Mental Illness & Addiction: Maintaining A Career

Mental Illness and Addiction: Maintaining A Career During Recovery

You have to block out the voice in your head that wants to give up, and keep fighting instead.


There's almost a direct correlation between mental health issues and addictive behavior. It's no secret that when you suffer from mental illness, you'll do just about anything to clear your mind when your illness starts acting up, and this many times includes engaging in addict behaviors. In fact, the Foundations Recovery Network states, "The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that there is a 'definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances'," where people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness account for the majority of alcohol, tobacco and cocaine use. This doesn't even include other drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and controlled substances which many people who suffer from mental illness are also addicted to.

There's a plethora of research done on this topic and I could write about it all day, but that's another topic for another article. Today I want to talk about how this affects someone trying to start or maintain a career.

I know firsthand how it feels to curl in a ball on the bed, crying my eyes out, wishing I didn't have to go to work in the morning -- wishing I could go get a fix instead because it seems like the only thing that will make me feel better. I also know that if I was to do so, I would lose everything I've fought so hard to achieve since I've been clean, including finally starting my career. Lots of nights are spent in an odd sense of nostalgia for the life I used to live, even though there's nothing there to remember fondly because it's what I was used to for so long. Despite everything, there was a sense of safety in the addict lifestyle. This is probably because when you're high you don't have to think about the seriousness of what's happening in your life. All you're thinking about is having fun and not addressing the monsters in your head. But it's time to let go of those thoughts and memories or you'll never move forward. Easier, said than done though... I know.

Having a career, 8-5 in the office and new responsibilities are scary, which makes me want to pack up everything and run for the hills... But, I know i can't. And neither should you.

Not everyone gets clean and actually makes a real future for themselves, which is a shame, but if you're strong enough to get out of the cycle in the first place then you have to continue being strong enough to stay out of the cycle. A career and a future is more important than a temporary fix that could send you straight back down the rabbit hole. It's not worth losing all the progress you've made.

Trust me.

The life ahead of you is so much greater than a life you would live if you gave back into your addiction. A greater career, goals, a future, a healthy life and family, and so much more are waiting for you when you continue with your career goals and don't give back into addiction.

Also, never forget there are several resources for someone in recovery. There are websites and apps to find meetings (AA and NA), therapy, medication (for any mental illnesses if applicable) and even just calling the hotline can help during a particularly difficult time. The number for a 24/7 addiction hotline is (888) 459-5511.

We all fall off the wagon sometimes, but what's important is that you get back up and don't let it ruin the wonderful life you're making for yourself by staying clean. You're doing great.

Drug Addiction Hotline Number
SAMHSA national hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) offers information on addiction and free referral services in English and Spanish 24 hours a day.
Helpline number 1-800-487-4889 is available to people with hearing impairment for information on substance abuse 24 hours a day.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America runs a drug hotline for parents 1-855-DRUG-FREE (378-4373) during business hours.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hope Line 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255) for assistance with affiliate programs nationwide.
Mental Health Disorder Helplines
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be called on 1-800-273-TALK (8255) around-the-clock by individuals with suicidal ideation.
The National Mental Health Association's number 1-800-969-6642 is available during business hours for questions about mental health issues.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders at 1-847-831-3438 (not toll-free) is available during business hours.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) available during business hours for questions on mental health issues and treatment options.
24 Hour Alcohol Abuse Hotline
Alcohol hotline number 1-800-331-2900
Drug and alcohol abuse helpline 1-888-506-0699
Alcoholics Anonymous helpline by zip code

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Why You Actually Don't Want To Be Prescribed Adderall

ADD isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

As I'm writing this, I can feel my concentration slipping. Noises have become enticing, I feel distanced from my phone, and every time someone walks by me in the library, I turn around seeing if it's someone I know. My extended-release Adderall is starting to wear off and my brain is starting to relax back to its natural state. My ADD is climbing out from underneath the blanket of focus I had for 10 hours today.

ADD is not all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, we get prescribed the precious Adderall so many people want, but at what cost? Let me put this in context for you. You know when you're at the library and there's a one really, really loud girl talking on the phone? You know the one. The girl that, for some reason, thinks it's OK to have a full-fledged conversation with her mom about her boyfriend in the middle of the quiet section. The girl that's talking so loud that it's all you can think about, occupying all of your focus. Well, that's what every single person in the room is like when you have ADD.

Distractions that are easy to ignore to someone without ADD are intensified and, instead of focusing on the task at hand, I'm listening to the girl three seats down from me eat her barbecue kettle chips. When you have ADD, it's not just schoolwork you can't focus on. You can't focus on anything. I tried to watch a foreign film one time without my medicine, and I forgot to pay attention to the subtitles. I realized about halfway through the movie that I had no idea what was going on.

