Almost half of those who live with a mental health disorder also experience a substance use problem (SAMHSA). Today’s guest author, Parker, lived with depression and addiction issues until he was able to find recovery. Parker’s inspiring story shows that there is hope and that recovery is possible. Thank you, Parker, for sharing with us at www.rtor.org. — Veronique Hoebeke, Associate Editor.
Growing up, I was never quite sure what I was running from. Despite the constant introspection that would rival any Greek philosopher, I couldn’t put my finger on why I was the way I was. Depression was my natural state; and to deal with that, I would escape to somewhere outside of myself. Anywhere, it didn’t matter, as long as it distracted me from whatever was going on between my ears.
Escaping isn’t all bad, though. Everyone needs a break from life once in a while. The problem was that I chased that temporary alleviation with a tenacity that got me into a lot of trouble. I was avoiding the thoughts and feelings that made me uncomfortable: inadequacy, self-consciousness, and fear of failure. When I found drugs and alcohol, I felt like I could finally make a break for it. I thought I found my solution, although it was a very temporary one. I didn’t have to escape anymore, only to be brought back to reality moments later. Life was tolerable again, and I looked forward to the next day, as long as I could get that next one. As anyone could anticipate, this became a problem quickly. It turns out I was still escaping, just in a different way. Running away from my inner thoughts with drugs and alcohol was a getaway that always took me back to the very same place I was running from.
Later in life, it occurred to me that my escapism had crossed over to total avoidance, but hindsight is 20/20. And hindsight is even clearer when you’re recovering from a chaotic, drug-induced-coma-type-state that was equal parts chaotic and comatose, with no in-between. The pleasure was pleasurable, the pain was painful, but boredom was unbearable.
For me, being bored is a death sentence. Not the type of boredom that leaves you pondering what to do on your couch while watching infomercials. This is a complete apathy for life. In my recovery, I have found that I need to fight this kind of boredom instead of avoiding it.
Once I got sober, I faced the very same problems I had before I started getting high, but this time, I had a severe shortage of solutions. In the absence of mind or mood altering substances, that same depression and boredom I remembered from being a kid came back with a vengeance. It quickly occurred to me that if I didn’t do something about it, I wouldn’t stand a chance of staying clean.
- I needed to find something that cured the monotony of everyday life but didn’t involve doing drugs.
- I needed to start confronting my problems head on instead of avoiding them by escaping to somewhere else in my head.
So began my unconventional spiritual journey.
I knew doing some actual work on myself wasn’t going to be easy, but it isn’t supposed to be. To get comfortable with myself, I had to get as uncomfortable as possible, and that was scary. That meant putting myself in situations that made my stomach turn on a daily basis. I had to raise my hand in 12-step meetings when every instinct inside my head told me not to. I had to do things like talk to strangers and make friends. Accepting my shortcomings, and then working on them diligently, helped to ease the unease of everyday life situations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is recovery. It took a while, but eventually, I started to notice I was more comfortable in my own skin. These days when I find myself drifting away, I assess the situation. If I am escaping my worries temporarily through doing what I enjoy, that is okay. But if I find myself avoiding a thought or feeling because it is uncomfortable, I try to dig a little deeper and ask myself why.
Finding a Healthy Escape
Finding a healthy, positive passion that I could pursue was the best thing I have ever done for my recovery and my life. In fact, the things I’m passionate about are indispensable for me to maintain my sobriety and serenity. For some, these things are painting, writing, sports, or cooking. Mine is music. It allows me to feel the rush of excitement I got from drugs and alcohol and escape from everyday stress. As long as I am careful not to use these things as a means to avoid dealing with my problems, I can find sanctuary from the boredom. Passion alone will not cure mental illness, but for me, it gives me the drive to get up in the morning that I lacked for many years.
I encourage anyone and everyone, whether they have a drug and alcohol problem or not, to find something that makes life worth living. For people with addiction, depression, anxiety or any other disorder finding your passion can be life changing.
Author Bio: Parker’s pragmatic, yet introspective take on substance abuse recovery bridges the gap between science and firsthand experience. He hopes to reach the struggling and the recovering addict where they are at through his writing and communication skills. Parker is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Ambrosia in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
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