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.