They say that life never gives you more than you can handle. Then why does it sometimes feel like you just can’t manage? When we’re faced with challenges in our lives—divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job—figuring out how to deal with the challenge, and the emotions that come with it, can seem insurmountable. Avoidance, procrastination, and denial, are natural reactions as our minds try to protect us from the sadness, and hurt that can follow a life-altering event.
These behaviors are only stopgaps, however, and cannot be embarked upon as long-term solutions. If not properly managed, the emotions that avoidance and denial can’t erase can evolve into more dangerous coping behaviors, such as the abuse of drugs or alcohol. Understanding the importance of managing your feelings, and the truth that other methods can’t permanently ease the pain, is the only way to move forward after a life-altering devastation.
The Complications of Drugs and Emotional Distress
While it may seem that a few nights of partying and abusing drugs will take your mind off of the difficult situation you’re hoping to avoid, substance abuse could put you at risk of greater complications. Neurotransmitters in the brain—the chemicals that control our emotions and are affected by periods of depression—are also affected by the use of recreational drugs.
Substance Abuse Can Amplify Negative Emotions
Not only will regular use of drugs and alcohol not change the conditions that have led to your distress, they can ultimately have the opposite effect on your goal of dealing with painful emotions. Alcohol and other drugs that are depressants can plunge you further into feelings of sadness and despair, especially when such substances are over-consumed. Even drugs such as uppers that work to improve your mood can leave you feeling like you’re in a bigger state of despair when the effects wear off. Even worse, you’re constantly attempting to chase the next great high, or use the drug regularly just to feel your new sense of normal.
Substance Abuse Can Cause Even Greater Life Complications
No matter the circumstances you’re dealing with in your life, a substance addiction will only serve to complicate matters further. Substance abusers too frequently find themselves in financial debt to pay for their addiction, in trouble with the law, or realizing they’ve strained relationships with loved ones and non-users in their lives. Adding such emotionally distressing circumstances to your life will only exacerbate the feelings you’re trying to avoid.
Substance Abuse Can Leave You Feeling Physically Unwell
Many chronic drug users, especially those addicted to opioids, often continue their regular drug use as much to avoid the feelings of withdrawal, as to maintain their high. Withdrawal symptoms of heroin and other opioids may include muscle pain, lethargy, extreme hunger, night sweats, shakiness, irritability, agitation, unexplained sadness, extreme anxiety, or even thoughts of self-harm. Such emotional and physical sensations are also counter-productive to any goals you may have of managing feelings of sadness, unrest, depression, or anxiety.
The Only Effective Solution to Life’s Challenges
Drugs and alcohol will never truly cure whatever has caused the pain in your life. They won’t bring back a loved one, help you find a job, improve your social life, heal a chronic health condition, or lift you out of financial debt. The only way to improve a difficult life situation—and the accompanying feelings of doubt, anxiety, depression, sadness, and anger—is to deal with the root cause, and not attempt to mask your feelings.
No matter what circumstances you’re faced with, there are people in your life who care about you, and want you to feel better. There are also professionals who can both help you recover from an addiction, and start piecing together a plan to improve your life’s circumstances. Seek out the advice and support of a professional therapist or counselor. He or she will be able to help you take the steps needed to recover, and turn your life around, one step at a time.
Call the professionals at Horizon Health. We can help.