Content Warning: suicide, depression, substance abuse.Disconnection is something that I’ve felt most of my life. I’ve always been aware of the world around me, yet felt somewhat separate to it. The loneliest I feel is when I’m surrounded by a lot of people. I think this is why I drink or smoke weed so much at parties or social events – it’s the only way I can dull that feeling of loneliness. Now that I’ve taken away all my coping mechanisms, I’m drowning in loneliness. I know I’m not alone, but that is how I feel.

My counsellor told me that prolonged and heavy weed use can lead to feelings of disconnection. The thing is, I initially started drinking and smoking to numb the feelings of disconnection that I already felt. So is he right? Or is it just that many people who smoke heavily for a long time were already feeling disconnected? At its worst, I would smoke up to 100g of weed a week. That would be, on average, 10 big, fat joints a day. On good days, I would smoke 2 joints.

I decided to quit alcohol, tobacco and weed all at once because these are the three substances that I abuse on rotation, replacing one with another whenever trying to quit something. It usually goes like this: try to quit smoking tobacco – smoke more weed; try to quit weed – drink more alcohol; try to quit alcohol – smoke more tobacco; repeat.

It’s the feeling of disconnection, or as my counsellor put it, the distance between how I see myself and how I expect myself to be, that led me to substance misuse and abuse. A friend was telling me a story of someone they knew who was a heavy weed smoker, who committed suicide after 10 days of enforced sobriety (they were in a country where they couldn’t access any). Many counsellors have told me that substance abuse is driven by our desire to stay alive. Often when this coping mechanism is taken away, suicide can seem to be the only option left.

From mid 2013 to mid 2015 I was regularly suicidal. I felt like I had no control over my own mind, that a voice inside my head was telling me to do terrible things to myself. I was at the depth of despair when I finally asked for help in October 2013 and started taking anti-depressants. Although anti-depressants helped a lot, I became dangerously depressed again in January 2015, after a particularly difficult ending of a relationship. In January 2016 I changed anti-depressants as Citalopram was no longer working for me, switching to Venlafaxine, and again, during the change over, I became suicidal. Thankfully I was on holiday with my family during the worst week, and my parents really helped me so much through that awful week. Now I am once again without my coping mechanisms, and it scares me.

All I can do is to hope that this time things will be different. It definitely feels different. Although I do have depression at the moment, I can still leave the house, and I even managed to cook a meal two days ago, the first meal I’ve cooked like that in over 6 months. I had hoped to never feel like this again, but honestly it feels like the last 18 months has been an inevitable slide into this depression, pushed away by increasingly worse abuse of alcohol and weed (and tobacco). 18 months ago I had top surgery, which I had spent the previous 2.5 years fighting for and obsessing over, so it’s not unsurprising that depression hit again once this was over. I wish I had dealt with it after surgery, rather than waiting until now, but definitely better late than never.

On a more positive note, today is my 8th day without alcohol and my 20th day without tobacco and weed. My cravings are still there, but they are slightly less frequent than they were last week, and my head feels clearer every day. I’m not coping fantastically, but things could definitely be worse, and I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. Onward and upward.

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