What Is Dual Diagnosis Anonymous?

Dealing with drug addiction is already a pretty hefty burden to bear. Having to wrestle with mental health issues on top of this can make the process even more difficult. Only recently has this condition, known as dual diagnosis, been recognized as needing a specialized treatment approach. Although many rehab facilities now offer dual diagnosis treatment programs, support for this condition outside of formal treatment was also far behind the likes of what exists for alcohol and narcotic abusers. Enter: Dual Diagnosis Anonymous (DDA). 


The Purpose of Dual Diagnosis Anonymous

Founded by Corbett Monica in 1996, Dual Diagnosis Anonymous was created for an underrepresented aspect of the recovering addict community. This group specifically caters to the complicated nuances of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. While the social aspect of having peer support is beneficial for creating accountability, motivation, and positive encouragement, that’s not the only benefit. DDA adds another layer of support that specifically addresses how mental illness plays a role in their addiction. Substance-focused fellowship programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, almost solely base overcoming addiction on behavioral changes in respect to drug use. 


What Makes Dual Diagnosis Anonymous Different?

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step program spawned a number of similarly structured support groups. Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is also based on these dozen well-known tenants and has many of the same traditional structures, procedures, and recovery philosophy. But DDA isn’t just the same organization with a different name. The founder made several deliberate changes to better meet the needs of addicts with mental illness.


Firstly, DDA has an emphasis on confidentiality in the group rules, whereas other groups only urge anonymity. The organization believes it’s important for discussions to stay within the group when mental illness is involved. Say, for instance, a DDA-er speaks about struggling with thoughts of self-harm. If not for the emphasis on confidentiality, other members could go report that member’s thoughts, which could, in turn, cause them to face repercussions. Confidentiality stresses that Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is a safe space where individuals can truly be honest and open.

Considerate of Newcomers

Another distinction that potential new Dual Diagnosis Anonymous members are sure to appreciate is that DDA goes out of its way to make introductions as painless as possible. Traditional 12-step fellowship programs encourage newcomers to identify themselves as those who have less than 30 days of sobriety under their belt. DDA is aware that its group members are highly sensitive, and that mental illness can amply feelings of embarrassment. Instead, they simply ask if there are any first-time attendees or guests without a single mention of how long they’ve been clean (or not).  


Modified 12 Steps (Plus 5 More)

Although Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is in no way affiliated with AA, they did receive permission to use the 12-steps as an official part of the organization. Steps 2 through 11 are identical to the original. Steps 1 and 12 have only a few minor tweaks that change any mention of “alcoholism” to “dual diagnosis”. Corbett Monica took things even further, however, with the creation of five brand new steps that are unique to DDA. Naturally, these steps focus on struggles specific to those with a mental illness such as medication. All Dual Diagnosis Anonymous readings can be read here.


Where Can I Find Dual Diagnosis Anonymous Meetings?

Dual Diagnosis Anonymous has expanded from its birthplace in Oregon to several states in the U.S. as well as internationally. Being a fairly young organization, it does not have as many or as widespread chapters as its older counterparts. As such, in-person meeting options are somewhat limited.

Fortunately, the organization is very virtual-friendly and hosts dozens of online Dual Diagnostic Anonymous meetings per day. Whether you are in a dual diagnosis rehab program or not, if you have a history of mental illness attending a DDA meeting could be a very helpful experience. 


Is Your Relationship Healthy? Signs of Codependency

Dysfunction Disguised as Devotion

While compromise and sacrifice are a normal part of any relationship, codependency can pervert these concepts to a point where they become detrimental or downright harmful to all parties involved. This harmful relationship dynamic can occur amongst romantic and non-romantic relationships alike but is a recurring theme in cases of substance abuse – like adding gas to a flame, it can quickly become dangerous and out of hand. Being able to identify the signs of codependency can be a significant step towards disrupting the powerful cycle of addiction. Learn the hallmark characteristics of codependent behavior and how this disorder manifests itself in relationships. 

What Is Codependency? 

Codependency is defined as an emotional and behavioral disorder where individuals have “one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive” relationships (source). A codependent person is a perpetual “giver” whose sense of identity is closely tied to their role in the relationship. The giver constantly puts their partner’s needs and desires above their own and also over assumes responsibility and liability for the other person’s well-being. When coupled with a more dominant person, the relationship can become very toxic, quite quickly. 

They are often to be considered serial daters and do whatever it takes to maintain and tend to seek partners where they feel needed. This often results in codependent individuals seeking out those that need “rescuing” – such as addicts. Coupled with their desire to find validation through their partners, codependent partners often inadvertently become enablers: making excuses for their partners’ derisive actions, giving them money or substances out of a feeling of guilt, or simply turning a blind eye. 

Recognizing the Signs of Codependency

In the scope of the relationship, codependency manifests itself as an excessive or compulsive-level of caretaking coupled with a complete disregard for one’s own self. The codependent person is entirely consumed with their relationship and whose extreme dedication often results in the neglect of other relationships, their career, everyday responsibilities, and their own aspirations.

The underlying cause of codependency is rooted in low self-esteem which can appear as severely needy, clingy, and affirmation-seeking behavior. As with any other mental health disorder, the severity of this behavior can vary from person-to-person and not all symptoms may necessarily be present. Signs of codependency may include:

  • Constantly in a relationship and are immediately devoted no matter how recent the relationship is
  • Drawn to “bad boy” or “bad girl” types
  • Are compulsive people-pleasers
  • Feel a need to be liked by everyone
  • Abandon their hobbies whenever they get into a relationship
  • Over-exaggerated sense of responsibility for others
  • A sense of uselessness if there’s nothing wrong
  • Constantly seeking approval or praise
  • Doesn’t end relationships after betrayals of trust or after abusive behavior
  • Feels a sense of guilt when being assertive
  • Difficulty making decisions or making up their minds
  • Struggles to say “no”
  • Has a fear of abandonment, constantly seeking verbal reassurance
  • Lack of trust (in themselves and others)
  • Struggle with setting and/or enforcing boundaries
  • Difficulty communicating within the relationship

A codependent person derives their sense of identity and worth through their relationship to others – even if it’s harmful to themselves. This desperation to hold on to a relationship paves the way for emotional, physical, or financial abuse by the hand of the more dominant partner.

How To Deal with Codependency

Codependency is a learned behavior that’s often attributed to dysfunctional family life. Fortunately, not all is lost and like addiction, behavioral therapy can go a long way in helping codependent individuals learn how to have positive and balanced relationships, to express their own feelings, and to recognize instances of abuse. Only then will codependents be able to serve as a source of social support for their partner (or other loved ones) struggling with addiction.