Gabriel’s Story: Fostering Mental Health

By Gabriel, Renascent Alumni

My entire life I felt I did not belong anywhere. I felt like the outsider, the one hiding amongst everyone else. I felt like I lived a double life. Only free to truly be myself when I was alone. I felt that it took me more effort to get to a place that naturally came to others.

The strong sense of right and wrong instilled in me from a young age became a detriment. I felt I could not live up to the expectations I had created for myself. Coming from very religious parents with strict values and morals, I felt like a failure and like I was broken beyond anyone’s help – including God’s.

My emotional turmoil and identity crisis began in high school. I found I did not fit into any one group. I had varying hobbies and interests. And it was at age 15 that I first tried drugs. That was the first time I felt that euphoric feeling of disassociation from my crippling anxiety and self doubts.

Living in a very observant household, I never developed a substance abuse disorder during this time. I would use here and there when the circumstances allowed it. I finally stopped for a few years as I prepared myself to serve a full time mission for my church. It was then that my depression really bloomed. I felt unworthy and continued to struggle to keep the values and morals of my belief. And it wasn’t until the end of my mission that someone commented that I may suffer from clinical depression.

I honestly didn’t think much of it until I returned home. I found that I had no interest in anything. No motivation to progress. I struggled to find and keep jobs. My mood would change drastically at a moments notice.

I began to learn about my mental illness and I spoke with physiologists, doctors and psychiatrists to no avail. Eventually I returned to that euphoric embrace to ease my unsettled mind. Drugs and alcohol became my best friends, and my confidantes.

What started as a prescription for treating my anxiety and depression became a daily necessity. Drugs allowed me to wake up and go to work. They allowed me to be around others. They allowed me to have fun. They became my identity.

Afraid to face life on life’s terms and after five years of continuous daily use, I looked back and realized what I had done. I wasn’t human anymore. Drugs had become my whole purpose and everything else was on the back burner. I no longer wanted to live and I knew that if I wanted to have some semblance of a good life I would have to leave drugs and alcohol forever. That thought terrified me. And it was that thought that lead me to seek rehabilitation. That fear and desperation were the greatest gift my addiction ever gave me.

It was in treatment that I learned about my disease. It was there where I had my spiritual awakening. I had found where I belonged. And more importantly I had found all the answers to questions I had asked my whole life. I found my higher power and the solution to my affliction. It was there I understood the importance of each of my actions and the effect they had on my psyche. My mental health is the most important thing to me now. And doing the work in my recovery program is the only medication I need now. It keeps my mental health in balance and it gives me the strength to live life on life’s terms. It is in that balance that I find happiness and self love.

About the Authors

Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email