I'm ready. How do I turn my life around?
June 27, 2014 1:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm 27, male. I have struggled as long as I can remember with depression. I naturally turned to drugs and alcohol, and after a few years of abuse.. most recently with lots of cocaine and occasionally speed.. I'm ready to quit everything. Cigarettes included. I have realized that everything I touch turns to shit... and I want to be a better man. My relationships have failed, I'm hurting myself and everyone I love, and I feel like worthless garbage. But I have hope. I want to clean up my act. I am terrified of going to AA, and I like therapy. Groups are much harder for me. I recently began to exercise. I want to keep going but I have very little in the way of controlling my impulses. How do I keep my momentum?
posted by nurgle to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
AA is hard. That's why it works. Try it out.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:18 AM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I keep momentum on these things by talking about my progress to those people I haven't managed to alienate. They're the ones who have your back, and who can help remind you how well you're doing, how far you've come, or just how much they want 'you' back.

Therapy will help you with the flawed thoughts and impulsive behaviour- btw, maybe have a look at some literature on Borderline Personalities. Between impulsiveness and self destruction and substance abuse can point to something like that. But it's not a death sentence. Your state is not incurable. Damnit, though, you will need to work hard to keep your head above water.

Make lists if that helps you feel a sense of accomplishment. At least write down some basic short term goals to help you feel as though you have a grasp on things- however small. Dude, if one of these things has to be "brush your teeth", so be it. So many of us have been there.

It takes practice. You will benefit from the outside perspective of a therapist who will probably tell you such obvious things that you will be wondering why you never thought of it. Trust me, a sick brain is a labyrinth. Make sure you're eating ok too- I know it can be hard! Sleep, food an exercise are always a good start. Just don't take on too much all at once in terms of recovery, because goddamn is it scary and intimidating. There's an old Bill Murray movie you might remember (What About Bob?)-- Baby steps! It's so true. Be kind to yourself as much as possible, and cut down on any negative self talk ("Fuck why can't I get anything right?" is an example of that). Turn those negative thoughts into positive ones ("ok, I'm having trouble with this. I can do it. Maybe I'll come back to it in a bit when I'm not so angry).

It's a long road. Take care of yourself, and accept the help offered to you, even if you think it's BS. You might just be wrong, and you'll never know what is out there if you keep relying solely on what you already know. Because sorry, it isn't working-- I think you know this too. If you need a spare cheerleader, just memail me! Otherwise, you may just be surprised who is willing to help you chip away at this once you show a real drive to get well.
posted by Violet Femme at 3:38 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I worked in addictions for some time, quitting cigarettes along with everything else at the same time can be a lot of pressure to put yourself under... could feel good for the whole clean living thing but tough for sure, it's not necessarily what we used to advise for what it's worth.. like you don't need to sort the whole mountain out right away.

If you slip up on giving up substances how you frame that is really important - best to view as a lapse and get back on the horse rather than spiralling into that thinking "I'm never going to be able to this x, y,z".. try to break with the catastrophising that can go with addiction.. it's tough, but satisfying.

Eat right.. and drink a lot of water, simple things but so easily lost with the chaotic lifestyle. Think about checking out CODA for a while, if it fits, stay away from romantic involvement so you do the donkey work on yourself and can be better able to enter and contribute to healthy relationship. The drink/drug gap will need filling.. what can you put there that reconnects you with who you feel you are at the core? Good luck.. it's tough but things can get better for you.

Think about auricular acupuncture to reduce cravings and sort out your sleep.
Read up on working through anxiety, shame and anger if that fits.
posted by tanktop at 3:38 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

You say you like therapy. Does that mean you're in therapy? If not, I would recommend seeking out someone who specializes in treatment for addiction. A good addiction therapist will start with putting out the big, urgent fires (such as strategies for coping with urges that are tailored to you) and over the long run address the smoldering issues of depression or anxiety that you used to cope with through abuse. My husband didn't want to do AA for various reasons (mild social anxiety, strong atheism that borders on antagonism toward religion) and working with an addiction counselor has been a looong but ultimately successful process.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:08 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well as a male who also seems to suffer depression, and began abusing alcohol, and some hard drugs, I had a bottom, and then sobered up. I went to a 28 day re-hab which was great, and attended AA meetings. I lasted 16 months. The first 6 months were hard, but busy repairing the damage I did to my financial, employement history, but I did do it.

