I visited the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, in Toronto, to talk to social worker, Jodi Wolff, Addiction Therapist, about concurrent disorders. Recreational drugs can sometimes, for some people, be life threatening and life altering.
With all my concerns about the stigma associated with mental illness, it didn’t stop me from thinking unkind thoughts about those with addictions. I always resented the binding together of mental illness and drug addiction in one organization. CAMH- Canadian Association for Mental health and Drug Addiction. Why was mental health lumped in with people who cannot control an addiction to drugs? I had an illness over which I had no control, but drug addicts, they choose their addiction, don’t they?
I was haughty, arrogant and judgemental. We tend to fear “the other.” We are told to care for “the other.” I am beginning to think being “the other” is the more frightening thought. Grouping mental illness with addiction means it is possible for me to be them. And I did not want to deal with that possibility.
A few months ago, I started down the path of a depression. And for the first time, I found myself craving a glass of wine and the joy of morphine. That is not me. Since my surgery in 2000, I have dealt with unexpected, unpreventable bowel obstructions that require morphine to ease the pain. But, once the pain is gone, the need for the morphine always goes with it. Normally, I never give narcotics a second thought. I won’t touch codeine. Yet, here I was thinking how lovely it would be to sink into oblivion. It seemed so inviting, so peaceful. And I wouldn’t have to deal with the exhaustion or the pain of depression. It was at that moment that I made the connection between drug and alcohol addiction, and mental illness. There but for the grace of God…