Sometimes men can develop an addiction because they’re self-medicating to avoid, block, or enhance a feeling. It can be a trauma-triggering coping strategy, which takes them away from reality and having to face the true problems going on beneath the surface.

Addiction is a very subjective topic and the reasons for it vary from person to person. We all think, feel and behave differently, and therefore respond differently to the emotions and feelings we experience.

Any addictive substance or behaviour leads to actual changes in the brain, which promote a natural response for desire and can lead to losing self-control. With every drug high, there inevitably follows a low. The temptation then is to use more to escape this depressive state. The lower that downward spiral takes people, the lower they feel and their self-worth disappears as self-loathing grows. The more someone feels like this, the more they think they need to drink and use.

How it manifests

Substance abuse can manifest itself in different ways. It can start as seemingly innocent, pleasurable and recreational but can quickly become unwanted, problematic and painful.
Defensiveness: You may feel defensive or irritated if challenged about your substance use.
Prioritising substance usage: You may want to engage in the addictive behaviour over other life activities.
Social life centred around substance usage: You may have your social life and connections centre around your use.
Struggle with abstinence: You may fail to commit to a few days of abstinence or consciously count down the days until you can do it again.

Top tips

If you are struggling with substance abuse, you could try these tips:

Find a new passion

Finding a new activity that you’re passionate about can help you refocus. From volunteering, to learning to play a new instrument, to getting into photography – picking up a new hobby, joining a sports team or finding new interests can bring a new outlet and
sense of purpose to your life. This might also lead you to making new friends with similar interests to yours.

Learn to relax

When you’re tense, you tend to do what’s familiar. When you’re relaxed, you’re more open to new things. Different relaxation strategies work for different people so take some time to explore what works for you. You could start by trying meditation, breathing exercises or going for a walk. 

Manage the urges

It can be hard to ignore urges, but you can try to keep them at bay by acknowledging your craving to someone you trust, find an activity to do that will keep you busy, and then check in on how you feel after. This can help you change your behaviour and manage your urges.

When to see a therapist  

When your physical and mental health are in jeopardy, or you’re taking risks associated with the substances you’re using and causing harm to yourself and others, then it’s time to seek professional support. When your time using (which includes considering, obtaining, using and recovering from substances) outweighs other normal daily activities, and when your finances, family and work are being impacted, talk to someone who fully understands this disorder, such as a specialist therapist.

“When I was younger, I was drinking quite a lot; I would often go and hide away from those around me. I didn’t want them to see me, I didn’t want to talk about how I felt. I was isolating myself and drinking a lot when I was going through depression.
I found working with the therapist beneficial, because they always ask, “Why did you do that?” It makes you reflect on it.

Andy, 44