“Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies”
– The Pogues “Thousands Are Sailing”
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve read several posts and blogs about how different people cope with bipolar disorder. Some turn to god, prayer, and religion. Some turn to twelve step programs to deal with addiction and self-medication issues which include turning oneself over to a higher power. I’m not going to dismiss or belittle these beliefs and ideas. Whatever helps a person maintain a decent emotional baseline and helps them through the emotional roller coaster of being bipolar cannot be all bad. For me, however, the real question is how does one manage without these supernatural ideas?
I’ve been an atheist for several years now and I’ve gone through several phases. Initially I was very much an anti-theist. Religion was bad. End of story, discussion over and done. I was angry. I’ve since moved towards what’s referred to as agnostic atheism. I don’t believe in any deity, but if given empirical evidence, I will happily change my tune. My problem lay with people using religion to infringe upon the rights of others. I’ll leave it at that, as, once again, I do not wish to use this blog as a soapbox for religious or political views. I’m merely trying to ask, and figure out for myself, how does one cope without belief? I think, thus far, that I’ve done ok. I mean, I’m still alive, I’m in treatment, and somehow I’m managing.
I haven’t joined a twelve step program for drugs or alcohol, not because I refuse to believe in a higher power, but because of my therapy and treatment, I no longer feel the need to self-medicate. Do I miss cocaine and drinking? Certainly, but I no longer feel a need for it. My moods have been more constant and there is no need to either raise myself out of depression or attempt to nullify my mania. Therefore, I haven’t felt a need to turn anything over to a higher power. Apparently, I’m not alone. Other bipolar people have mentioned that their desire for drugs and alcohol were dependent upon their moods. Some drank to stifle their mania and did drugs to stave off depression, or vice-verse. It often came down to refusing to deal with the mood swings and also trying to numb themselves against these same highs and lows.
I understand people’s need and desire for belief. I have several friends in recovery through AA and similar programs who by their own admission never would have survived without them. I respect their choices, their beliefs, and their desire and ability to cope. People turn to many different ideas and beliefs for comfort and support. To some, mine may seem more difficult because I do not believe in god or religion. We all have different ways of coping and I don’t think any one is better than the other. My path is slightly different, but it’s the one I’m comfortable with.