When We Use Addiction to Self-Medicate

When We Use Addiction to Self-Medicate

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Sometimes when we’re thinking about addiction recovery, we are more focused on the addictive behaviors than on the underlying causes fueling those behaviors. Very often our addictions are fueled by our need to self-medicate from our pain. We find our mental health issues, our inner turmoil, and our grief so difficult and so overwhelming that we turn to addictive substances, relationships and behaviors to try to numb the pain. Self-medicating can be a serious and destructive pattern that we develop that fuels our addictions.

Self-medicating is extremely dangerous because not only are we engaging in risky behaviors and taking toxic substances, we are covering up the serious issues we’re experiencing that require help. When we don’t treat our depression and anxiety, for example, they can grow increasingly worse until we experience total breakdowns in our health. We can engage in self-harming behaviors, experience suicidal thoughts and even make attempts at ending our lives. We don’t always know that our mental health issues have become so serious because we have buried them under our addictions. We become so fixated on keeping up with the demands of our addictions, and of trying to maintain our normal lives while living with addiction, that we totally ignore our worsening mental and emotional health. The more we self-medicate, the more we deny how much we’re actually suffering.

The painful issues we’ve been trying to avoid are waiting for us to have the strength and courage to face them head on. We can’t hope to resolve them if we can’t accept that they exist. This means addressing our traumatic experiences, our loss and our grief, our insecurities and the limiting beliefs we’ve adopted about ourselves. It means opening ourselves up to allowing ourselves to really feel our pain, rather than trying to numb it away with addictions. When we haven’t been letting ourselves feel our pain, when we have moments of remembering it, of being triggered by something or reliving a painful memory, we can feel completely overwhelmed and overtaken. Our instinct is often to want to run back to our addictions, and we struggle with addictive urges and compulsions.

We can practice mindfulness when it comes to self-medicating. When we feel the urge to want to numb our pain and self-medicate with harmful substances or behaviors, we can practice bringing our attention and our energy to breathing through the emotions that might spike for us in that moment. We might feel increasingly anxious, restless, panicked, angry or volatile. We can mindfully breathe through the emotions, and bring our energy to sitting through the pain rather than running from it and trying to distract ourselves from it. When we accept rather than resist our emotions, we allow ourselves to process them in healthier ways.

We’re here to help. Call 888-570-7154 for more information.