Addiction is a popular topic in conjunction with mental health and so I figured it about time I addressed addiction and how it relates to my mental health, both past and present.
Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences. There is scientific evidence that addictive substances and behaviors share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.
In my personal experience, I am a dopamine junkie. I’ve picked many poisons over the years but find my greatest addiction today is of a simper kind…nicotine. However, it was not always simpler times. I’ve experimented with cocaine, mushrooms, ecstasy, MDMA, speed, ADHD medications, and marijuana. Some were more addicting than others and had a longer lasting effect on my life. I have memories of trips, ranging from amazing to scary. I’ve gone through phases in my life where one drug was more predominantly used and times where I quit cold turkey and did not do any. I do not struggle with addiction in the same way others do but rather am addicted to new experiences.
Drugs were just that – a new experience. After all both impulsivity and sensation seeking have been linked to substance use. I used to have a saying which summed up my approach to drugs which was that “if there’s cocaine on the table then I’m snorting it.” Basically I mean if the drug is readily available and in my face, there’s no point in resisting it. I realize this is an insane approach to substance use but as someone who tried most drugs without prior knowledge of their detrimental effects, it seemed appropriate.
The drug I probably struggled the most with was MDMA. I put myself in a lot of stupid and unnecessary situations as a result of using this drug. I even over dosed one morning on it when I parachuted a large amount after having drank a bottle of wine. I ended up hallucinating that I was puking blood and demanded to be taken to the hospital. My friend who gave me the drug at the time (who I thought was a decent human being) refused to take me and told me to ride it out. He took advantage of me later that morning and needless to say we were never friends again. My addiction to MDMA got so bad that I was parachuting small amounts at work to keep me going. I found I was irritable and rather explosive when I did not have the drug in my system. I decided to chase highs instead of dealing with the challenge of sobriety.
Then one day I decided for my health to quit every drug I was doing at the time, including smoking pot and the result was disastrous. I became suicidal and had to return home from school and take the year off to recover. I continued to have suicidal ideations for awhile until I gradually began smoking pot again but I had kicked my MDMA and Coke habit for the time being. Years later I would dabble in using cocaine here and there but would eventually quit the drug for good and what I hope is for life.
Today I am addicted to a more simpler and legal drug, you guessed it – marijuana. I struggle with abusing it and smoking it all day, every day. I am seeking counselling to quit which I know some of my readers are like huh., why? There are various factors for me wanting to quit my addiction and the main one being my mental health. I struggle with bipolar disorder and am prone to hallucinations and delusions. Marijuana has the ability to induce these, however, I am on an anti-psychotic and have yet to experience one since being put on it. I do not want to push my luck though. I also find I have been self-medicating my anxiety with pot and am now at a point in my life that I want to seek alternative and healthier ways to manage it like going to the gym. My main motivation though is my memory of before I ever started smoking marijuana and that time in my life was the most productive and successful I have ever had. I have a theory I can get back to that point if I just sober up.
The point of this blog is to address addiction and to educate my readers on the high covariance of mental health disorders and addiction. I struggle with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety as well as active addiction. Each day is a struggle to choose not to snort, inhale or light up drugs. I am currently attending a few support groups to help with the issue and find I have decreased my smoking but have yet to fully quit. I am saying there is hope out there for a sober life but also I am saying if you are struggling with a mental disorder and find you struggle with addiction too, it’s ok, don’t beat yourself up. There are supports out there and you can find the right one – if you’re ready.