Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Most of us who recovered with AA's program did so with the help of a "sponsor". But what is sponsorship? How do I get one? Who can be a sponsor? What makes a good sponsor?
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Tosh
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Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Tosh » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:53 am

I'm a bit hesitant to post this because I know we're not doctors (well, apart from the doc we have here who is in our ranks), but I've been sponsoring a guy through the steps, second-time-around after a major relapse, and he had a chat with me today about his medication.

Now normally my stance is that medication is something between my sponsee and their doctor. I'm unfortunate enough to have no experience with anti depressants, anti anxiety medication or sleeping tablets; and from the posts I've read here there seems to be a 'for' and 'against' camps; I'm somewhere on the fence here.

Anyway, he asked me about 'coming off them', he feels that he's stopped the drinking (he's been sober since Christmas Eve) but is just relying on the tablets. He's 26 years old and doesn't want to take them, however, with regards the sleeping tablets, he says when he doesn't take them, he feels 'mental' after a few days of not sleeping and it screws him up and he goes back to the booze.

The tablets he takes (both at a high dose (I didn't ask exactly what dose)) are:

Zopoclone (sleeping tablets and sound extremely powerful from wiki)
Mirtazapine (anti depressants).

The first time I took him through the program it didn't seem to have the same effect it had on me, or on other guys I've sponsored; you know he didn't seem touched at Step 3, Step 5 wasn't the moving experience it usually is - you know what I mean, it just didn't feel right - and I kinda suspect the medication dulls him on an emotional level.

I asked him if I could speak to my sponsor for advice and he agreed, but there's a wealth of knowledge here too.

Can I have some of your experience please?
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

Jaywalker Steve
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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Jaywalker Steve » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:24 am

If they are prescribed by the SAME doctor and used as prescribed with the patient fully disclosing his or her alcoholism and said patient is taking them as prescribed, then there isn't an issue. As for coming off them, that's a matter between doctor and patient just as step work is between sponsor and sponsee.
Every group has men and women who put too much thought and effort into their daily sobriety and not enough of themselves into their daily living. - Ed B., Akron, OH

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Tosh
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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Tosh » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:39 am

Jaywalker Steve wrote:If they are prescribed by the SAME doctor and used as prescribed with the patient fully disclosing his or her alcoholism and said patient is taking them as prescribed, then there isn't an issue. As for coming off them, that's a matter between doctor and patient just as step work is between sponsor and sponsee.
Yes, the doctor knows my sponsee is an alcoholic (they know each other well; I went with this guy to see this doctor about a detox (about a year ago) and the doctor was very familiar with him then). In fact my sponsee related a conversation where he said to the doctor that he wants to come off the sleeping tablets and the doctor asked what would be the possible worst case scenario result? My sponsee answered that he could drink again.

The doctor said for that reason she would not take him off the tablets, but then he added that he may have said that so he could stay on them. I inferred from that that there was a possibility that he thought he could come off them and not drink.

I hear what you say about it being none of my business; but I just wish to be helpful; but yeh, I'm maybe being the 'director' here, but this is a great place to ask bone questions, so please be patient with me.

And another thought is that I sponsor a trained and licensed psychiatrist who has a huge history of taking legally prescribed drugs himself, washed down with copious amounts of alcohol. He jokingly refers to his doctor as his 'drug dealer' (to his doctors face - they use the same gym) and because of his own psychiatric training, he knew what to tell the doctor that ticked all the right boxes to get the drugs he exactly wanted. I'm thinking I should ask my sponsee to speak to the psychiatrist alkie and get some experience from him?
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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ann2
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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by ann2 » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:03 am

Interesting,as relating to my own experience, which was that i did not progress with the steps untill i was safely off my medication. Looking back, i think i was still hoping for the pills to handleneverything. They were only pills though, not a hp as it turned out :) if you know what i mean.

I talked it over with my doctor who approved, although the motivating factor was my wish to be pregnant and that wouldn't have been a good idea on the pills. Off them, i did fine so i stayed off. But as you mentioned, the dampening effect was gone. I was left to deal with things "on my own" so to speak. I needed help with that and as it turned out, lo and behold the answer was in the steps.

As far as sleeping, i have little sympathy for that issue after having children. So i had better not comment.

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by kenyal » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:19 am

One sponsee (has 5 years) who had misused the same sleeping tablet while drinking weaned himself off them over the course of about a year, and it took him more than a few attempts. Another older sponsee still takes a nightly sleeping tablet of some sort after 16 years sober. I've never spoken negatively to either man about their use but was supportive when the one fellow quit them. When the older man has mentioned them he's done it with a clearly defensive attitude, and so I change the subject since there will be no real communication about it.

