When I was 23, I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. This was after years of struggling with my moods, swinging from days of manic behaviour to even longer periods of depression. Like many people struggling with a mental illness, I tried to self medicate – in my case, with alcohol.
I started drinking when I was 15. At first, it was something I did with friends. But I quickly learned to love how alcohol numbed me from my moods. It helped me to care less and overcome my emotions. However, it also made me care less about the things I should have, like school, my friends and my family. I fought with my parents all the time and rarely went to class. I never actually finished high school because my drinking became an almost daily thing and my moods got worse.
As you can imagine, life as an alcoholic high school dropout with a mental disorder wasn’t easy. I couldn’t hold a job; I had trouble maintaining a healthy relationship. It wasn’t until a caring friend suggested visiting a mental health clinic that I first started to understand my mental illness. And, after repeated visits, I was finally able to put a name to it.
Once I was able to understand my mental illness, I could address my drinking. The diagnosis helped me realize that I was self medicating, trying to overcome my illness.
I know my story isn’t unique, which is why I wanted to share it. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, I encourage you to consider the underlying cause. It’s not easy acknowledging that you have a mental illness but it’s the only way to truly overcome your addiction and get the help you need.
Disclaimer: The character in this story is not real but we all know someone who is similarly affected by addiction.