Have you ever been so convinced that something was real, but it turns out that wasn’t real at all? Have you ever met someone that swore up and down that they are seeing things, but you cannot see them? While it feels so real to them, it’s not real at all. It’s schizophrenia. This sort of surreal existence was everyday life for Brie. She struggled to tell the difference between reality and the vivid false imagery her mind was painting. Although she was prescribed medication for her condition, she was convinced that there was no problem, and no reason to take the medication, because the literal spiritual warfare that she could clearly see happening in the world around her was as real as the grass on the ground or the sun in the sky. There was no point in taking the medication, because to her, it wasn’t an illness. It was reality.
Did you know that more than half of people diagnosed with a mental health disorder are also substance abusers? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population,” (NIDA, 2018). Brie described her meth use and drinking as “a way to escape.” Things in reality were hard. She was a single mom, she was out on her own as just a teenager, and not working consistently. Bills were piling up, and rather than address the issues she was facing, she preferred to take a break from it. She would get drunk, put bills and debt out of her mind for a little bit, and then, when she could think a little more clearly, she’d come back to it. But that way of thinking just made her problems worse. It was so much easier to avoid the problem by drinking, than it was to actually just solve the problem. Then a friend of hers turned her onto meth while she was drunk, and the problems really started mounting.
At first, she could maintain. She worked off and on, but she wasn’t really stable. As time passed, she started getting into trouble with her drug use and eventually ended up with a prison sentence in Texas. After prison, she went to a halfway house then found herself at Salvation Army, staying in a shelter. While some might find this to be a terrible misfortune, Brie took full advantage of the mandated rehabilitation, and got herself clean, then headed back to Oklahoma. She has relapsed from time to time, but for the most part, she has been making better choices. One of these good choices was to come to Gospel Rescue Mission.
With her sobriety intact for several weeks now, Brie has got a new lease on life. “I don’t feel like I have to escape somewhere now,” she told me about her new outlook and how she’s staying clean. “I’ve got something to focus on, and bit by bit, I’m slowly gaining things back.” She’s been stable on her schizophrenia medication for a year now, and without the fog of altered reality confusing her, she has more clarity than ever. She is working, and she starts college in January for Information Technology Project Management. Her grants are lined up, and she’s only having to use student loans for a small portion of her tuition. The real world is starting to look pretty amazing from where Brie is sitting, and we are so excited for the bright future she has ahead of her!
NIDA. (2018, February 27). Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders on 2019, December 4