A Recipe For Disaster: Addiction and Mental Illness

January 21, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

This may be a dark post-- an angry post. Like that ugly picture which makes perfect sense to me. But I cannot paint this topic in pretty colors; I can paint it in black.

I hate addiction. I despise it. In all of its forms. Addiction is insidious. It sneaks up on you slowly and with intent. Before you can pull away it's already walking beside you: walking beside you even though you want to run the hell away.

Yes, I am describing addiction abstractly because its tremendously hard for me to put words to that which nearly killed me. And that which does the same to many people struggling with it.

It's not for the faint of heart--not when it can stop your heart.

Defining Addiction

When you live with a mental illness, addiction is common. Addiction can kill people. Addiction makes it impossible to recover from mental illness.I considered opening one of my favorite 'books', the damn thesaurus, and quickly decided that a list of symptoms will not cut it--not even close. Unfortunately, you have to have lived it (if, in fact, a person has survived it) to really understand. Those who love someone living with addiction have a unique perspective. They understand more so than those who gallop through life drinking the occasional glass of Merlot. I envy those people. Sorry, but that is the addict in me. Lingering. Dammit. In the beginning, before addiction takes over your life and when you are self-medicating, addiction may seem like a fast friend. A great one!

So, what is addiction? Yes, it is a set of symptoms and behaviors. The inability to stop using a substance despite negative implications on quality of life. Addiction is blackness and it tells you that using once a week is okay; once a week becomes three times becomes every single day until you pass out out of pure unrequited exhaustion. The sleep of the dead.

It hurts. It's hard. But it is not without hope. It is not without reprieve. Unless you couple active addiction with mental illness. That's all kinds of trouble. That's a recipe for disaster. Trust me.

The Impact of Smoking, Drinking & Abusing Drugs When Living With Mental Illness

Many people who are living with a mental illness abuse substances to medicate symptoms. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and even medications not prescribed can make you feel sort of, for lack of a better term, like complete crap.

Addiction impacted my appearance more than psychiatric drugs ever did. Drugs made my once pure skin mottled with marks; my body either too thin from stimulants or bloated from alcohol. Near the end, I could not move from bed. I just lay there shaking. My father found me passed out with a low pulse more than once, rushing me to the ER, watching as my body was connected to machines that monitored my heart.

Seeking Help if You Think You Might be Struggling With Addiction

Here is the issue: Addicts often do not believe they are addicts. I wrote an entire book, much of it focused on this because it's the awful truth. I dropped out of college, lost jobs, isolated myself and surrounded myself with dangerous people.

I cannot give you a formula for recovery. All I can tell you, if you are living with addiction, is to stop hiding. Talk to people. Try. If someone you love is living with addiction and mental illness remember that they are fragile. They need you. But do not sacrifice your own mental health.

If you are using these substances do not go off them alone. Get help.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, January 21). A Recipe For Disaster: Addiction and Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

January, 23 2013 at 11:48 am

If you look at the definition of addiction which according to is a noun and means the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, [such] as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
also A habitual or compulsive involvement in an activity, such as gambling [or shopping].
I lived with an addict of drugs, collecting, fantasy & shopping. Trust me he was also suicidal & ended his life recently. So when you talk about addiction you really need to put all the facts out there, not just the chemical of which you were addicted to. I also am suicidal & an addict of internet & emotional pain, & being unable to motivate myself. See, there are more than just one types of addiction out there. You can not generalize addiction to only chemicals, yes that is a physiological addiction but there is also psychological ones as well. We live in a world full of addicts it is called the cell phone. It is not only causing problems with our youth with education but killing people in the process.
So yea, If your going to talk about addiction you need to talk about ALL addiction not just your own.

January, 22 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Natalie! I can't speak to personal addiction, but can speak to my father's addiction to cigarettes and alcohol, and its effects. He drank for most of his adult life, I think it was to self-medicate depression(he was never officially diagnosed). He did 27 years in the military, a place(at that time-40 years ago)where I believe it was more acceptable to be a drinker. He was a functional alcoholic-he did everything he needed to do without impairment-at least it appeared that way. He was always thin due to alcohol and cigarettes. He smoked like a chimney,and eventually developed COPD. My mom was an undiagnosed rapid cycling bipolar. I never was sure what I'd get, crazy mom or sane mom. The same with my father-drunk or not drunk. Eventually I turned 18 and could legally drink, so I went to the bar with him. I think he thought he had a drinking buddy in me; it was a path I got off of, a path of destruction. One time he was drunk, and tried to molest me, my mom came home before anything happened. She would have literally killed him if she'd ever found out.They had fights regularly over his drinking and anything else they could find. It was miserable.The drinking was destructive to him and us. Eventually my father came off alcohol after trying to quit many times. It wasn't until he was on a respirator several times that he gave up smoking and drinking. He was hospitalized for long stints, and I think that is what allowed him to get off the alcohol. He did repair a relationship with me, and got to know my sons. As for my mother...they still didn't get along. Did I come away unscathed from the experience, not entirely, but I have come a long way! Thanks for reading this long post.

January, 22 2013 at 3:33 am

try being raped at 2 to 14 by all the males in your family add poverty mentally ill mother kids making fun bullying you for being poor, developing DID becoming a well known musician but not knowing which personality did it going to a famous college but who did and becoming a very respected teacher of band and member of society add anxiety bulimia breast cancer twice raped at 51 and only then getting diagnosed with DID and still being alive fighting for life,, because I believe in God faith and purpose ,, also add transgender gay cuz DID includes it all it is like stopping your growth at the age it happened so going around life with an angry alter protecting you ,, and more and more trauma til you find yourself here at 58 no job finally disability every addiction every affliction and hoping someone will come forward and help me tell my story before I die of old age,, lets talk some courage and angels,, Jesus isnt ready for this angel ,, never ever broke any laws but boy I have been ostrasized due to the rape and mental illness family abandoned me not God but why am I here,, the unconditional love of my students gave me enough my music talents enough and a special doctor who is my best freind and accepts me , GOD Bless dont ever give up or give in I tell my students that as I am facing another round of breast cancer,,

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