I haven’t always done things the right way when it comes to my diagnosis. For years I tried to do the wrong thing on purpose and turned to the wrong vice. Illegal drugs were never a part of my life (with the exception of smoking weed in high school.) It was never my style to take hard drugs. I never took issue, however, with smoking cigarettes to get past my anxiety or drinking way too much to numb the pain.
One of the best things I ever did was give up these two vices that were hurting my recovery.
I gave up smoking almost three years ago. It sometimes seems surreal that I just quit one day and never took it back up. I didn’t need a patch or gum. I made a conscious decision that I had to stop using it to deal with anxiety. When I started working on my health, quitting smoking was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was never a heavy smoker, it took me usually a few weeks to go through a pack of cigarettes. I would sometimes social smoke, but for the most part, it was only to get through anxiety.
Smoking became a way for me to not deal with my anxiety in the moment. I would smoke and make myself believe that it made life better. It did, for maybe a moment. Moments can be fleeting. What really got to me about smoking is that near the end, I “needed” to smoke every day. The first time I went through a pack in less than I week, I decided enough was enough. It didn’t hurt that I was realizing just how out of control my anxiety was getting at that moment. I was believing the lie that smoking helped keep anxiety at bay, and it became a losing battle.
I made the decision the day after my birthday almost three years ago. I just quit. I was always good at quitting things.
My journey with alcohol was similar, and I used it to numb the pain when I was really depressed. It’s funny most people knew I smoked cigarettes, I never kept it a secret, but I was very good at keeping my dependence on alcohol from my friends and family. I drank on my own late at night to make it easier for me to sleep. Anyone who takes medication for any mental illness knows that mixing with alcohol is a bad idea. It was just easier to find the bottom of my favorite whiskey bottle than to deal with my anxiety issues.
Some of my best “drunk stories” were always when I went on vacation. I am not proud by my behavior, and I don’t condone using alcohol as a depressant. I write the following two paragraphs in this blog post to show just how lost I was at that point in my life, and how I used drinking as coping mechanism in the worst way. I would drink excessively when I was on vacation. I would laugh it off as “what happens in Vegas.” I once drank so much in Vegas in a three hour period, that me surviving it without a hospital visit is a mystery. I puked a lot. I guess that helped, but it stupid behavior that I regret.
Drinking to survive became a crutch and one that became all too familiar in my life about two years ago. I realized that it was not helpful. The more I drank, the less I cared about myself. I always used alcohol because the consequences were never severe. I never got a hangover (this is not a brag just the truth) so I never really thought it was problem. I am not sure why I stopped drinking. It was just something that started one day and hasn’t ended. Not drinking has its drawbacks. Late at night, I had to deal with my problems and it was no longer at the bottom of a bottle.
The decisions that we make in life have to be for ourselves and not because of outside influence. Using things like cigarettes and alcohol (and even drugs) is never the answer. I don’t pretend to be some prophet that is telling people what vices in their life they should/shouldn’t use. In fact, I am not saying that smoking and drinking is bad, but for me it just hasn’t been a good thing. We are all flawed humans. My goal, as always, is to share my experience and to show how vices like alcohol and cigarettes alongside mental health is never a good thing.
I hope that anyone dealing with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and even tobacco addiction find the strength to fight. Like anything when it comes mental illness, if it doesn’t help you, it’s probably good to give it up. Addictions no matter how big or small can be counterproductive alongside a mental illness. I have learned the hard way.
Always keep fighting.