It’s a simple but unmistakable truth – no matter how much you try to forget something, you can’t change the fact that it happened. But what you can do is change what you’re doing about it.
Many people start drinking as a way to cope with their present or their past. Sometimes, we just need to take the edge off. Sometimes, we’ve had enough and just need to check out. But we have to be conscious of the fact that once we’ve had our break, we’re back in reality – with nothing having changed.
There’s no denying that a break is important every now and again. No one can take constant stress – we’re just not built for it. But replacing your problems with an endless streak of highs is not the way forward, either. It’s more likely that you’re just piling onto an existing list of problems with even more issues, and everyone who still associates with you is getting hurt in the process.
Once you realize that, the question becomes: how can you move forward? The right answer is not easy, but it is simple – you need help.
Why Self-Medication Never Works
Self-medication is the process of taking a drug without it having been prescribed to you. In some cases, this is illegal at best, and harmful at worst. Antidepressants aren’t addictive, but the reason you still need a prescription for them is because they can have a series of unintended consequences, and the oversight and assistance of a trained psychiatrist is necessary to help you find the right medication for your symptoms and diagnosis.
Other prescription drugs, like anti-anxiety medication and narcotic analgesics like Vicodin and Oxycontin, is much more harmful, because these drugs can get you addicted very quickly. Sometimes, people start self-medicating with drugs that aren’t really medicinal, from alcohol to recreational marijuana.
Drugs are drugs, regardless of whether they have an RX label or not. Medicine is meant to heal and help – and if you don’t have a diagnosis that requires a specific drug, and are just taking it to feel better, then at best you’re in for a short time spent feeling just a little bit better, and at worst, you’re going to start needing the drug on a daily basis just to feel a semblance of normality while everything around you devolves into chaos.
Despite the name, self-medication doesn’t treat anything adequately. While you do feel better for a while, the long-term consequences are more severe than if you had done nothing at all. This is best described as a maladaptive coping mechanism – it helps you cope to some degree, but it doesn’t help you solve your problem at hand.
Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Mechanisms
Other maladaptive coping mechanisms include going for illegal street races or speeding past local limits in nighttime joy rides, getting into fights, bullying others, engaging in otherwise risky behavior just to get off, or practicing self-harm. Any and all of these can be liberating and maybe even calming for a little while, but they can also leave you hurting even more.
Adaptive coping mechanisms are different. They help you cope, but they also help you either put yourself in a better position to solve your existing problems, or they directly contribute to solving your problems. Adaptive coping mechanisms include healthy levels of exercise, engaging in a paying hobby, creating art, writing in a journal, speaking to a friend or therapist about your issues, and making music.
One hurts you more, the other helps you feel better without putting you in harm’s way, or while even helping you with your situation.
Steadily eliminating maladaptive coping mechanisms while adopting healthier, adaptive coping mechanisms is an important part of being an adult, especially as we move past risky behavior to embrace ways of being that help us deal with all of the responsibilities and stress thrust onto us by life and others. But, not everyone can “steadily eliminate” their maladaptive coping mechanisms. If you’re seeing the bottom of a bottle (and the inside of a toilet bowl) more often than you’re seeing a resolution to your conflicts and issues, then you may have a drinking problem. Worse yet, if you can’t stop yourself no matter how much you want to, you’re likely addicted to the alcohol and have only added to a growing list of problems.
That’s when you need help. Asking for help is the first step in the right direction after struggling with addiction – this is not something you can just solve on your own, and even if you end up getting through it without professional help, it’ll take the support of your friends and loved ones to ride out the worst parts of recovery.
But past all that, you’ll still be facing your original stresses, problems, as well as anything new that might have cropped up in the meantime. When you can no longer resort to the drink (or any other kind of drug), it’s time to find better alternatives to help you cope.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Adaptive coping mechanisms have to just not hurt you or place you in even greater stress in exchange for a sweet but short ride. Many people get addicted because they start drinking excessively or using drugs out of a place of desperation rather than choice, but once you find the way out of that life, it’s even more important that you never find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to plunge back in.
Start first by ensuring that you’ve got people who have your back. Relapses can be common in the early months of recovery, but even years after, it’s possible to slip up and go back to drinking if you’re having a particularly rough time and no good way to cope. Having friends there to keep you away from the bottle and help you out, even if just for a little while, is important. You need to learn to rely on others sometimes to get you out of a pickle. In exchange, be sure to be there and help them when they need you the most.
Good adaptive coping mechanisms combine a talent, interest, or hobby with something that’s likely to help you build off stress and unwind. Exercise is usually a good option, but it can be difficult to motivate yourself to hit the gym. Consider a form of exercise that you’re actually potentially passionate about, like dancing, or a competing sport.
If you’re more creatively oriented, then create. Take the time out of your day to dedicate an hour or so to making music, working on an art project, or writing articles or stories.
Drinking can help you forget that you have problems to begin with, but its only going to lead to more problems down the road. Pick coping mechanisms that help keep you sane and healthy, without being a cause for residential treatment and months of therapy.