outside” help is all we need. To sit down and talk to a therapist can help us with our mental well-being. Other times, a physician may need to be consulted in order to prescribe drugs for our bi-polar or depression. Again, we talk to our sponsor, our loved ones, friends and support group about going on any medication. It is important that we do not self-diagnose or self-medicate when faced with a mental illness, especially if we’re romancing suicide. We are in recovery now, we need to be responsible for ourselves and honest with others about what’s going on.

Hospital Stays

An accident is just that, and accident. We don’t if or when one might happen, but we can still be prepared for a visit to the emergency room. Just as previously stated, we must be honest. Hopefully we’re able to communicate with our health care provider and let them know our sensitivity to drugs, if not then we must trust that these are professionals and that they know better. It’s difficult for some addicts to make a decision on a good day, let alone in a crisis situation. It is then that we have faith in our Higher Power’s care for us and that those around us have our best interest at heart.

Chronic Illness

Although we might not have been diagnosed before getting clean and sober, we may come to find out that we have a chronic illness. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that it may be life threatening and that we must stay clean and sober, no matter what. Like most addicts and alcoholics, we will have good days and not so good days, being chronic pain is like having a bad day, every day. But it doesn’t have to be the end of us. We can still learn to live life based upon spiritual principles. The main thing we do, is focus on living! We allow others to know where we’re at, and be honest with them. We don’t have to play the victim or let the chronic illness be the focal point of our lives. We can stay clean and sober and stay connected to our friends, family, loved ones, sponsor and most importantly our Higher Power. We may need to pray for acceptance, which doesn’t mean we have to like it. We learn to live with our chronic illness and continue on our path by reaching out and helping others. We get some gratitude and remain grateful for our new way of life.

Step Twelve tells us, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” One of the most important acts of selflessness can be in helping another addict that is suffering with an illness. They need to know they are not alone. They need our love and support. Our disease is one of isolation so we reach out, even if we don’t feel like it. The addict at the other end of the phone may be hearing the first kind word all day. We visit, we bring flowers or soup. We let them know they’re loved unconditionally and that it’s ok to be vulnerable. Many times, these acts of kindness will help them heal more quickly.yep,


Acceptance is a process, accepting our illness may be even more of a process. We have to come to terms with our feelings which are much like grief, denial, anger bargaining, fear, depression. Whether we’re an addict or not, these feelings are normal. It is in how we deal with these feelings that matters. We don’t have to act out today. We have spiritual principles in our life today that we can practice. Then, maybe, we can find some level of surrender and acceptance which will outweigh the anger and fear. We raise our hand in meetings and let people where we’re at. We reach out to other suffering addicts with compassion and empathy. We know how they feel! We have found that, by following the suggestions offered by the NA program, we can successfully live with an illness or injury while maintaining our recovery. (NA Pamphlet, “In Times of Illness”)

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