What almost everyone that asks me for my Adderall doesn't understand is that I take Adderall to focus how you would normally. When you take my Adderall you feel like you can solve the world's problems. You can bang out an entire project in one night. You can cram for an entire exam fueled by this surge of motivation that seems super-hero-like.

You take my Adderall and ask me, “Is this how you feel all the time?" And, unfortunately, my answer is no. I'll never feel like a limitless mastermind. When I take Adderall, I become a normal human being. I can finish a normal amount of work, in a normal amount of time.

My brain works in two modes: on Adderall, and off Adderall. On Adderall, I'm attentive, motivated and energetic. Off Adderall, I can barely get up the motivation and focus to clean my room or send an email. And it's frustrating. I'm frustrated with my lack of drive. I'm frustrated that this is how my brain operates. Scattered, spastic and very, very unorganized. There's nothing desirable about not being able to finish a sentence because you lost thought mid-way through.

The worst thing that you can say to anyone with ADD is, “I think I should start taking Adderall." Having ADD isn't a free pass to get super-pills, having ADD means you have a disability. I take Adderall because I have a disability, and it wasn't a choice I had a say in. I was tested for ADD my freshman year of college.

My parents were skeptical because they didn't know exactly what ADD was. To them, the kids with ADD were the bad kids in school that caused a scene and were constantly sent out of class. Not an above average student in her first year at a university. I went to a counselor and, after I was diagnosed with ADD, told me with a straight mouth, “Marissa this is something you're going to have to take for the rest of your life."

When the late-night assignments and cramming for the tests are over, and we're all out in the real world, I'm still going to be taking Adderall. When I'm raising a family and have to take the right kid to the right place for soccer practice, I'm still going be taking Adderall. And when I'm trying to remember the numbers they just said for bingo at my nursing home, I'm still going to be taking Adderall.

So you tell me you're jealous that I get prescribed Adderall? Don't be. I'm jealous that you can drink a cup a coffee and motivate yourself once you lose focus. I'm jealous that the success of your day doesn't depend on whether or not you took a pill that morning. The idea of waking up and performing a full day without my medicine is foreign to me.

My brain works in two modes, and I don't know which one is the right one. I don't know which mode is the one the big man upstairs wants me to operate in. So before you say you want to be prescribed to Adderall, ask yourself if you need and want to operate in two different modes.

Ask yourself if you want to rely on medicine to make your entire life work. If I had a choice, I would choose coffee like the rest of the world.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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We Need To Rid Ourselves Of The Social Stigma Surrounding Substance Misuse

It's 2019 and people still are afraid to talk about certain things because of the stigma associated with it.


We, as a society need to get rid of social stigmas. There is a social stigma surrounding many topics and, in a way, people, but one of these stigmas is playing a role in blocking getting help. The social stigma that needs to be eliminated immediately is the one surrounding people who struggle with the substance abuse/misuse disorder. Now I am sure some of you are probably triggered right now that I have identified this as a disorder and not just "addiction," but hear me out.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a disorder is "an abnormal physical or mental condition". And a person who struggles with the misuse of opioids fits that description because once they become dependent on the drugs, their normal state of being is gone, and they embody abnormal physical and mental conditions.

People with this disorder can get help, through rehabs and the correct resources and support, but with the way an overwhelming percentage of our population views this disorder, how can they? People become afraid, fear that they have no options for help because they don't think anyone will understand what they're going through, and they don't want to be an embarrassment.

According to, 70,237 deaths in 2017 alone were from drug overdoses. There is this high a number in deaths and people still just want to judge instead of educating themselves on what is actually going on. So many of these deaths are kept a secret though, not the death itself obviously, but the cause for the death. It is too often that people are afraid to speak up about a loved one's death being caused by substance misuse because they don't want people to judge them, or the deceased individual.

This is what creates the issue, we can't bring light to a subject if people are hiding from it. We can't begin to help those suffering if we judge them and make assumptions before we even meet them. And we can't begin to move forward and bring our country out of this epidemic if the stigma surrounding it is not removed.

We need to be better, as a society, as friends, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, cousins, as individuals we need to begin to be the change we want to see. We need to reach out to help if we see someone beginning to engage in this type of behavior. We need to stop judging what we don't know. And we need to embrace reality, accept deaths from overdoses and talk about them, not be ashamed and hide from it, but speak about it so that it can help others from losing someone too.

The negative stigma associated with substance misuse needs to end, and we need to take every necessary measure to help these individuals who are suffering.

The national drug helpline is available 24/7 with representatives who can help individuals suffering from substance misuse. If you or someone you know needs the help, call at 1-888-633-3239.

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