Depression, an Addiction?
Depression, an Addiction?
I believe habits should be called assistants- that is until they become addictions and even then, where is the boundary? I mean is there clear enough guidance? For those that are reading this, answer the following questions and in your mind place the answers in the following categories: Habit, Assistant or Addiction.
How would you categorise somebody who drinks two glass of wine a night and no more?
How would you categorise a person who eats two bars of chocolate a day and no more?
If these numbers increase to three, does this cause more concern, does this cross a boundary between habit and addiction? Are higher quantities required for each individual to simply relax? Where are the boundaries?
There are a number of example addictions I could use to bring this article back to its defined purpose: Gambling, Alcohol, Pornography, food, medication and even antidepressants themselves as remember there are two main categories of addiction, behavioural (environmental) and dependency.
What follows however, is a relatively personal account of my own troubles (I’m being as open as I feel comfortable) with depression and alcohol and I hope it helps somebody battling similar issues. What I write isn’t intended to be some miracle cure and nor is anything I’m saying new. I writing this for three reasons, those being: it feels pretty good to write things down, in preparing to write this article, I really did have a ‘eureka moment’ and as previously mentioned it may indeed help somebody.
Let me take you back to my days a university, are you excited? Well don’t be (they sucked), it is a common misconception that it’s all parties, woman and booze, particularly when you are topping up to a degree and going to University in your final year. The only woman I saw were my friend and housemate’s girlfriend and a ‘unique’ female housemate who once served me peanut flavour rice balls with kidney beans as a desert. As for my use of alcohol, well that was more medicinal.
Whilst at University I was having physiotherapy and let me tell you, it is quite uncomfortable, particularly when you’re not used to having any. There are certain activities where a return from abstinence is as easy as riding a bike, physiotherapy however, isn’t one of them. As a result of the physiotherapy and the strain of having to manage those mundane house chores on top of my course- I drank. Now do not be fooled, I had a fondness for alcohol long before University and I also understood its impact on my body. However, I feel, this section of my life enables me to be objective in my writing and avoids a tone dictation. By this I mean that I’m not an authority or an expert on the use of alcohol, I only know why I use it and may therefore understand why others choose to do so. I would also therefore never judge anyone.
I use alcohol because it’s amazing, it’s a muscle relaxant, meaning that the tightness and subsequent muscle spasms that constrict my body, simply fade away. The next morning, my body feels weightless; I can stand straighter, whilst being in absolutely no pain. I can look toward my destination when I walk as opposed to down at my feet, through fear of failing over, best of all, I don’t get a crippling fatigue from undertaking the simplest of tasks.
So as I put the fourth shot of vodka to my lips, when two would probably have met the intended purpose of elevating my discomfort, would you say I had an addiction? Or was my habit assisting me to lessen my discomfort? Feeling the need to buy Vodkat because my much more reputable brand had run out, addiction or habit? Putting up with the side effects that alcohol bestows upon my body, for those few hours of pain relief, habit or addiction? By the way those side effects include an equal dose of discomfort as that caused by the physiotherapy as the muscles tighten back to a length which my body perceives acceptable, in order to keep me upright.
Perhaps to a reader of this article, the boundaries between habit and addiction, in this example, are becoming clearer. However, what if I were to tell you that my ‘addiction ‘ didn’t become apparent to me until I was queuing for a bottle of Vodka at 10am on a Sunday morning, (it wasn’t easy like a Sunday morning on that day!) and that this didn’t happen until way after University had finished? Does this prove that I had a problem, should I have noticed it sooner, would you have noticed sooner? What are the boundaries?
Well, if I may, I would like to answer some of these questions now as I guess that’s kind of the point.
A habit is defined as “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”, um surely that’s addiction? However, clearly the difference between addiction and habit is that a habit can be stopped in an instant, with no withdrawal symptoms. An addiction however, is defined as Habitual psychological dependence on a substance or practice that is beyond voluntary control.”
Well for me, alcohol was always an assistant. It helped me to feel more comfortable in my body. At this time I can tell you that there was nothing ‘almost involuntary’ about my drinking, it felt necessary. At the time of my fourth shot of Vodka (they were usually in one glass), it felt as if the alcohol was assisting me, the reasoning may have become more blurred but the reasoning was present.
I think the definition of habit becomes a factor when you stop trying to exhaust other options and divert straight to the most loyal of assistance’s- alcohol! In my case, when you stop doing the warm down exercises, when you stop taking the Baclofen (prescribed muscle relaxant drug) and you stop allowing your body to handle the discomfort, then you have a habit.
A habit becomes an addiction when you lose all reasoning. What possible reason could I have for needing Vodka a 10am, other than dependency?
Why have I told you all of this and what has any of this got to do with depression? Well put simply I believe depression is an addiction. It manifests itself as an assistant, (in the low mood stage) ‘oh, I’m going to help you to regain yourself, rest for an extra five minutes, stay in bed.’ It becomes a habit, although you believe that those extra five minutes are necessary and then an addiction is born. Remember, the term, ‘dependence on a practice’. You have reached the stage where your mind believes the best and safest thing you can do is stay in bed. Now where’s the reasoning in the previous statement? For years, you have had a positive impact on those around you, those that love you, on those you work with and you will have a positive impact on those that you are yet to meet.
With this in mind, why would you stay in bed? And why are these questions so much more difficult to answer than those previously posed?
I think the answers to the questions above are more difficult to answer because there is so much yet to be defined about depression. With alcohol, if I’m queuing at 10am in the morning for vodka, then alarm bells should be ringing. With depression I always felt that lying in bed was the right thing to do. Why, because my mind was telling me to. When you drink regularly, not only do you get more social understanding but your body gives you warnings that your habit is becoming an addiction. You start to shake and sweat as your body yearns for replenishment. Furthermore, your body builds a tolerance to alcohol and if you need to drink more to receive a decent ‘hit’, by then you have received another warning. With depression you simply fell more tired, more run down, thus reinforcing the held belief that bed or isolation is indeed best for you.
In the case of depression, the mind rules the body and it’s so much more powerful. Did you know that people can actually recover from things simply by believing that they have been treated; seriously it’s called the placebo effect.
However, depression is very real, you don’t simply get over it, snap out of it or sort it out, numerous NHS websites have told me that as well as about three months of not leaving the house, most of which was spent in bed. There are also no defined reasons’ for becoming depressed, as is the case for most addictions. The reason is because everyone reacts to hurdles differently and any or a number of events can cause depression.
What I can tell you for certain is that depression is the scariest thing I have ever faced. As I have previously stated ‘I manage everything in my life, including my disability, I never let it dictate what I can and can’t do. Depression however, is an entirely different beast it controls you, no more than that it takes your goals and your ambitions and it owns you, dramatic? Maybe-but true nonetheless!
In my experience you cannot beat depression, you can only repress it. It loiters like a bully hiding behind the corner of a brick wall. In order to repress it and stop it from jumping from behind that wall, you need a plan. You will get a period of low mood or self –doubt before the depression hits with its unrelenting force. It is in these first moments of self- doubt a change needs to be made. Change your perception of your state of mind, before that state becomes etched within. Do something completely different!
It doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as, spending thousands to start your own business, oops, haha! The vital thing is that you change the norm and that you do it quickly. NHS websites advise that you see a doctor within three days if you are feeling depressed. The reason is simple, assistance can turn to habit and habit can metamorphose itself into addiction very quickly. Depression strikes fast so fast, you may not see it coming.