I’m an addict.
I find that hard to say, and I rarely use the word. I try not to think of it at all, conveniently tucking away my history with sedatives and opioids.
The word addict (cringe) conjures all kinds of stereotypes and negative associations, so it’s difficult for my brain to register that I belong to that group.
But I do. And it was so easy to get there.
After having my second child, I suffered badly with postpartum depression. My doctor told me I was treatment resistant, meaning that most medications wouldn’t help me. I felt hopeless and started to abuse my anxiety medication, a benzodiazepine. That class of drugs is highly addicting, and addicted I became.
I wish I could say that was all, but I also abused opioids whenever I could (legally) get them. I wanted to feel something other than the dark, relentless pain that depression and anxiety were causing me. I was suicidal a lot. It was a very scary, confusing time. For my husband, too.
I’m not condoning my behavior — I was wrong. But a very different outcome might’ve happened if mental healthcare were better. And if postpartum depression care were taken more seriously. If I were taken more seriously.
The doctor I was seeing was one of the few in the city who took my insurance, and I felt trapped. I didn’t know I needed a new doctor until it was almost too late. The medications I abused were just a quick fix that didn’t repair anything.
Later, after going to a psychiatric hospital, I learned there were medications and therapies I could try, even though I was treatment resistant. There was hope. I left the hospital with a laundry list of disorders, including substance abuse disorder. That was hard to swallow. It still is. I’m better now and no longer need that crutch, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about just how easy it was to slip into abusing prescription medications.
So easy. It could happen to anyone, especially if you have an addictive personality like I do. Even though I’ve stopped abusing my meds, other addictions or compulsions will pop up. For example, I binge eat or compulsively shop. It’s like being on a sinking ship; you try to plug one hole, but the water just gushes harder out of another.
But I’m lucky. I was able to get help, but there are many who don’t have access to mental health care who are just trying to survive another day. Be compassionate to those people. Be patient, non-judgmental and kind.
If you’re dealing with substance abuse, give yourself some grace and take advantage of our community resources. Talk to a therapist or trusted (very patient) friend. Do what you need to survive but try to do it in a healthy way. Baby steps are perfectly acceptable. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Recovery is not easy, and I’ve found that it’s a fluid thing. Just keep moving forward.
That’s all any of us can do.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Hotline
South Texas Substance Abuse Recovery Services
Bayview Behavioral Hospital
Counseling And Recovery Services
The Counsel on Alcohol + Drug Abuse – Coastal Bend
Please note this is not a complete list. For more information on recovery, ask your primary care physician or healthcare professional.
For more than 20 years, Heather Loeb has experienced major depression, anxiety and a personality disorder, while also battling the stigma of mental health. She is the creator of Unruly Neurons (www.unrulyneurons.com), a blog dedicated to normalizing depression and a member of State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Taskforce.
Now more than ever we need to take care of our mental health. Guest columnist Heather Loeb discusses why and explores other important mental health topics in this special series.
I’m an addict.