I'm Bipolar and Struggle With Addiction

Jeffrey is 32 and has struggled with addiction and substance abuse since he was 13 years old. He was a successful Hollywood writer, but his alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drug use led to two convictions for driving under the influence, plus one for possession of a controlled substance. He recently found out he has bipolar disorder. Now, the last 20 tumultuous years of his life are starting to make sense. People with bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic depression, tend to cycle through episodes of depression and mania, a euphoric state that often leads to poor decision-making. Substance abuse is also common with bipolar disorder; nearly 60% of bipolar individuals have a substance abuse problem, and many smoke. Jeffrey has quit drinking and using cocaine, but he's still struggling with dependence on a prescription painkiller.

"I'm afraid the addiction gene is in me."
Priscilla De Castro
About 15 months ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When I look back at my life, the diagnosis explains a lot. I've been a manic-depressive person for as long as I can remember—even as young as age 6. I just didnt know that it had a name.

When I was growing up, I was more likely to be manic than depressed. I had this super-high energy and the episodes could last for months. My speech was rapid and my thoughts raced.

I was a creative kid. I read everything I could get my hands on, and at 7 years old I knew I wanted to be a writer. I also thought I could be a songwriter—I loved the whole idea of a rock-star life. Who doesn't?

I was outgoing, with a ton of friends and, as I got older, usually a girlfriend—or two. Even today, my friends would describe me as the life of the party.

Only now do I realize that some of those qualities are classic symptoms of bipolar disorder.

When I was 13 or 14 years old, I met a guy named Brian* while I was doing my paper route. A 26-year-old ex-convict, Brian introduced me to alcohol. After I got drunk the first time, I wanted to do it every day. So I started getting drunk three to five times a week.

About three months later, Brian introduced me to cocaine and crack. I didn't do drugs every day, but I wanted to. It was just the beginning of my problems with substance abuse.

*Not his real name

12345 Next
As told to: Sarah Klein
Last Updated: May 01, 2009

De–stress your life, sleep better, and conquer depression with the latest news and insights on mood management, plus special offers.

More Ways to Connect with Health