I’m not an addict, I’m just experimenting, exploring my higher consciousness! I’m not an alcoholic, I just like to drink, it makes me feel good, it brings out the best in me!

Following childhood, as we move from being a playful participant to an active contributor, we are, ready or not, required to integrate into the greater world of ideas, opportunities, and challenges. Negotiating this passage is very difficult for most of us, but for a few, the challenges can totally obscure the opportunities. I’m talking about health challenges. We’ve all heard the old adage, “as long as you’ve got your health”, and honestly it couldn’t be truer! Another consideration is that while we all recognize physical health challenges, we aren’t as good at recognizing mental health challenges, some of which can develop slowly, over several years.

Taking risks is expected, but the full measure of any risk can not be fully predicted, and tragically, unexpected and devastating outcomes often occur. It’s unrealistic to believe that simply, with proper preparation, the right plan, good parenting, and imparting the best values, we can be prepared for every and any challenge. This is simply not the case, we are all as vulnerable to mental illness as we are to bacteria, virus’s, infections, and accidents.

When we refer to our substance use with statements like, ‘I’m not an addict, I’m just experimenting, exploring my higher consciousness.’ Or ‘I’m not an alcoholic, I just like to drink, it makes me feel good, it brings out the best in me!’ we are describing self medicating. Self medicating is what we do when we use drugs to suppress or enhance certain personality qualities that we think we’re lacking. Or, we’re trying to anesthetize some deep psychological pain. This is in fact the reason why most people partake in substance use! Our family and friends are doing it too. Not just at parties and concerts and nightclubs with young people, but also at dinner, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and business meetings. Substance use is an accepted part of our culture, but it is a huge problem for about 10% of us. I could go on to describe who among us needs to be very careful with their substance use, but I know that you know who you are.

Risks, and illusions of safety induced by the substances themselves, and by the environments where substance use happens, serve to mask developing mental health issues. The artificially induced sense of well-being is welcomed, inhibitions slip away, giving way to feelings of freedom and elation, who can resist the draw! Over time, these good feelings give way to dependency, our ability to feel pleasure becomes wholly dependent on a mind-altering substance. When you’re contemplating taking a risk you might be thinking, ‘It won’t happen to me, I’ve always been pretty lucky’, most people are thinking exactly the same way. It’s very common to underestimate potential risks while being unrealistically optimistic. But, that said, honestly, we all know when we’re out of control and finding the strength to meet the challenge requires more than simple self control! A combination of family, medical, and peer support are required, along with our cooperation of course!

See also: Community Building for recovery, Help end Stigma, Our team, Addictions: Ministry of Health and Long-term Care of Ontario, Honestly, we all lie!, or if you prefer, Contact us!