A friend who is about 37 years sober has been on various medications for almost all his sobriety. Watching how that went for him was enlightening for me and very rough for him. Despite what the pills have done to his life he has never considered getting off them, and will take them through the rest of his life. Going that route instead of doing AA has cost him just about everything worthwhile in life outside the material realm.

Your guy sounds like he wants to get off them now to feel better about himself, to quickly become Mr. Pure instead of seeing himself as Mr. Dirty ol' Pillhead. That's ego and a good example of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. He and his doc can work out a slow taper plan that might see him off in about a year, but getting off the stuff often makes for huge mood swings, more intense than the huge mood swings he'll experience as a newcomer.

I've seen what you mention, that the head meds create a distance from experiencing a vital reality, that the good and bad of life are held away slightly. Nothing is felt as truly raw or intense. They do a job but a price is paid for it.

I'd suggest to him that he delay morphing into Mr Pure and get through his first year, making it to his amends while developing the habits of inventory and maintaining his emotion balance with AA's tools before beginning a slow taper program. Dropping the pills before he has better answers to take their place might trip him up.

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Tosh » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:08 am

kenyal wrote: I'd suggest to him that he delay morphing into Mr Pure and get through his first year, making it to his amends while developing the habits of inventory and maintaining his emotion balance with AA's tools before beginning a slow taper program. Dropping the pills before he has better answers to take their place might trip him up.
That sounds like a plan. Thanks kenyal - that was a really good post. I'll have a chat with my sponsee this evening; we're meeting for a meeting.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by PaigeB » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:21 am

I am not so sure stopping any meds without the full knowledge & consent of a doctor is a good idea.... IMO.

My experience comes from one who has not abused drugs and has a chronic pain condition. Also with a very light sleeping aid because a good night sleep helps with daily pain. Though I have been on the sleep aid and an occasional narcotic pain med for nearly the entire time I have been sober, I do not consider myself nor feel addicted to any of the medicine.

Last week I had a doctor's appointment to discuss medicine and get refills. Doc says all is well and I think all is as well as it can be.

Sponsor moves onto the Big Book. She says if I think I develop a problem with the drugs we can talk about it.

Herein lies the rub, my doctor knows diddly about alcoholism. In my work with Public Information and Cooperation with the Professional Community there are far too many doctors that know diddly. Even my one-time shrink who is listed as specializing in alcohol addiction really knows diddly about AA which is what saved my life.

It couldn't hurt to talk to a guy who is an alcoholic AND a doc, if both sponsee and doc are willing. :wink:
Step 6 is "AA's way of stating, the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job... with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement." 12&12 Step Six, p.65

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Tosh » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:00 am

Fully agree Paige and I think it goes without saying that any tapering off plan would be done with doctor's approval. The sleeping tablets he takes are prescription only - they're do get abused - and he is only given a periodical supply anyway and must see his doctor per prescription, so he'll have ample opportunity to discuss this with her when he goes for a refill.

We also have a mental health clinic which provides more specialised help than the doctor can and it would be there that I'd suggest my guy tries to get an appointment, via his doc.

Mrs Tosh was on antidepressants for three years - she's off them now - but she used the same place so I know the procedure fairly well there.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Jaywalker Steve » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:40 am

Tosh wrote:I hear what you say about it being none of my business; but I just wish to be helpful; but yeh, I'm maybe being the 'director' here, but this is a great place to ask bone questions, so please be patient with me.
Please Tosh don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's none of your business (Please accept my apologies if I came across that way). In fact, it is our business to be concerned about the well being of those who trust us to help them recover. With that said, we also have to humbly know our limitations, which for me are many. I've sponsored guys in the same situation and always defer to those who know best. However, I push them to make sure they're practicing honesty in their dealings with their doctors. I have to remember that their B.S. won't get me drunk, it will get them drunk. This is truly a matter of First Things First and To Thine Own Self Be True, IMHO.
Every group has men and women who put too much thought and effort into their daily sobriety and not enough of themselves into their daily living. - Ed B., Akron, OH

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by AlisonT » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:01 pm

I agree with getting a year under his belt before trying to taper off them. When I was getting sober I was told that unless I had health issues with cigarettes to not even try to quit smoking until I had a year. First things first. Let him get some of the benefits of sobriety that he won't want to lose by drinking.

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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Marc L » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:46 pm

Talk to somebody who would know about medications.
You know, like your local pharmacist.
This guy might be better served in NA.

Marc
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Karl R
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Re: Sponsees, anti depressants and sleeping tablets...

Post by Karl R » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:54 pm

Here is a useful resource from AAWS. It covers these and similar issues. http://www.aa.org/catalog.cfm?origpage=189&product=33

kind regards,
Karl

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