I started smoking and drinking a few years back, when I was living in Florida and had some friends. Everyone else was doing the same, and we would party quite a bit together.

As it was stressful to be around so many people, I used alcohol and tobacco to help me cope. And it did help me, enabling me to be social for the first time in my life.

A lot of people drink and smoke to help them cope with their mental illnesses and the stress they are experiencing. According to Britain’s National Health Service, people with a mental health disorder are two to three times more likely than the rest of the population to start smoking.

There is a widespread false belief that alcohol and tobacco relieve anxiety. A lot of people drink and smoke to help them cope with depression and with the stresses of the world.

It’s true, these things do provide you with temporary relief. You get instant relief when you have a drink or a smoke. These things provide you with a metaphorical crutch to lean on.

But I eventually realised that, as opposed to helping my anxiety and depression, they were making me worse. I have learned that, in the long term, they make you more anxious and depressed. And the more you partake in these vices, the more you start to depend on them, of course.

I’ve been studying how drinking and smoking affect me. Alcohol is a depressant. After a night of drinking, I feel terrible the next day. I’m on a real low. I can get moody and need more alcohol to make me feel alright again.

The same goes for the cigarettes. I’m only a light smoker these days, but I notice that in the few days after I’ve had a pack, I get irritable, stressed and just generally extremely anxious. I’m also extremely prone to bouts of temper.

I’ve realised that I feel best when I go for an extended period without smoking or drinking. I am then in control of my emotions to a far greater extent, without any added stimuli. I am on more of an even keel: calmer and more stable.

I’m not saying that we should never have a drink. There’s got to be some joy in life. But we shouldn’t do it all the time and, when we do, we need to be aware of the consequences on our mental health that it might have, in the following days, and then try to adjust accordingly and make allowances.

Let’s try to not overly rely on these vices, but rather strive to maintain good mental health using healthier techniques.

Let me know about your experience and opinions on this subject:)

I also have a blog, at www.ibeatmysocialanxiety.com. Please stop by if you can, and subscribe to get information about social anxiety and mental health in general. Many thanks! John