People are complex beings. Many of us like to think of ourselves as being above the animal world. Others believe that we are indeed animals, if only slightly more evolved or complex than other species. Either way, people are not simple organisms and sometimes, things break down. Everyone experiences illness in their lives eventually. Illness can be divided into physical, emotional and spiritual. Physical illness, while unpleasant and potentially deadly, is somewhat easier to understand than emotional or spiritual illness. We can see the effect physical illness has on us. We all know what a fever feels like. We all know pain. While people experience these things in different ways, they can be generalized. Nausea is nausea. Dizziness is dizziness. When we hear the words, we can internalize it and, in most cases, we can empathize.
Emotional and spiritual pain is completely different. Things like crippling anxiety, deadly depression or intense craving something affects a smaller portion of the population. Not everyone knows what these things feel like, and the individual experience of these things tends to make it harder to pin down why people do what they do or how to treat them. When you say you are experiencing anxiety, many people will maybe generate a feeling of nervousness instead of the paralyzing fear of a true disorder. When you say you live with depression, many people think of sadness instead of the endless emptiness some of live with.
The Chameleon In Your Brain
Things like addiction and mental illness are even harder to pin down. From the outside, it looks like a choice. People who do not live with addiction sometimes think that all you have to do is stop drinking or simply get rid of the pills you use to get through the day. There is a weight of stigma attached to these illnesses which make it less likely we will seek help before serious damage is done.
Addiction and mental illness change the way people think, the way our bodies respond to the drug, the way we see the world outside of our illness. Not everyone with addiction also experiences mental illness and not everyone who with a mental illness develops an addiction. It depends on life experience, predisposition as well as natural and learned coping mechanism. Still, some studies indicate that people with mental illness are twice as likely to develop an addiction that the general population.
Addiction grows out of distorted thinking. We start to think that we need the drug to get through the day. We might think that we have to use in order to survive, fearing the physical consequences of not using, like withdrawal. Alcohol and drugs can offer a false sense of security. They might mask the sense of uncertainty we live with when we’re sober. Others might believe that they cannot be social without chemical help or that they simply feel better about themselves when they are under the influence.
Equipping Yourself With New Tools
In order to achieve lasting recovery, it is imperative to find ways to address these needs without drinking or using. In the beginning, this can be something as concrete as finding a place to live or establishing food security. It might be learning how to go to work or be social sober.
If you are living homeless or lack the resources to eat daily, there are many organizations that can help. First, however, you have to find them. Research can be problematic without access to the internet, but you can overcome this by going to a library or certain homeless shelters. Once you have found a program, be it inpatient, outpatient, 12 Step or detox, make the call. The decision to get healthy is always personal, frequently made alone in a moment of extreme vulnerability. You have to choose to trust at this moment. Reaching out is not simple- it requires humility and a willingness to open yourself to the possibility of rejection and the strength to keep asking for help until we find the program that works for us no matter how many times it takes. Once you have begun your journey, however, you will find yourself with a range of opportunities and resources you lacked at the moment you chose not to actively live in your addiction anymore.
It is overwhelming. There are so many parts and they all seem to come at once. With support, you can do this. You can rebuild your life. You can be healthy and productive. You are no longer stuck at the bottom of the well looking up. You are climbing into the light and the world is waiting for you. Remember, with every day sober, you will get stronger and stronger. What once seemed impossible, is now not only possible but within reach. You are a complex being with a range of skills and abilities you might not have even been aware of.
You can find help honing these skills at Cumberland Heights. We are a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.