It Was Never Just About Drugs 

By MacK ElmerJuly 25, 2022

Before I ever picked up my first pill bottle, I knew my brain was different. I grew up in an average family, but I felt like everyone seemed so normal compared to me. I was always needing more. Whatever it was, I would always take it a mile further. Food, money, spending money, caffeine, nicotine—enough was never enough. I needed to feel in control because my mind was always out of control.

I reached for so many different things before I found drugs. I started self-harming at 13 and that was my first escape. Running away from reality for an hour or two every night was a daily ritual for years. It could quiet my mind, it could stop the racing thoughts, it would bring relief in the midst of my depression. But the relief always went away. And then I was alone again. With my mind.

I fell into an eating disorder for years, too. My need to control something, absolutely anything, took complete control over me. Yes, I couldn’t control my mind or my crippling anxiety, but this? This was in my control. That’s what I would always tell myself, that I was “handling” it, that I had it under control. I would tell myself any lie I could to keep these things up.

And then, I found my true escape: pills.

The euphoria that came with them was intense. It was short-lived, but I could always take it further. There was a sense of invincibility, that I would never be an “addict.” That nothing bad could ever happen to me. That this was also something I was “managing.” That I had it “under control.” The way it would quiet my mind. The way it would bring a sense of peace within the chaos.

The rehabs and the psych facilities started to stack up and I slowly began to realize I was escaping reality while slowly killing myself in the process. And I was running away from something, but what was it? What was I so scared of?

Gradually, I began to try therapy. I got sober, I relapsed, I got sober again—and the cycle would repeat.

But over time, one thing became clear: I was running away from myself. I was scared of my mind and all the monsters it housed: the absolutely debilitating anxiety, the mania, the depression. And I couldn’t control or contain them. Not with substances, not with sharp objects, not with pill bottles, and not with food.

To heal, I had to face my mind. And that terrified me.

Recovery has been one of the most painful yet freeing journeys I’ve ever embarked on. And I couldn’t do it alone. Instead of isolation, I started to open up, to the right people. I found those who would listen. I found a care team to help me stabilize the chemicals in my brain and I found a therapist who takes the time to listen and sit with me while I explore my darkest thoughts, my trauma, my depression.

It’s difficult. It’s hard to face yourself in the mirror and say that you truly do like the person that’s looking back at you. It’s taken me years. And every day is different.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am an addict, of drugs, of self-harm, of everything and anything I can get my hands on.

But that fact doesn’t mean I have to stay stuck in that inevitable pit of hurt. It doesn’t mean I have to run away from everything and it doesn’t mean I have to remain trapped in my mind.

I know now with complete certainty that if my mind is not right, if I start missing therapy, or skip my meds for even just a couple days, I will be right back in that pit. I will relapse and I will be there very fast.

Ultimately, I had to learn to love me again, I had to learn to sit with myself at the end of the day and say that this—being an addict and being afraid of my own pain—was OK. I am the way I am and I don’t need to run from myself. Life can still be good. It can be better.


You deserve love and a safe place to begin, continue, or restart your journey toward healing. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at info@twloha.com.

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