By Bretton Johnson
You’re out one night with some friends and you have one too many drinks. You make a fool of yourself by accidentally spilling your pint all over someone.
Or maybe, you wake up one morning and don’t remember much about the night before. Then you look in the mirror and notice that you have a black eye and various other cuts and bruises.
There are many moments that make us question our drinking habits and the things we say or do while we’re drunk. I’m sure you’re thinking of a few stories of your own while reading this that have pushed you to the limit of quitting for good. For me, the decision was brought on by a harsher consequence: I was thrown in jail on drug and alcohol-related charges at the age of 23.
For the best picks, get HWM's must read newsletter!
In short, my mistake was the following: I considered alcohol and drugs to be a cure to my depression and anxiety, instead of accepting that they were only a temporary escape from my mental health pitfalls. The two are easy to confuse, and once substances start affecting your personality and decision-making abilities, the downward spiral begins to take hold.
I served my sentence and had lots of time to think about what my future would be like after getting out. My stance was firm: I was going to stay on course with my detox that started in my prison cell and continue forward with my life, drug, and alcohol-free. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before I gave in and had a relapse. At that point, I knew it was time for a more proactive approach.
After checking into a drug addiction rehab center and getting the additional help I was looking for, my mental health slowly started to rebuild itself. Some improvements were more noticeable than others, however the most obvious were changes in my mood, productivity, outlook, mindfulness, and sleep. I’d like to share those with you, and how they helped shape a new me.
In essence, my violent mood swings were brought on because of my depression and anxiety, however, they were amplified by the use of drugs and alcohol. Substances affect your brain in such a way that they inhibit your ability to make proper decisions and control your emotions. Once I stopped using, the changes began and I quickly felt myself more in control of my emotions.
Instead of spending half the morning in bed nursing a wicked hangover, I woke up every day full of energy. I’d look out the window and feel as if something were drawing me out and pushing me to fill my day with activities and tasks. I even took on a few that I didn’t think would be easy to conquer, such as quitting smoking. In the end, my motivation kept me going and I loved the feeling of being completely focused when I set myself towards a specific goal.
If, on a daily basis, you constantly think about the negative aspects of life and how you’re not sure if you want to continue living anymore, then it can be downright excruciating even getting out of bed in the morning.
Once I got a new perspective on my life and accepted my current state as a new chapter instead of starting a whole new book, I felt more motivated to change myself. I wanted my friends and family to see the new me and have their jaws drop at how radically I had bettered myself.
The best part was that I was incredibly positive about the future, taking every opportunity to shape it as I would have liked it from the very beginning. That felt empowering and it put a smile on my face whenever I got out of my comfort zone for the first time.
Live in the present moment. Meditate. Be kind to others. I used to think those were the trend for hippies that backpacked through South America, trying to find themselves. The truth is, all of those things are immensely important when adopting the practice of mindfulness. The concept was revolutionary to me, and it helped me battle my depression and anxiety long after I quit drinking and doing drugs.
Don’t confuse this step with the stages of withdrawal, because I had a hard time sleeping then. The sleep patterns I’m referring to came after quite some time into my recovery. It is said that alcohol disrupts your sleeping patterns and stages, even though a lot of people use it to get to sleep quicker.
After having gone through the withdrawal and insomnia that came with it, I finally started getting good sleep. As a result, I was more focused, had more energy, felt happier and healthier all around.
Those are some of the main mental health benefits I got after quitting substance abuse. In reality, letting go of something that has such a tight hold on you the way my addiction did on me can be extremely hard to fight off. I needed to embrace my demons and let them go while accepting the past and focusing on the present.
In the end, there were many ways my path to recovery helped me learn about life. Through added help and my own will to improve myself, I noticed how much my mood and productivity improved. Above that, my views on my life and the future became more positive, and I finally got some good night’s sleep.
Do you have any personal stories you would like to share with us? Drop us a line in the comment section below.