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After lost years, “there’s joy in my life now.”

They were dark days for Janice*. She had lost her home, her business…and, finally, custody of her children.

As a motivated and high-achieving teen, Janice hid her struggle with addiction. When she couldn’t quiet her racing thoughts, she self-medicated with alcohol, and, later, with cocaine. At 22, she landed in her first treatment center.

Neither her psychiatrist nor her therapist recognized the symptoms of bipolar disorder – elevated mood, increased energy, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems – that were masked by her substance abuse. She stayed clean and sober for seven months, then found herself back in the hospital to do it all again. Her sobriety didn’t last long.

In her twenties, Janice was driven to succeed, building two companies from the ground up. She seemed to have limitless ambition, creativity and energy. She was featured on the cover of a business magazine and listed among the top women CEOs in her state.

“The companies were growing at an incredible rate,” she said. “I fell in love with the man who would become the father of my children and we built a home. But my drinking was off the chart. I was drinking morning, noon and night.”

Just before her thirtieth birthday, she checked herself into a women’s out-patient program. She got off alcohol and stayed off for eleven years. But that wasn’t the end of her substance abuse.

Following the birth of her son, Janice developed a very painful medical condition and she began taking ever-increasing quantities of pain medications. After her daughter was born, she vowed to kick the pills.

“Withdrawal was a nightmare,” she said. “I wanted to die.”

She didn’t quit the drugs.

“Then I made some really bad decisions,” she said. “I told my husband I was leaving him. And I flew off to Cancun.”

Janice continued abusing pain pills. After years of sobriety, she turned again to alcohol, then cocaine. She lost her company, two homes and finally, her children, who were then seven and ten.

Then, in treatment for her substance abuse, a doctor asked the questions that would lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

“I began taking mood stabilizers that made it easier for me to think and to relax,” she said. “I could maintain a more even keel. I still struggled to overcome my addictions, it may always be a struggle, but I’ve been clean and sober for the last six years.”

Janice was released from the treatment center, but never really left. “I’d learned a lot there and I developed a passion for helping others like myself. I had good business skills and I got hired to work at the front desk.” Before long, she’d gone back to school and completed a 5,000 hour internship in mental health counseling. She’s now Director of Intervention Services at the treatment center that helped her turn her life around.

“The medications for my bipolar disorder have made a huge difference, but I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for my 12-step program, which has been equally important. I couldn’t have made it without either one.

“I have my children back,” she says, “and there’s joy in my life again.”

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