When I was drinking, I led two separate lives. There was the life that everyone on the outside saw, and then there was the life that I actually lived on the inside. This is also how I view my life with an anxiety disorder. Everyone on the outside thinks I’m put together, but on the inside it takes a lot of medication, CBT, and other internal work to not lock the doors and never leave the house. I think this is also how many people feel with other mental illnesses.
I was not what society tends to think of when they think of “an alcoholic”. That’s because society has a completely inaccurate view of what that means. Unless you have struggled with alcohol or know someone who has – all you have to go by is advertisements, TV, and movies. We all think people with alcohol struggles are homeless …or cant keep jobs …or are the falling down drunk at the bar …or some other example of what is really the absolute end-game of addiction. There are SO many stages long before that happens. Unfortunately, because we don’t know that – a lot of troubled drinkers can continue their unhealthy relationships with alcohol for a lot longer because they have those examples to lean on. “I cant be an alcoholic, I work. I cant be an alcoholic, I’m responsible”. The whole world believes we should be able to “drink responsibly” and magically consume an addictive substance using just “self control”. Meanwhile, alcohol makes you feel better (at first) when life is a little shitty – so why wouldn’t you use it to help get by? Then you play “Russian roulette” with the addiction-odds for the rest of your drinking career.
There are SO many people who struggle with substance use…so many people with anxiety disorders, depression, and other illnesses. Suicide rates, bullying, and mass shootings are climbing. These are all signs of people struggling to get by and not having the proper coping mechanisms. We don’t know how to recognize problems. We don’t know how to cope with them. We don’t know what to do once we realize we have them. So often, we see everyone else’s perfect lives and compare our reality to their carefully molded and Facebook-edited lives. We think we are broken because we don’t see anyone else broken. We think we are broken because no one else admits they struggle too. We think we are hopeless because we don’t know how to escape our issues, and no one else seems to have them.
We need to talk about our lives. We need to admit the good and the bad. We need to learn about the things our friends, family, and community are facing. It will never change if we keep hiding our problems. It will never change if we pretend nothing is wrong.