My Mental Health Journey: Dan Tibbits chooses connection through his recovery

By Amanda Cruz

Sacramento County resident Dan Tibbits is 30 years in recovery from substance use disorder, with the support of 12 Step Recovery. He was dual-diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 33. Dan shares his story to create a sense of connection and hope for others struggling with substance use disorder or mental illness.

Have you ever felt like you no longer had control over your own decisions? Compelled by some unseen force to go against the decisions that you made?

That is how Dan Tibbits felt the day he began his recovery from his substance use disorder. From the ages of 12–26, Tibbits struggled with addiction to multiple substances. He regularly isolated himself from loved ones and was unable to hold down a job. “I did not want to be around people when I was high,” says Tibbits, “and I did not feel like I deserved to breathe the same air as others because of the way I lived.”

Dan at the age of 12
Dan at the age of 12

This guilt led Tibbits to view his reliance on substances as a personal defect of his character, not as an illness. Growing up in a suburban neighborhood near Sacramento, Tibbits was influenced by those around him and the media to believe that addiction was for criminals on the streets, not “a yuppy from the suburbs.”. Seeking or accepting help was out of the question.

Accepting that he had an addiction didn’t come easy to Tibbits. It took becoming very ill and feeling like he would die for him even to attempt quitting; even then his choice wasn’t solely for himself.

“I realized that I didn’t want to die, and it wasn’t because I had a lot to live for” says Tibbits. “I’m laying there and all I can think about is my mom, and my mom having to tell her sisters that her youngest son died a junkie and I couldn’t have it.”

He feared his family being judged by others, so Tibbits tried to quit but quickly realized he couldn’t do it on his own. He took himself to a treatment center in Orangevale, California, was admitted into a 28-day inpatient program, and was introduced to a 12 Step Recovery program.

Tibbits connected with a sponsor who mentored him and other peers in the program who made him feel accepted and seen. But seven years into his recovery journey, Tibbits began experiencing symptoms that he didn’t understand at the time: A racing mind, sleeplessness, and very dark thoughts.

Tibbits says, “ I could not get the idea of either using drugs or killing myself out of my head, it was a relentless obsession, and I knew that if I didn’t tell somebody, I would do one or the other”

Dan with his dog Dino
Dan with his dog Dino

After loved ones encouraged him to seek therapy, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which causes shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. His psychiatrist recommended medication to manage his condition, which at the time seemed like a terrible idea, “Doing drugs again was equal to attempting suicide,” says Tibbits.

But through the encouragement of his family and sponsors, Tibbits accepted that medication was the best route to manage his bipolar disorder.

Now 30 years into his recovery, Tibbits is proud to be a loving husband and father who is head of sales for a growing tech company. He manages his co-occurring conditions by maintaining both spiritual and clinical processes for self-care. On the spiritual front, acts of service and mediation keep his self-esteem high. Talk therapy and medication help him manage his bipolar disorder.

Tibbits in August 2022
Tibbits in August 2022

Sharing his story is also an important part of Tibbits’ journey. Following his diagnosis, Tibbits became a 12-step speaker to inspire hope within others in recovery.


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