Hi Sharkey --
Welcome to HW! Great to have you here and I hope you'll find this board really supportive and helpful. (Btw, it's a bit quiet at the moment, but all the folks here are lovely, and their responses are well worth waiting for!)
The key thing here is that no-one ever grows out of bipolar or is "cured": it is an ongoing condition that needs management (through which you can achieve virtual normalcy, just need to be watchful for mood swings). Basically, management of bp always involves medication as well as therapy, and for this you need a good psychiatrist (preferably one who prescribes meds and does the talk therapy, but if the pdoc only prescribes you will need a psychologist for the therapy as well). This may sound grim and not at all the answer I know you were hoping for, but this is really not an optional thing: bp just can't be dealt with any other way.
The good news is that the right meds combo will not leave you zoned out: when someone says that this is what they are experiencing with meds, I want to shake their prescribing doctor into a rethink. -- There are so many meds and dosages of meds, and combinations of meds, and really it just takes time and patience to find the right prescription *for you*. Ok, so there's no one-pill-fits-all formula for bp (and so many other conditions), but a good pdoc (psychiatrist) will work with you, monitoring your progress, until a good mix is found (and I would strongly recommend that your friend goes back to his/her doc and pushes for more work on this). I have been on meds that left me like this (meds that have worked great for many others), but the meds were changed and the ones I'm on now are great: I feel like myself and no dodgy side-effects.
One thing all bp sufferers should do is learn as much as they can about the condition -- find out what signals your mood swings and what characterises them; identify any triggers; know what the different types of meds are. There are so many great resources on the web (McMan's Bipolar Web is a really good one -- will come up with a quick Google search), and there are some great books too (best one I've found is David Miklowitz's Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide -- you can get it through the Resources/Books link in the yellow column to the right of this webpage).
Do you have support from your family and/or friends? Them becoming more knowledgeable about bp can really help too -- you need that around you at times.
The really important thing to say though (and I hope you'll see this more the more folks here you meet) is that bp doesn't take away your humanity or life: there are many wonderfully strong and humorous people on this board -- bp is not something to be seen as a "life sentence" even if it is "for life".
All strength to you Sharkey! -- Post often.
People are not like fish: they do not work well battered.
When I'm not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded...
Moderator, Bipolar Forum