“When you’re manic, you’re in a heightened mood marked by delusions of grandeur and sometimes psychosis and hallucinations. It’s like being under the influence, but instead of being influenced by a foreign substance, you’re simply at the whim of your own brain. You think you’re just happy, that everything is going your way and you don’t have a problem. But you do,” writes Conor Bezane.
Bezane’s new book, The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober Is The New Cool is an unfiltered entrance into a world characterized by intense highs, paralyzing lows, and unrelenting addiction. But it is also a world in which we can still find hope.
He writes, “When you are dually diagnosed, you’re waging two separate wars at once — and each requires different weapons. You can’t use the same strategy with one as you do with the other. And even if you gain ground in one battle, a minor setback in the other could cause you to slip backward in both.”
Bezane is one of the fortunate ones. Coloring his alcohol binges with weed, crack and frequent forays into a world of delusion, he realizes that he is slowly killing himself.
He writes, “I’m climbing the stairway to heaven. Every night I get higher than the night before.”
Although Bezane doesn’t describe his childhood as anything traumatic, you don’t get the sense that he feels like he fits in either.
He writes, “Elisa, one of the top-rankers in the school’s social hierarchy, comes up to me in the hall and says, ‘Nobody likes you. You don’t belong at this school. Everyone thinks you’re a freak.’ I am a freak, but this comment unsettles me, probably because I’ve felt like I haven’t belonged since the moment I walked through the school’s front door, and her words only reinforce my self-doubts.”
Bezane finds home in punk rock, where being a rebellious, angry misfit is almost a requirement.
As he lands a job writing for MTV, Bezane reveals to his family that he is gay, and begins dating what seems like the perfect guy. All the while, his drinking only escalates.
He writes, “New Year’s isn’t the only time I stay up drinking well after Chris’s gone to sleep, yet I’m perpetually too drunk to realize that this pattern of behavior is causing a rift between us. I can’t admit to myself that I prefer spending quality time with the bottle, not my professed boyfriend.”
After his boyfriend notices his bizarre behavior and takes him to see his psychiatrist, Bezane is finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, he also writes some of his best stories when he is manic.
As his drinking spirals out of control, his father calls a family meeting and, feeling invaded and scared, Bezane resorts to the only solution he knows — drinking.
A botched suicide attempt, two days of hospitalization, and his sister’s ultimatum, “Go to rehab or you can’t see my son anymore,” later, Bezane finds himself at Hazelden.
He writes, “I’m reluctant to admit it at first, but I feel better too. My mind is much clearer. I don’t have trouble remembering what I’ve done the day before. My appetite has returned to the point that I’ve begun eating regular meals again, even if it’s just takeout.”
As Bezane soldiers through sobriety, even working as a bagger at a grocery store, he comes to terms with his new life: “To be honest, I am not always a happy camper. I have a dual diagnosis after all. As I write this, I am crawling out of a deep depression exacerbated by the darkness of winter and lack of sunlight. To top it all off, Trump is president. But I know it gets better. It always does.”
Mania can feel like a prerequisite to creativity. Getting high can seem as essential to life as breathing. And alcohol and drugs can be the most alluring social lubricant.
Yet, as Bezane reminds us, sobriety promises so much more. He writes, “Life is so much easier now that I don’t have to lie all the time.”
Recovery, while it may feel like the end of a very long journey, is only the beginning. An addict must learn not only new skills, but a new way to live — sober. And yet as Bezane’s book reminds us, even in what appears to be the worst circumstances, there is always hope.
The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober is the New Cool
Redwood Publishing, June 2019
Paperback, 250 pages