The photos below show Dresden, Germany, before and after World War II.

I am using them as a visual metaphor for my psyche, my spiritual life, my emotional well-being, my finances, the emotions and finances of those whom I harmed, and my very precarious legal situation BEFORE and AFTER the ravages of my Bipolar Disorder (a Serious Mental Illness-SMI), Alcoholism, Porn Addiction, and toxic family of origin.

In September of 2010, I walked through the doors of an AA hall feeling like my life had been bombed to rubble, like Dresden. And even at age 43, and after having sought treatment and put forth effort to manage my illnesses since 1993, I was facing devastating circumstances of my own making.

Despite medication, nearly continuous bi-monthly therapy, reading recovery books voraciously, CBT, self-care, exercise, group therapy, and other support groups, I couldn’t ever quite get “over the hump” to good brain health.

I have been “high-functioning” most of my adult life, as I have almost always managed to work and pay bills and find ways to survive. But in 2010, I was in the midst of the deepest, scariest post-manic free falls I have ever experienced.

Thank God I found AA, which provided me with true, meaningful connections with other people who suffer like me and employ a common solution; a clear cut architecture for “living life on life’s terms;” and a spiritual component to add to my brain health regimen.

Today, thanks to AA, the Higher Power of my understanding, and continued efforts with what I had already been doing, I actually have a life rather than a daily struggle for survival.

For some time now, I have been characterizing myself as “in recovery.” But I read an article in the Huffington Post today that may have shifted my thinking into a new paradigm.

The article was a reminder to me that a person can’t actually recover from an SMI. And to refer to oneself as “recovering” (or, worse still, “recovered”), does a disservice to the people with an SMI who aren’t fortunate enough to be high-functioning and stable. Many of whom are suffering, living on the streets or in jails or prisons.

Also, it occurred to me that it does a disservice to me as well, as it can lull me into thinking that I can let up on my regimen of spiritual and mental fitness. Recovering implies that eventually I will be recovered. Great fodder for rationalizing letting my foot off the gas of vigilance and diligence!

So don’t be surprised if I start referring to myself as stable and/or spiritually fit in my future writings -rather than recovering.

Those of us with an SMI can lead stable, healthy, productive lives. But like diabetes, our illness never goes away. Nor does our need to live accordingly.

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