What is self-medicating? Most would think of it as abusing drugs and alcohol to fill some sort of void. But in reality, self-medicating could be anything. Every self-medicating behavior is a result of some sort of underlying issue. The reasons for self-medicating are many, though it generally comes down to a desire for instant gratification as means to distract from things we have little or no control over and choose to run away from rather than face head on.
Self-medicating before sobriety:
Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to help with anxiety or depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately half of all people diagnosed mentally ill engage in substance abuse. Studies show that the more trauma and/or stressors people face, the more likely they are to drink or use regularly. The problem with this is that while the substances may temporarily ease emotional pain, they end up making us feel worse in the long-run. They also lead to many health problems and can easily result in premature death.
Self-medicating after sobriety:
Even after getting clean and sober, most of us still struggle with the need to self-medicate. This can take form in virtually anything (e.g., gambling, anorexia, bulimia, overeating, shopping, sex, love). In my opinion, all of us who are addicts are addicts for a reason. Drinking and using at one point in time is what we needed to do for survival. Now that we are sober, we replace the drugs and alcohol with whatever we can find to self-medicate. This is just part of the recovery path and we need not beat our already fragile psyches to a pulp over it.
Moving beyond self-medicating behaviors:
In order to truly move past self-medicating, we must rid ourselves of the need to medicate. Self-medicating is essentially a survival mechanism for emotional pain. We need to question why we are medicating ourselves. What is it that we are trying to hide from? Why do we feel the need to avoid the issues in our lives that most require addressing? How has self-medicating helped or not helped us in the long run? Once we really uncover our inner turmoil, we can work towards not self-medicating. Remember that self-medicating is just a part of your journey. Recovery is a long road filled with lots of roadblocks, bumps, and setbacks, but it is extremely rewarding if you stick with it.
- “Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Na. Web. 27 December 2012.