How was your life before addiction

How your life changes when you renounce alcohol and drugs

Photo: Michael Segalov

Whether Donald Trump, the longest election in the world, Brexit or the increasingly open racism, this year there have been some unsightly developments that one would like to forget. A very popular tool to wash away unpleasant memories and thoughts is a night of drinking with a cocktail of alcohol and various drugs.

However, as you can guess, this is not always the best course of action. Dr. Sheri Jacobson, the chair of the Harley Therapy addiction counseling center, also pointed out that both drugs and alcohol only cause temporary highs. And in the long run, this high pushes the consumer into a vicious circle of depression.

"For example, alcohol is a sedative that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, including the one controlling anxiety," she explains. Drinking is often used to "relax" after a long and tiring day. The whole thing can have the opposite effect.

"If you already have some form of mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder, then various illegal substances are very likely to make the condition worse, not any better," says Dr. Jacobson. "And if there is a genetic risk for mental illness, then alcohol and drugs make you more likely to develop the disease." Depression and anxiety are much more common in people who take various substances. That's what it says in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatrythat one in three adults who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs will also have depression.

While the media is talking more about men's mental health than ever before, last month the nonprofits Mind and Rethink Mental Illness released a study as part of their Time to Change campaign that said 54 percent of adolescents males who have mental health problems keep these problems to themselves. This means that many men prefer to remain silent - although more and more celebrities are admitting their depression and anxiety disorders and more and more media campaigns are encouraging men to open up.

There are of course several reasons for this secrecy. I myself know a few men who prefer to cover up their mental health problems with beer, drugs, hangovers and comedowns. These men are never really able to address their problems — except when they are briefly sober, when they can think clearly. And from stories I know that this problem extends far beyond my circle of acquaintances.

Bob, when he was still using alcohol and drugs

33-year-old Bob Foster has not used drugs or alcohol in almost a year and a half. Up until his lifestyle, a typical week for Bob started with feeling totally depressed on Mondays and hardly getting out of bed for fear. "Monday was always really bad. I ignored e-mails and could hardly get out more than a word in meetings. In the evening I went to the gym and the endorphins released during training made me reasonably normal. On Tuesday I felt a little better . In the evening I was back at training, which made Wednesday felt almost OK. In the evening, of course, I went to the gym again. On Thursdays I waited all day to finally be able to go to a bar in the evening.

I hung around there until one or two o'clock, poured myself in and took a lot of coke. That's why Friday was always hell. After work I immediately started drinking so as not to let the miserable feeling arise in the first place. In addition, of course, there was more cocaine and partying until seven in the morning. Saturday was always overslept and if I didn't go out again in the evening, I locked myself in my room for the night and for the entire Sunday. "

Because Bob's alcohol and drug use represented the transition from the mundane routine to the weekend outlet, Bob's mental health was soon affected. "In my 20s, I kept increasing the doses of my various antidepressants and anxiety disorder medications and wondering why they weren't working anymore," he says. "It never occurred to me that using a depressant and a paranoia-inducing substance could make me depressed and paranoid."

Then why did Bob break with this routine? "There was never a moment of enlightenment here. No, the whole thing was more of a gradual process," he explains. "Every now and then I hadn't taken or drunk anything for several months. That's why I knew that it made me feel better.

In addition, I was able to watch how many people from my social environment made progress in their lives. It made me feel kind of left behind. So I planned one last big bang during a metal festival that I wrote about for work. I let it rip and had such a heavy comedown that I never wanted to do drugs again. "

The crashing comedown was the push Bob had needed. After that, he completely changed his life within a few months.

For Marcus Vega, a London-based yoga teacher and former DJ, the transition to a regular life was less abrupt. "For ten years I really messed myself up - I took everything I could get my hands on and tipped everything I was offered. Pure hedonism," he says.

As with Bob, Marcus's party lifestyle was intermittent. He calmed his conscience by knowing that his health is also important. "I destroyed myself at the weekend and then did all the healthy and 'good' stuff during the week. That's when I started to be interested in sports, fitness and martial arts. I almost always had the good in view and thought that it was parallel to my party lifestyle. It worked for a while. Then I realized that my highs also come exclusively from yoga and martial arts. "

After practicing various martial arts for a good five years and becoming more and more interested in yoga, Marcus reconsidered his lifestyle. "Towards the end of my drinking phase I asked myself if it was really worth it and if I was having fun at all. Because of the hangover, the days after the party were over from the start and I didn't have time to do all that I had made up my mind. That was almost always half the week. In the end I didn't want to and couldn't go on like this. "

In the ten years he's DJed in clubs around the world, Marcus didn't suffer from depression and anxiety as badly as Bob. Nevertheless, he tells me that his everyday perception has changed significantly: "I became much more balanced. This weekend life that many people lead makes you a robot on autopilot during the week. Now the days are very similar. I don't have any Deeper, I am no longer afraid of Mondays, I am no longer afraid of coming down. I don't necessarily mean that in terms of drug technology, but also in relation to the return to the banality of everyday life. "

For Bob, his quality of life has improved dramatically with abstinence.

"First of all, I look five years younger than before and have lost a good 12 kilos in the first three months," he says. "The other thing that struck me straight away was my brain function: I swear I'm 50 percent faster psychologically than before. I've also grown up a lot. I stopped going to the bar with my friends I got a lot more organized. I stopped living like a teenager: no more messy rooms, no more being late. I made better relationships with my family, made progress at work and things like that. I have more energy , more money, fitter, happier and for the first time in my adult life I feel at peace with myself. "

Of course, it is not easy to quit alcohol and other drugs when everything revolves around them. And there is no guarantee that abstinence will have the same positive effects on your mental health as it did for Bob.

Addictions and habits are hard to break, as anyone who has tried their hand at New Year's resolutions can probably attest to. Fortunately, almost every addictive behavior has its own help group — from Alcoholics Anonymous to Narcotics Anonymous. Dr. Jacobson says, however, "If you find support groups daunting, try professional one-on-one support. At a drug counseling center, you can get unbiased support in an environment where you can be completely open. That is not always the case with friends and family — it doesn't matter. how good they mean it to you. "

"Stop three months and then see how you feel," says Bob when I ask for advice for men going through their 20s like him. "Three months is the point where you can see how much everything changes. It is also the hardest point that you have to reach because everything is still so fresh behind you. But I swear if you have it three months you will see what all the fuss is about. "

Are you looking for advice or help? You can find addiction counseling centers near you on the website of the Austrian Addiction Aid Compass.

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