The DBSA Young Adult Council (YAC) develops unique resources to support other young adults living with depression and bipolar. They use their own lived experience to help inform the way that DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education. In this piece, Sarah talks about how sobriety helps her maintain wellness while living with bipolar disorder.

My breakup with marijuana came at an interesting time. A year ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2, and suddenly every action and feeling I had ever experienced made so much sense. For the longest time, therapists and psychiatrists chalked it up to seasonal depression, a form of depression that comes in cycles depending on the weather. It wasn’t until my best friend noticed my manic episodes upon living together that something more serious seemed to be the case.

Marijuana was my best friend. I first began using when I was in college. I went over to my friend’s house, and there was a group of people doing a puzzle and smoking from a pipe. The pipe was offered to me by a boy I thought was very cute, and I simply couldn’t say no. I took hit after hit, but couldn’t feel any noticeable difference. When I left the get-together, it finally hit me. Paranoia, my heart beating so loudly I could hear it thundering in my head, and shivers hit me all at once. I hurried back to my apartment and lay in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep.

Despite my awful first experience with weed, something drew me back in. In my second year of college, I lived with two girls who identified as “stoners.” Reminders of the devil’s herb was everywhere in our home–Bob Marley posters on the living room walls, ashtrays in every room, and a plethora of marijuana leaf merchandise plastered our home every which way. This was around the time I started going to class and work high. My grades plummeted. My boss would comment on how tired I looked all the time. It wasn’t until I got into an argument with my boyfriend at the time about my weed usage that I noticed anything was wrong.

Around the time I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2, my parents divorced. It was long and drawn out, and a very ugly scene. I never got along with my dad, and the ramifications of the divorce made it so that I refused to have any contact with him. One of the few memories of my dad that I can recall in relation to my weed usage was me telling him in college that I began smoking weed. His only response was “Addiction runs in our family.” I didn’t understand that until I joined my first support group meeting.

In support groups, they tell you not to view your breakup with a substance as being forever. They tell you to take it one day at a time. This simple phrase unites several areas of my life. In terms of my bipolar, I never know when I’m going to have a high or low swing. It’s important to take it one day at a time. The use of marijuana was making my bipolar disorder much worse. It actually caused my manic episodes to be more intense and scary to the people around me. It would prolong my depression symptoms, so I would lie in bed for days on end. Upon quitting the use of marijuana, things have evened out for me. I’m able to start hobbies I never would have thought to pick up. I play in a band now and am able to have the motivation to practice for it every day. Better yet, my symptoms are more under control and my medication seems to work better for me now.

Co-occuring substance use disorder support groups and Marijuana Anonymous meetings have been a huge part of my recovery. It helps me implement skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to learn on my own. Life without my substance of choice is hard, but I wouldn’t want to live any other way.

DBSA has online support groups for people with co-occurring diagnoses of substance use and a mood disorder.

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