It is not really a surprise that a lot of people in sobriety also suffer from various other mental illnesses, and you could argue that addiction is one of those. I have often wondered whether it was my anxiety and depression that caused me to become an alcoholic or whether being an alcoholic was something that caused my anxiety and depression. I now know that I had been an anxious and depressed child way before alcohol came into my life and that subconsciously alcohol and other drugs were a way of self-medicating the symptoms of these illnesses. They gave me confidence and were something I could rely on to get rid of the pain of my anxious thoughts.
I certainly had anxiety growing up but never knew what it was. I just thought I was shy and awkward. However, it was only when I started drinking that it was undeniably noticeable in myself. As I had unconsciously used alcohol as a way of stopping the constant overdrive in my head, I never thought that it could be making it worse. It was unbearable, it would physically cause me to shut down. I couldn’t walk down the street or into a room without thinking everyone was talking about me. I couldn’t physically open my mouth to talk a lot of the time because the inner critic was telling me people would think I’m stupid. It made me drink so much more than I should have, just so the voices would stop and in the end, I would do stupid things when drunk and off it would go again. In my eyes, it was never ever the alcohol’s fault. It was just something that I had to put up with.
Addiction is never the problem. It’s a symptom of the problem. You drink or take drugs as a solution to that problem. Therefore, it is obvious that there were defects which made me start problem drinking in the first place. I was anxious, incredibly fearful, envious, resentful and lacked confidence. A lot of my resentments came from constant comparison and never being good enough. I hated myself for having no confidence and when alcohol came along, it solved that problem but then came the anxiety that I was only confident when I drank and that if I wasn’t drunk, I was boring and unlikeable. It’s ironic looking back at it now, as a lot of the things I did when I was drunk made me very, very unlikeable. I have also always lived my life in fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being wanted. It felt great that alcohol could numb that fear. Even if it was only for a few hours. However, as the drinking progressed, the fear got worse. I eventually developed a fear of being sober. I absolutely hated doing anything that didn’t involve alcohol and would sulk if I turned up to something and people had decided not to drink. I eventually ended up sacking off anything that I knew wouldn’t involve drinking.
I was also diagnosed with ADHD back in October which was originally a bit of a shock but when told the symptoms, it couldn’t make more sense. I had just thought that was my personality growing up, which would just improve as I got older. Constantly fidgeting? Me. Having short attention span and getting distracted easily? Also me. Impulsiveness? Me. Forgetful and losing things? Definitely me. Constantly changing tasks and being able to focus? Me. Unorganised? Could not be more me. Trouble listening and making careless mistakes? So me hunny. I genuinely thought it was just my personality. I got asked to send school reports for the diagnosis and got a bit emotional that it was so obvious. In every single subject for every single year from Year 3, there is a mention of me needing to focus more and to stop distracting myself and others. They also all talk about my lack of attention to/lateness of homework and the silly mistakes constantly made. I never would have realised and it’s fair that no one else picked up until now as it’s just not known about. It was so horrendous at school. I always knew there was something wrong but that I just couldn’t help it. It’s probably where the anxiety started as I felt so shameful about it; that I couldn’t just be normal like everyone else. I felt totally misunderstood. I’m also laughing that it’s taken so long to write this paragraph about not being able to focus because I can’t write anything without being distracted by a million different pointless exercises every five seconds.
ADHD and Addiction have an extremely strong link which is something I didn’t know until yesterday. You are more likely to become an alcoholic if you have ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD will make the alcohol abuse worse and vice versa. The dangerous part is that the effects of drinking and the effects of ADHD together, can cause you to go into a more dangerous state of mind, which therefore leads to uncontrollable behaviours such a black outs and wild emotions. Black outs are not normal. Who knew. It’s now good to know about my ADHD and that it was drinking making it so much worse so I can build coping mechanisms. I can finally understand myself a little more and work towards being a better me.