The epidemic of despair overdoses topped 100,000 this year. What can you do to save yourself
Despair overdoses is what I’m calling an unacceptable death rate that has more than doubled over the last few years. Over the last week, several people have forwarded me this article, 100,000 Americans died of overdoses this year. Just a few months ago, I was writing about 88,000 overdoses that were the highest ever recorded in the US in one year. And, just a few months later, this article, which shows how it’s gotten worse. This is a great article and the most important takeaways I got are,
And until we address that core issue—the despair of downwardly mobile Americans—we are going to continue to see these overdoses and suicides.CHRIS BOUTTÉ
In addition to drug pricing and legalization, compassion and decreasing the stigma around addiction are desperately in order. I can tell you from the experience of my own addiction and from working with thousands of addicts that these people are hurting. Something as simple as being kind to someone may prevent them from self-medicating with drugs to cope with the struggles of everyday life, and we don’t need politicians to make that happen.CHRIS BOUTTÉ
Despair overdoses cry out for a more useful response
Now, I agree completely with all of this. But, let’s take it further. Yes, legalization and drug pricing are core issues and we must educate people on how to understand how those laws get made and which officials support your views. But, who is actually speaking to the millions of loved ones who are dying of despair daily? Why are the articles on what to do for this community hidden away on niche websites and created for aftercare through rehab websites? It makes no sense to me. As a recovering person, I have to ask, why we are not screaming from the rooftops how to get help? Where are the wellness departments in corporate America, the prevention programs in high schools, and easy-to-get and easy-to-understand information on getting help?
Here are some actionable tips to address despair and hopelessness
1. Document your despair and give your worries a name
First, write down what you are struggling with the most. For example:
I think I drink too much. My overeating has gotten out of control. I think I’m in a bad relationship. I can’t stop fighting with “fill in the blank” family member. I have so much debt I want to kill myself. I don’t know how to get a job with my mental health issues, etc.
Second, next to each problem, write down an actionable step you can take to start turning that oceanliner of an issue you’ve got around. Yes, it’s going to take work but you can do this so stop being lazy. Like David Goggins says, “Callous your mind!”
Confused? Let me break it down further. Personally, I’m depressed for no reason right now. Well, sure there are reasons but we’re not getting into any of that. And, I’m also a person who cannot return to narcotic use or drinking and also have an anxiety disorder. Basically, life feels very uncomfortable for me right now. So, what have the professionals suggested I do to stay sober and mentally healthy because it’s simply too dangerous for me to relapse? I’m so glad you asked!
- I see a therapist on and off who also happens to be sober. We are on right now.
- She suggested I try acupuncture, which has been shockingly helpful for mood swings. Who knew? Not me, obviously.
- I have three dogs that require me to get outside and get exercise even when my brain tells me I am not capable of working out or don’t want to go outside.
- I practice Buddhism, which means I’m supposed to chant twice a day, which is also a form of meditation.
- I was also told to return to my recovery groups, which I stray from all the time.
- Take appropriate vitamins and supplements for anything my diet might be missing. Engine can’t run with the wrong fuel, or no fuel.
- Oh yeah, and stop messing with my medication. I’m guilty of trying to do that too, which may have been what lead to this episode.
Do you see how this works? It’s not easy but there are tools, services, apps, and activities that will carry me through until I feel better. But, I have to do them. If you are unhappy enough, you might just be willing to take the time to learn what will help you get better so here’s a start.
2. Addiction despair, check out the resources
If you are struggling with alcohol or drug use, there are several steps you can take to see if you want a change in lifestyle. You can always call an addiction professional. Try attending a recovery group to see what they sound like to you. There’s good old-fashioned AA (in person or zoom in most cities), SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and others. Just pop in to a meeting and see if you connect to anything anyone is saying. If you know you’re in a really bad place and need medical help, call a local rehab and talk to an intake person about what you can do. No one in any of these places will judge you or make you feel bad and if they do, RUN. Scared for a loved one? Look into an interventionist.
3. What to do if you’re hurting emotionally
I am not a mental health professional. You need to call one if your emotional health is compromised. Have no shame in your game if you’re suffering. We are all suffering. My life is fine, and I’m still in therapy. It’s okay to need or want ongoing support. Sometimes our brains need help too, and it’s critical to get what you need. Normalize making your mental health check up OK. You can use any number of resources for mental from looking up a therapist to websites you talk directly to someone on like Better Help.
4. What to do if you are involved in an abusive relationship
First, read this and this. Second, here are resources for international help. Consider yourself in grave emotional and spiritual danger if you are being abused. If it’s become physical, get help immediately. Domestic violence only gets worse. No one is allowed to mistreat you for any reason. Let me restate that, NO ONE should be harming you but you have to stop participating in the process for it to stop.
5. Is your despair related to debt, eating disorders, sex, no sex
We are lucky to live in a time of recovery groups for everything. Now, my areas of expertise surround mental health and addiction recovery but I have had my time in other programs and know that they work wonders. I know people who were suicidal over their debt who found financial recovery, and financial success in the program of Debtors Anonymous. It is a terrible name but it works for all issues around money from debting and underearning to clutter and hoarding. Eating issues? There are as many facilities and groups for you as there are for the druggies so just get on google and do the same searches I recommend above but for eating disorders. Same for sex, gambling or whatever else you’re dealing with.
6. Don’t become one of the tragic despair overdoses
When you’re in the lowest point of your life, you feel alone. You may actually be alone. I know what that’s like. I had to lose everything to grow up and value myself and my life. When you are struggling with addiction or mental health you may have alienated your family or lost your ability to work, or are living with someone who hurts you. All of this, or just one of these problems can bring you to a feeling of hopelessness and put you at risk for becoming one of the despair overdoses statistics.
Take it from someone who’s been through most of it, you can do this. One tiny step at a time. I know it’s hard to get out of bed sometimes, or it seems too impossible to make a phone call or go to a meeting, or even do research on tiny steps. But if you can just do one thing every day, you can move past despair into the positivity you need to recover. Humans are resilient and have powerful wills when they choose to use them.
Change the tapes in your head and start to dream
Stop looking at all the reasons why you can’t do this, and start remembering all the reasons why you want something better for yourself. Start dreaming again, for heaven’s sake. Let your dreams lead the way. You don’t need legislation or kindness to start recovering. 23 million Americans are in some form of recovery from addiction. Be part of the solution.
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