Here’s a classic brainteaser: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggs come from chickens and chickens come from eggs. Given those two seemingly incontrovertible facts, it is devilishly difficult to arrive at an answer about which came first (though there are some good arguments out there). And that ambiguity makes it interesting to think about and potentially fun to argue about. (But not when it comes to mental health and substance use disorders.)
But you can look at the question another way and arrive at a different answer: Which came first? It doesn’t really matter.
Now, we admit that it might matter very much for those who study biology. But for most of us, we know there are chickens, and we know there are eggs, and it makes very little difference which came first.
You might find yourself asking a similar question if you are struggling with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Which came first?
Did your substance use disorder cause your mental health disorder? Did your mental health disorder cause your substance use disorder? It can seem like a puzzle that it is very important to solve.
The Interconnectedness of Mental Health and Sobriety
It can be easy to become fixated on which came first, the mental health issue or the addiction, because we often think that if we can establish a firm timeline of cause and effect, we can understand where we went wrong and avoid making the same errors going forward.
Of course, understanding is not always our primary goal. Sometimes we just want to rationalize or make excuses for the situation in which we find ourselves.
If only I didn’t struggle with depression! I would never have started using drugs if I hadn’t been so depressed all of the time.
If only I was able to overcome my drinking habit! I would never have fallen into this depression if I wasn’t messing up my life by drinking all of the time.
But in the end, those excuses are not terribly useful. In fact, the question of which came first is—like the answer to the question about the chicken and the egg—not terribly important when you are in the midst of struggling with both.
It is enough to know that good mental health and sobriety are intertwined. That means it is not enough to focus solely on your mental health. Neither is it enough to focus solely on your sobriety. Instead, you need to work on both areas in order to achieve sustainable improvement in each.
Not First, Not Last, But Co-Occurring
When you are struggling with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, you are dealing with co-occurring disorders—two disorders occurring at the same time. The issue of which came first is, for the purposes of making improvement, not that important.
What is important is ensuring that the treatment center you choose to help you overcome a substance use disorder also has the experience and expertise necessary to help you with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Whether you are dealing with one of the many forms of depression, a trauma-induced issue, an anxiety or panic disorder, or another issue, it is essential that you get help so that you strengthen your overall mental well-being while you are also regaining your sobriety and preparing to begin your recovery journey.
Long and short: don’t worry so much about whether your mental health disorder or your substance use disorder arrived first and caused the other. Instead, focus on getting treatment for both.
Besides, letting the chicken and egg question go leaves you time to ponder other imponderables like Why did the chicken cross the road? and Who’s on first?.
The Aviary Recovery Center Could Be the Answer You are Looking For
If you are eager to regain your sobriety and shore up your mental health, you need a treatment center that is prepared to help you in both areas. The Aviary Recovery Center is committed to personalized care that addresses any co-occurring mental health disorders while helping you get sober. Our approach to rehabilitation is grounded in providing you with the support, resources, and strategies you need to maintain your hard-won sobriety over time—and that includes a focus on your mental health. If the question you are asking is Who can help me reclaim my life?, The Aviary Recovery Center near St. Louis, MO, may well be the answer.