I found AA to be limited in it's help, and I'm finding Cognitive Behaviour to be helpful. I gave me a sense of some control. I also suspect group therepay might be limited in help. Groups help you network, and share stories, but one-on-one therapy can give you tools.

Anyways, I fell of the wagon just recently. I have volunteered to take anti-depressants again, to level me out.

My challenges was:
a frentic need to correct my past.
as this was being accomplished I was anxious and depressed the more goals were met.
I relised my employer and family relations had to be changed or severed.
Again more stress with this.
Voluntering with an organzation you can fit in is a very good idea, and I find a creative outlet very helpfull.

I also find meditation helpfull before bed.

As I have sobered up, I'm still struggling with who *I* am, so its hard.

There is Religion, AA, Mental Health Groups, Psyhcologists, and medication. Try different things if others don't work
posted by Alt255 at 4:12 AM on June 27, 2014

Try AA. Try different chapters of AA.
Just because you have a bad experience at one chapter, another could be very different.

Check out NA too.
posted by Flood at 4:58 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Your hospital's mental health programs may include residential sober living. It's like outpatient counseling and group therapy, but you also live with others in recovery and have a lot of external restrictions placed on you. It's a very solid, controlled place to start.

Even if it's not through your hospital (but call them! see what they have!) you could just look for other sober living programs in your area. These will *definitely* cover the depression and other issues in addition to substance issues.

Good luck!
posted by colin_l at 5:03 AM on June 27, 2014

AA is hardly the only treatment option out there. Since depression has also been a big issue for you, you could look into treatment programs that address both mental illness and substance abuse. Names for these programs can vary, in my area they're usually known as MICA (mentally ill chemically addicted) or IDDT (integrated dual disorder treatment).
posted by fox problems at 5:31 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't have to be good in groups to try a AA or NA. You can go and just sit there. Look at it as an exploratory mission - you're just going to see what it's all about. You don't have to talk to anyone at all. It may not help you, or it may save your life, and there's only one way to find out.
posted by something something at 5:32 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing not trying to quit tobacco at the same time. I have a friend who is a recovering heroin addict. 20 years clean. He told me quitting the junk was hard, but not near as hard as quitting cigarettes.
I was scared of AA as well, I went to one meeting, looked at the people there, and walked out. Another 7-8 years of drinking ensued, it just got worse. I finally got to the point I knew I had to do something or die. I went to another group. It was scary walking in the first time. They had a little first step meeting just for me, told me I didn't have to talk if I didn't want to. I didn't.

Some of the folks shared their stories. This one guy, not really like me, ended up telling *my* story, only worse. They told me I didn't have to quit forever, just stay sober till the meeting the next day. That was about 6 1/2 years of "one more day" ago, have not had a drink or a drug since. I do still smoke though.

AA will have someone meet you and talk to you one on one in person in most cases, call the local number and ask. It doesn't cost anything. You can read the literature online for free at aa.org. There's a book on there called "Living Sober", it's got some great tips for the newly sober trying to make it through another day.
posted by rudd135 at 5:36 AM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Work on alcohol and narcotics for now, cigarettes can wait.

Be sure you're supervised by an MD, they can really help, and if you were doing things like Adderall, you need to have someone help you with that.

If you can get into rehab, do it! The support is really helpful.

As for AA, once you've got the ball rolling, check out different meetings. It may or may not be for you, but don't dismiss it all out of hand. I have friends who LOVE going to meetings and who find it uplifting. Also, it helps you make sober friends and you'll have a sponsor who can help you when you're struggling.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:01 AM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Smart Recovery.org is all about maintaining motivation and how to make changes.

The materials, classes, forums online are free.

