Like most people who struggle with the disease of addiction, my mental health has a checkered history. As a kid, I always felt like I didn’t fit in. I was teased by my classmates in elementary school, struggling with my weight and other issues. It’s no surprise that as I grew up, I often found myself grappling with depression and anxiety. Looking back, I believe that I simply wasn’t very well-adjusted to the life I was living. But in my teens, I discovered a miracle cure. Drugs and alcohol finally made me feel like I belonged. As the intoxication washed over me, all the negative feelings evaporated and I was at peace, finally able to relax and be myself. Or so I thought, anyway. After those first few wonderful experiences, I was off to the races.
Drugs and alcohol absolutely work to get rid of those negative feelings I was talking about. The only problem is, using doesn’t really fix anything. It just pushes everything to a dusty corner, where those mental health issues grow and fester instead of being dealt with properly. The new solution I had found worked well—for a while. But my depression and anxiety were waiting in the background, growing stronger as I avoided learning the skills I needed to live life as an adult. On the rare occasions when I would sober up, I would find myself feeling worse than ever. It wasn’t long before I crossed a line. I was no longer using to feel good, but to avoid feeling bad. I found myself going to see a psychiatrist and being diagnosed with a host of mental health issues. Of course, what I didn’t tell the doctor was the extent of my substance use. The delusion of my addiction didn’t allow me to accept that maybe that’s what was at the root of my issues. I was in an even worse position than when I started. Something needed to change.
I wish I could say bad feelings were enough to motivate me to get sober, but it took a lot more suffering than that. I had to experience years of misery and increasingly serious consequences before I was ready to take a long, hard look at my life and the way I was living it. I guess I’m just one of those people that needs to learn lessons the hard way (and I still find this to be true, even after years of recovery). Eventually, I decided to ask for help. I left my life behind and moved to another state to go to treatment. It was the best decision I ever made.
I couldn’t stay sober on my first, or even my fifth, try, but that’s a story for another time. The point is, once I was well and truly ready for change, I put in the work and I got what I wanted. Unsurprisingly, my mental health improved as well. Once I stopped staying up for three days straight on binges, most of my symptoms went away. Shocker! Even more importantly, going to treatment and working a program has given me the tools I need to address my underlying depression and anxiety as well. I still struggle with these issues sometimes, but who doesn’t? I have learned to take action to fix them, instead of just pushing them off for later.