Friday, October 4, 2013

How do you know if you are self-medicating with alcohol?

“According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 50 percent of individuals with severe mental health disorders are affected by substance abuse. NAMI also estimates that 29 percent of all people diagnosed as mentally ill abuse alcohol or other drugs.

Each disorder has its own unique symptoms that can impair one’s ability to function and often interact with each other. For example, when mental health disorders are left untreated, substance abuse is likely to increase. One may try to self-medicate with substances to reduce mental health symptoms. One may also increase substance use as a result of stress and inability to cope with issues or situations.”  (Click here to read the complete article)

It is not uncommon for people suffering from a mental illness to abuse alcohol or other drugs.  This behavior is called “self-medicating”.  The point of using (whether conscious or subconscious) is to lessen the pain.  Alcohol is more commonly abused because it is socially acceptable in most places.  And depending on where you live, getting drunk is not such a big deal either.

For me, I had definite problems handling alcohol.  In college, I drank, drank more, and then more.  I must have known that I had some sort of problem because I decided to give it up entirely for one year.  After the year was over, I drank a little, then more, than more frequently.  Then, before I knew it, I was back to where I was before I gave up drinking.  Admitting it now, I can see I was close to being an alcoholic.

Diagnosable alcoholism is (but not limited to): getting drunk three or more times a week, drinking alone, drinking to escape feelings or situations, pursuing drunkenness over enjoying the taste.  In addition, this behavior has to continue for a lengthened period of time.

Alcoholism also has the potentiality to run in the family – it’s hereditary.

So, considering all these things, Katniss, the odds are not in my favor.

I’ve been thinking ’bout drinking lately because I’ve been having weird dreams about alcohol.  I dreamt I had a glass of red wine the other night.  It scared me and enticed me at the same time.

I was determined not to drink while taking the anti-depressant medication (click here to read more) because I wanted to get better and certain things, like alcohol would inhibit the effectiveness of the medication.  I have been off the meds for a few months and I am doing OK.  Soooo…..

Now, I have my days, but I am so much better than I was about a year a half ago.  Would alcohol still affect me the same way it did when I was severely depressed?  I am more equipped to handle my moods since receiving treatment.  I am sure I could handle having a glass of wine every once in a while, right?

Well, I don’t know.

If I admit that I am not an alcoholic, that the alcohol only made depressive moods worse and was not the cause of my depression, then I might have a "pro" case.

Yet, if I admit that I was an alcoholic, then even if my depression is better, I still should not drink at all.

So, I do admit that I had alcoholic tendencies.  I think given more time, I could have been “technically” diagnosed.  After contemplating long and hard, I can see that giving in to alcohol would not be the best road to take.  Why risk it?  Why see if I was really an alcoholic or not?

To be committed to not drinking, I have to tell myself that I was an alcoholic, or was, at least, on the fast-track.  I have to be OK with never drinking again.

Maybe, a lot of relapses occur because people suppose they are “cured” enough to start drinking again.  And if they do have alcoholic tendencies, then they might have several relapses due to drinking.  Had my life been different (a.k.a. “But for the Grace of God”), I could see myself being right there too.

So, long story short…everything’s still the same.  In case you were wondering, which you probably weren't, but anyway...
TTFN - Ta Ta For Now.

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