It is designed to work alongside another program, such as AA if you like, or stand alone.
posted by egk at 6:18 AM on June 27, 2014

I stopped drinking in February of 2013 when it had become a bigger part of my life than I thought was healthy. About the same time, I joined a 24 hour gym, and it was awesome to have a place to go to burn off nervous energy at the time of day I'd usually be drinking beer, 9 PM - 1 AM roughly.
posted by alphanerd at 6:23 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on reaching this point in your realization of your problem. Now you just have to follow through. Getting healthy may take several attempts, but it is possible.

I am terrified of going to AA: Newsflash, dude... Everyone is terrified of going to AA. Reasons may vary. The fear may come from a previous rejection of "religion"; I felt some of that, as a mostly-Agnostic person. Truth is, in many groups, the "religious" element is almost laughably mild/wishy-washy. For a lot of members, a so-called Higher Power just boils down to some form of meditative practice, in conjunction with service work. Or, as you indicate, the fear may come from a dislike of "joining," or otherwise dealing with large groups of people. As a relatively reserved, largely introverted person, I get that too. It's really not that bad; if you think about it, even the most group-averse people participate in much larger group events on a regular basis. School classes, jobs, concerts, etc. Any large town will probably have multiple meeting options, including intimate groups, and the only meeting in a small town will probably be fairly, well, small.

Point is, your terror is not unique. It's natural and understandable. For the addict, fear is all too often an excuse to avoid solving a problem; you've set a huge goal for yourself, none of which will be realized if you don't start facing these sorts of fears. It's like saying you're going to climb Everest, but refusing to put on your hiking boots. Give AA (or another group-work option) a shot. It's not a lifetime commitment (I attended regularly for the first few years of my nine-and-counting years of sobriety, then stopped going altogether), and it can have real benefits. Especially for the people who are most frightened by the prospect.

I'm ready to quit everything. Cigarettes included. Eesh, I dunno about that. I'll join the chorus, and suggest that this may not be wise. Nicotine (and caffeine) addiction is a different animal than intoxicant addiction, in my experience. For one thing, smoking is often the Very First Drug (in my case, a relationship that started when I was 14), and therefore really has some serious, fundamental hooks in you. Additionally, it doesn't "ruin your life" in the same way that things like alcohol and cocaine do; yeah, it'll kill you, but it won't likely cost you your job multiple times, or lose you your housing, or cause the end of multiple friendships and couplings. Its risks are largely academic, and largely in the future; there isn't the necessary "hitting bottom" misery staring you in the face, every day. I mean, there is, but it differs in scale and severity from all the other factors you'll be facing. Failing at keeping up with that part of the plan may cause discouragement and shame that undoes the other threads. It's not impossible, but it's a big something to add to the pile you're trying to deal with... Better perhaps to put it aside for later, and focus on how great it feels to exercise (highly recommended) and eat well (also a great benefit of sobriety).

I got sober a couple years older than you are now, and feel that it is possibly the ideal age to do so; you've seen enough horror to motivate change, but still have a ton of energy and potential. It's a good balance of experience and hope, and I wish you the best in exploiting it.
posted by credible hulk at 6:41 AM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

If what turns you off from AA is the religiosity you might check out Secular Organizations for Sobriety as an alternative.
posted by brookeb at 6:49 AM on June 27, 2014

There's lots of good advice in this thread. I've struggled with the same and am recently ( about 4 months) sober. I had a lot of false starts with therapists. I had tried group therapy, hated it. Started drinking again and basically fucked my whole body up through massive amounts of alcohol and bad food. I didn't think I could change and had begun to rationalize that dying early was probably the right way of doing things.

I had a sort of epiphany that lead me to totally change my lifestyle. My doctor wanted me to do inpatient treatment and the therapist I was referred to told me that group therapy was my only option. Since I am a special snowflake, I declined. I am an atheist and distrust strangers so AA wasn't an option for me. I finally found a depression/AODA therapist that would see me. It's been great. I don't even think about drinking anymore and love being healthy and have lost over 50 lbs. I'm not advocating that you decline group or inpatient therapy- it might be what you need and will work great for you, but just know that it is possible to begin a big change like this without it.

