How My Mental Health Disorders Played a Role in My Addiction
For years, I blamed my addiction on my mental health.
When I was growing up, I always knew deep down that there was something different about me. I never felt like I fully fit in with any of my peers in school, or even my own family members; genuine connections with other people always appeared so unattainable. I began to display unhealthy behaviors and anxieties at a young age, which led to my parents sending me to a variety of therapists and psychiatrists to find an answer or a solution to my problems. At the same time, I also began finding my own solutions. I started to use substances like alcohol or marijuana to “calm my nerves” enough to cope with day to day life.
After some time, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, PTSD, and explosive defiance disorder.
Initially, being diagnosed with mental disorders hit me like a ton of bricks; I felt as if my life was over. But soon after, I realized that this gave me a reason behind my insanity.
Subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) I started to use this as an excuse for my behavior. I would fly off the handle into fits of rage while under the influence, and feel self-righteous as my disorders gave me the right to self-medicate and blame my loved ones for the issues in my life. Meanwhile, my addiction to drugs was growing stronger, and I was using my mental disorders as a form of denial. My mom was mostly unaware of my drug abuse, and my mental disorders played a huge role in her inability to see that something more was going on with me.
Anytime I would feel like I was slipping into an anxiety attack or a PTSD episode, I would use illicit drugs to numb the symptoms. At first glance, it seemed to work. Gradually I could start to see that using these drugs were just covering up my symptoms, it was as if I was giving my disorders a place to hide and grow stronger.
Once I would sober up, my anxiety attacks would come back violently, my PTSD flashbacks would be more vivid and realistic. I was attempting to relieve my illness, but consequently, I was actually making them that much worse. I felt hopeless like there was nothing I could do to recover. I had moved on from being a casual drug user to someone who had to use hard drugs in order to get out of bed or leave the house. I wanted to stop using drugs, but the withdrawals and the symptoms of my disorders were so strong that I physically couldn’t stop on my own. I knew with every fiber in my being that I needed help, but my anxieties were telling me that help was impossible, and I was doomed.
I began researching the relationship between hard drugs and mental disorders. I found that in some cases, mental disorders can be brought out or worsened by using substances. The chemicals were causing a negative reaction with my brain, which was already naturally at an imbalance. This realization sounds like enough for someone to quit using substances, right? Despite all rationale and reasoning, I kept doing drugs. It wasn’t until I had reached an emotional and physical bottom that I ever asked for help. I couldn’t sleep due to nightmares that were caused by my PTSD, I barely left my house because my social anxiety was too crippling, and on top of that I had exhausted every healthy friendship left in my life. I finally got to a state of desperation. I felt as if there were only two options, to commit suicide, or to go to rehab. I knew about treatment centers and programs like AA, because a number of my family members had gone through the same thing as me, so I asked my mom to send me to treatment.
After a couple of weeks in treatment, I had been working with a therapist on-site who gave me healthy ways to cope naturally with the symptoms of my mental health disorders, and also prescribed me safe, non-addictive medication. Professionals explained to me that it is highly common for people with disorders to seek out ways to self-medicate, and that the results are never positive. Seeking out help was the smartest thing I ever did for myself. Not only did I conquer my drug addictions, but I also found inner peace, and ways to cope with the symptoms of my mental illnesses. I no longer struggle with normal day-to-day activities, I have healthy relationships with like-minded people who genuinely understand and care for me, and most of all I have learned how to truly be happy despite any troubles that may come. I’ll never be sure if it was my mental illnesses that caused me to develop into an addict, or if I was born genetically prone to addiction, but I am sure that there are ways to live a fulfilling, happy life while being someone who suffers from mental health disorders.