Spreading Awareness About The Illness That Is Addiction

Struggling with addiction

Are You Struggling With Addiction?

I’ve been wanting to write a post for those of you struggling with addiction.

I know addiction is a hugely under-diagnosed mental health problem in today’s society.  Unfortunately addiction is viewed as a flaw in character rather than the illness it is.

Personally, addiction is not on the large list of issues I have faced in my past.

With this in mind, I have seen addiction ruin the lives of those around me many times.

I grew up without a father due to my dad’s chronic alcoholism.  He chose alcohol over his kids and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

My mother had a troubled childhood due to her own mothers addictive tendencies towards drugs and alcohol.  She eventually passed away at the age of 60 due to an overdose.

She was a kind woman caught in the grips of something dark.  My grandmother chose to self medicate her depression with substances and it ended up costing her the gift of life.

Last but not least, and the reason I am writing this article today, my best friend who we will call Joe.

Joe and I were like brothers growing up.  From the ages of five to ten we were attached at the hip and rarely seen apart.

Unfortunately when we were 10 years old, Joe and his family decided to move a few hours away.  We managed to keep in contact over the years and our friendship remained strong.

Beginning in our teenage years we both began dealing with issues like anxiety and depression.

 

The Band-Aid Approach

While I steered away from the party lifestyle for my own personal reasons, Joe became consumed by it.

Joe saw alcohol and drugs as a way to escape his demons.

Alcohol in particular seemed to numb the problems he faced and gave him the peace that those of us with anxiety constantly seek.

While I was working things out the hard, yet necessary way, Joe was led down the darker path of temporary comfort.

Over time, I saw improvements in my well-being and in this same time period, Joe was going downhill.

Overuse of alcohol was causing Joe to experience some severe rebound anxiety manifesting itself as general anxiety and panic disorder.

Seeing as he had never taken the time to approach these things in the proper fashion, he did not know how to save himself from emotional turbulence.

So what did Joe do?  Joe drank more to once again find comfort.

His health began to rapidly deteriorate and eventually he found himself in the hospital with acute pancreatitis.

This health scare was enough to get him to seek rehab and Joe managed to stay sober for over three months until his eventual relapse.

Eventually, being an addict, Joe wanted to test the waters.  Over the years he had come to love the effects of alcohol and if he could handle a little bit he would have been happy.

A little bit soon turned into a lot and before you know it, he was struggling with addiction head on again.

Living far away, I was not aware of the severity of my friends issue.  I would regularly check up on him via text, but in hindsight, he was being reserved with his struggles.

His desire to test the waters and his addiction once again landed him in the hospital.

 

Is This The End?

I got the call around 6 a.m.

This time my friend was not just in the hospital but he was in the Intensive Care Unit.

Doctors were skeptical if he would live due to severe organ damage caused by drinking.

I managed to clear my schedule and make it out of town the next day to come visit.

I arrived to see my friend in a coma.

Not only was he unconscious but he was hooked up to breathing tubes, feeding tubes, IV’s and everything else you can imagine.

As a friend it was incredibly hard to see.  I began to wonder what our lives would look like if we were still best friends.

We would probably be roommates if we lived in the same city.  Would I be living the same lifestyle that ruined Joe or could I have instead prevented his fall?

These questions where ruminating in my mind for days.

As I write this, Joe is making good progress and his recovery is looking optimistic.  With that being said, he will still be in the hospital for weeks if not an entire month.

I can only imagine the pain his family feels.

I know when Joe is back to reality he will face incredible guilt, not from his family but from his own conscience.

 

This Is A Disease

Just like anxiety and depression, addiction is a mental health issue in which many people will never take the time to understand.

Instead we are quick to point the finger and label people struggling with addiction as a “low-life” or a “loser”.

Furthermore, I know there are many old-fashioned people who will call B.S. and remind addicts that they just lack will-power.

It is very likely those people have never faced anything mental health related and their life has been a big rainbow ride.

I am not saying that many times these issues are not self induced.  I am stating that due to certain life circumstances and genetic factors, many people find a clean lifestyle hard to maintain despite their best intentions.

While I am sure that Joe had some fun times drinking, I know for a fact based on his character that he did not enjoy hurting those around him.

I know that Joe did not go to rehab for three months just because he felt like taking a break.

Joe went to rehab because he was serious about getting better.

Unfortunately mistakes were made, and as an addict, he fell victim and once again began struggling with addiction.

 

Better Options Than Self Medicating

The more you self medicate, the further down the hole you go.

Alcohol and narcotics can dramatically influence neurotransmitters in the brain.  Once removed these levels deplete and issues like anxiety and depression can become present or dramatically exaggerated.

In fact, overuse can cause these symptoms in people who would never normally be prone to mental health issues.

In this post, I mentioned how I drank much more than usual while on a two month trip to Mexico and the end result had me riddled with daily panic attacks.

It was rather apparent that I had done myself the favor of bottoming out my GABA receptors and likely damaging others simultaneously.

For those of you struggling with addiction and/or issues like depression and anxiety, please know there are better options!

Speak to a doctor if you are lost or perhaps speak with a therapist.

I am not a medical professional but here are some places you can start from my site:

 

Speak Up And Speak Out

You can’t be helped if you can’t be heard.

For many of you struggling with addiction, it can be easy to avoid reaching out when you wish to engage in your addiction.

Your addiction may be stronger than your will power, but nothing is stronger than community.

Find anchors to help when you are in times of need.

Surround yourself with those who support your recovery rather than drag you back down to their level.

If your will power is fading, rely on your real friends to piggy back you.  If they are true friends it would be a pleasure to help you recover.

 

In Conclusion

It is important to remember that addiction is an illness whether you are struggling with addiction yourself or you know somebody who is.

Hard work and support are key to recovery.

If you struggle, find your support group and work your heart off.  If you are a friend, be the support they so desperately need.

I wish you all the best.

 

P.S. I have always found this song to be perhaps the most artistic song I have ever heard.  I can’t think of anywhere better to place it than in an addiction focused article.  Old but Gold.

*Insert Chills*


 

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2 Comments

  1. Great post on addiction. It is something that only someone who has been through can truly understand. I myself have been through addictions with different vices, that has really effected me negatively and its worse when you relapse constantly but there is hope to change. What i have come to realise is that these ‘addictions’ can happen just out of someone enjoying the effects but primary from mental health issues like you said. In my case it was severe childhood trauma for example that tore me apart and effected probably every aspect of my teen/adulthood. Its a desire to numb your sad/depressed state and to feel again, but it only lasts a while, which is why its so important to realise this & fix yourself in this regard.
    I hope your friend remains on a sober path and stays healthy.

    • Wow what an insightful comment! I am sorry to hear about your struggles and I sincerely hope you are doing better. Thank you for your kind wishes they are appreciated.

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