But I don't think you, or anyone can do it alone. It's all about the support system. This video has a message that was powerful to me. I had to realize that I had a thinking problem, specifically how I thought about myself. You can't think your way out of it alone, because you probably aren't thinking right on some level. Find someone that you trust to tell. Go to your doctor, be honest about your lifestyle and what you're doing. They will have some advice for you about getting sober and what your body can handle. You want to exercise? Find a friend that likes to exercise. Or join a physical activity class. Find a social activity that is alcohol free. It will probably involve finding new people to do it with, but maybe not. Just don't take any bullshit that you should be drinking or doing drugs to have a fun time and don't think that you have to enter new situations from now on saying "Hi, I'm nurgle the alcoholic/depressed horrible person." Because you aren't just that and you aren't worthless garbage. You'll probably find that people really like the sober you.

I'm exactly ten years older than you and I wish that I had been ready to change at your age. At 27 I decided that I was going to spend the next ten years being a drunken shithead and that I didn't need other people to care about me. I missed out on a huge chunk of life. But I'm finally finding out that I can be something more than the person I decided to be in my twenties. I am personally just beginning being sober, really. But I really feel like I've gone a huge distance and excited about the future for once. If I can do that you can.

Good luck to you, if you want someone nonjudgmental to talk to feel free to drop me a memail.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

My relatively uninformed, reading your life in a paragraph, advice is to figure out what the problem is. You sound ready for a change, which is important in any drive to improve one's life.

If it is "only" depression which is fueling your substance use and you haven't crossed that invisible biological/psychological line into true addiction, then therapy, medication, etc. will be able to greatly help you by removing the source of the problem, and therefore the need to medicate yourself.

If, however, you're like me, and while the depression may have preceded substances, due to the weird mixture of genetics and my thinking, I found myself hopelessly addicted to a substance regardless of countless therapists, treatment centers, or many psychological medications. Of course, the issue was also compounded by my total inability to be honest with therapists and doctors, so I had to try everything.

There is help, of many kinds and plenty of it, provided you don't permanently lose your desire to change. Even if that desire comes and goes, indulge it when it comes, and don't push it away too hard when it starts to go.

Also, don't give up on yourself if you slip, as it took me many years to finally break orbit into a better way of life... but please know that you don't have to slip to get it the first time around.

If you do slip, or you start to wonder why you wanted to change in the first place, bookmark this page, and come back to it to remind you in your own words that you have a desire to have the life you envisioned when you were growing up. For me, it was nothing lofty: a wife, kids, and a white picket fence, but the way I was living that was never going to happen. Ever.

The way of life I have now is infinitely better than how I used to live. I have a plethora of life problems, new challenges, new joys, and still have to deal with my thinking fairly often. However, I don't feel the need to turn to a substance to make any of my issues go away.

Furthermore, it actually surprises me now when I have the rare thought of "I wish I were dead" or "I hope I don't wake up tomorrow" in response to a particularly hard frustration of life problem. Those thoughts do come to me, but at a rate of a few times a year. I used to think those things hundreds of times a week, so often that it was a simply a natural way of thinking for me. Now, I can usually chuckle those thoughts even when they do show up simply because they sound so ridiculous given how far I've come, and/or how badly I'm blowing whatever issue out of proportion.

If you have any questions about how I found my way out of the pit, MeMail me, and I'd be happy to share.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depression is often exacerbated by substance abuse, so the best bet for your mental health would be to get the alcohol and drugs out of your life. Nobody wants to go to AA at the beginning. It sucks. It's humiliating. It's a killjoy. But at the end of the day, it works. Especially when you're really desperate. And not only can AA teach you how to stay sober, it can teach you how have an appreciation for life too.

Don't try to straighten out your entire life all at once. That's a recipe for failure. Take the most pressing problems first, like the alcohol/drugs, and a lot of the other stuff will get better as you take better care of yourself. Then, as time goes on and you get stronger, you can work on other things.

Unlearning destructive behavior patterns takes time and patience. But you are so worth it. You'll get there. Start by doing something kind for yourself today. :)
posted by strelitzia at 8:52 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey I posted about this on another friend but if I were in your position I might try this! Good luck and well done for fighting depression!!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 11:17 PM on June 27, 2014

« Older Solicitation calls -- from a phone company--Best...   |   What's the best high-SPF cream for a sensitive... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.