John O’Donnell

1990  – when I was first diagnosed and how it changed my life:

First at the age of 28 -with Bipolar Schizoaffective disorder and Alcohol Dependency Syndrome (not recognised as a mental health issue in the UK).

Dual diagnosis led to the proceeding 5 years, where I suffered the 2 worst symptoms: 

  • denial that I had a problem and pride stopping me accept that I needed help. In those 5 years, I lost everything – my jobs, housing and family.
  • Alcohol had been a solvent that dissolved everything in my life I held of value.

1996  I was homeless and destitute and ended up in an AA meeting, from there a mental health detox unit and on being discharged from hospital, I was placed in a London detox unit in a homeless person hostel run by St.Mungo’s.

During that tumultuous time, the only stable thing in my life was attending AA meetings twice or three times a day. Although I achieved sobriety from alcohol, a day at a time, my mental health continued to be my Achilles Heel – and what I mean by that is that in my early years of recovery, I continued to have Bipolar episodes as I found it hard to find a medication that arrested my symptoms.

Eventually aged 35 (after 14 hospital admissions), I finally managed to find 2 medications, a mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic antidepressant medication that actually worked for me. What I mean by ‘worked’, is that it gave me a ‘level playing field’ that any other member of the community enjoys.

My sobriety date is the 14th of May 1997.

….and by the grace of God attending meetings and ‘working the programme’, I have not had a drink since.

My mental health is cyclical in nature and I have not had a serious episode since 2004, and I consider this to be remission from the worst aspects of the symptoms of my mental illness; and again due to attending meetings, talking about what is going on for me and working the 12 Step Programme of

‘A Day at a Time’.

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