Throughout my life, I have tried out a variety of coping mechanisms. I dabbled in some good ones, some bad ones and some I don't want to think back on ever again. Sometimes, I feel really ashamed. Sometimes, they're easier to discuss.
In the past month, I have spiraled through a number of coping methods. I want to note right now that I am going to discuss some difficult things. Here's your trigger warning for alcohol, eating disorders and nicotine usage.
In my mind, it is important to acknowledge my downfalls and mistakes. And a lot of those connect to my decisions regarding coping. It's how I am programmed. And I know it.
Do I feel shame? Sometimes.
Do I wish I was different? Often.
Is it worth beating myself up over? Never.
In discussing my mistakes, I take the power away from them. I begin to pull down the walls of stigma from around them — brick by brick.
To discuss usage of alcohol to forget and nicotine to calm is to remove the mystery. It is the first step to open discussion.
And with that, I have a question for you: How many times have you, or someone you know, considered or acted on the urge to consume alcohol when you feel, for lack of a better word, shitty?
I'm guessing a decent amount of times. Me too.
I almost never drink. Even when I turned 21 (legal, baby), I wasn't too interested in alcohol. I'm a lightweight. I hate feeling sick and hungover the next day. I didn't (maybe still don't, honestly) know how to drink responsibly.
But I do know how to forget.
As much as I tell myself that going to a bar on my own, buying one too many drinks and removing the thoughts from my head for a little while isn't a misuse of alcohol, I always know I am lying to myself. I always know, deep down, that I was trying to escape.
I was coping. Badly.
There is a culture of alcohol misuse in college. It is a way of rationalizing going out and getting drunk because you had a bad breakup, didn't do well on an exam or just want to have fun.
But everyone doing it doesn't make it healthy.
I'm sure you have heard this before, but if Joe jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too? No? Well, it's no different with alcohol. If someone goes out and gets drunk to forget about pain, that doesn't make it OK for you to do it. It doesn't mean that it serves as a replacement to feeling the feelings and sitting with the discomfort.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
How many of you smoke or know someone who smokes cigarettes? You might be a drunk smoker. You might smoke a pack a day. You know how bad they are for you. We all do. But it doesn't stop us from using them.
I might not smoke cigarettes. I might only have vape juice with less than one percent of nicotine. But the purpose is likely the same: escape.
You want the rush of the nicotine to calm you. Maybe it's not good for you. Maybe inhaling smoke or vapor isn't the best for your lungs. Who cares? That's a problem for future me.
Am I ashamed that I use this? Honestly? No. I enjoy it. Oh yes, I am that person. The one who vapes. Hate me if you want, but it makes me feel calm.
Is it healthy, strictly speaking? Not really.
Is it horrible? Probably not. At least, not right now.
What isn't healthy, though, is the escape. It is, again, another method of forgetting problems. It's a way of removing yourself, just for a little bit.
Like I said, I know how to forget — for better or worse. And I recognize it.
A lot of these emotions are still raw. And that's OK.
My experiences are in no way representative of everyone who has dabbled in any of the above. I do not wish to invalidate any opinions, actions or feelings. I acknowledge that there is a way of coping for everyone, and mine will never be the same as another individual's.
But consider this: Are you escaping? If so, from what?