Mental Health and Addiction, let's talk about it!

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What do you think of when you think of addiction? The media often portrays ‘addicts’ as being homeless, or an overworked single middle-aged person passed out on the sofa. Although these descriptions are not encompassing of the different faces of addicts, it is important to understand why people develop addictions. It is vital to remember that mental health and addiction go hand in hand as those living with mental health illnesses use substances as a way to cope with their disorder.

I was addicted to alcohol when I was barely 14 years old; I was still a child. I don’t know the exact cause as to why I started, all I know is I was dealing with a lot of pent up anger and pain with no way to let it out. At this point in my life, I did not know about mental health; it’s so strange to think how much mental health awareness has been raised in just 8 short years. I had always felt different, and I struggled socially and emotionally, I had started self-harming around this time also because I liked the release of pain. 

On the outside I had recently found a group of friends for the first time in my life, dare I say it, I was popular and was getting attention from boys. I was always bullied and left in the shadows, so I do think that this flush of ego did add to my alcoholism, the reason for this is that I could not be the cool and reckless girl that everyone so loved while I was sober – I was quiet and shy by nature. 

One day an older friend of mine had taken us around his house and gave me alcohol, it was a very low amount of alcohol, but that sip changed me. I liked the warmth it gave me, and the feeling made me feel so fuzzy and lighter than a cloud. Soon I was stealing my mother’s alcohol and manipulating others to buy my next fix – I was hooked, no one knew what was going on.

As I got older, I found myself using alcohol to get through social events and life stressors. I was drunk at school and work. I dealt with a lot of trauma in my teen years and rather than cry and end my life; I thought that drinking was my best and the only option as a way to cope. It got even worse when I was forced into things that I did not want to do; I did not like to say no as I was scared of rejection so I drank to ‘put up with it.’

Written by Charlotte Underwood