Humans grow at a substantial rate from birth to adulthood. With growing comes growing pains. We all remember the pain that our joints, muscles, brains, and emotions caused us as teenagers. But did you know that if you excessively use drugs and/or alcohol as a teenager, you stop maturing?

Drugs can hinder the functioning of a person’s brain, especially in areas such as thinking and reasoning skills. For example, someone who has never experimented with drugs might learn from their mistakes. On the other hand, a drug user is likely to repeat the same mistakes over and over again and expect different results. The psychology world believes addiction causes a person to stop maturing. This is true in my case.

Even without drugs and alcohol, I was a degenerate immature teenager. I enjoyed getting in trouble and living a rebellious life. When I discovered drugs, my behavior became even worse. I started drinking and using drugs at the age of thirteen but wasn’t instantly addicted. By the time I was sixteen, however, I had developed a problem.

In AA/NA (Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous), they tell you that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again yet still expecting different results. I demonstrated this plenty of times. I knew that I couldn’t ever moderately drink or just smoke weed on the weekends, but I drank and used drugs anyway. I told everyone around me that I didn’t have a problem, but I was lying to everyone and myself.

Throughout these years, I had severe mood swings. I was showing all the pill addiction signs
. When I was high or drunk, I was tolerable to be around, but if you ever caught me sober, I was a nightmare.

“We admitted we were powerless over drugs/alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable” is the first step in AA/NA. But for me, it was more like my sober life was unmanageable. When I was high, I didn’t create any problems, but when I was sober, a whole plethora of problems would arise.

After a while, my addiction caught up to me. I realized that if I continued on that path, I would most certainly die or end up in jail for the rest of my life. At the age of nineteen, I decided to get sober. I had heard from doctors that when you become sober, your maturity level is the age you were when you first started using drugs or alcohol. “Okay, great,” I said to myself. “Now I’m nineteen years old but have the mind of a thirteen year old?” I didn’t believe it, but it was true.

I had a lot of growing up to do. For the past six years, I altered my brain with substances. I lived in a fog and towards the end of my addiction, I was only in contact with drug dealers and other heavy drug users. I had to relearn how to do simple tasks such as eating regularly, connecting with people, and keeping up with good hygiene. I had a lot of self-growing to do and I knew it.

Upon coming home from drug and alcohol rehab, I made a commitment to stay sober. I started attending AA meetings and realized that there were many people who were in my shoes. Simply put, I had to grow up.

While attending AA meetings, I learned that I wasn’t the most important person in the world like I thought I was. Many people told me that this program taught them how to grow up. I was lucky. I have met people who stopped drinking at the age of sixty but started drinking when they were fifteen. They had much more maturing to do than I did.

Through my six years of sobriety, I have grown in so many areas of my life. Before I became sober, I was spiritually bankrupt, lost, broken, and depressed. Today, I live a life of spirituality, I have repaired all of my relationships with everyone in my life, and have been blessed with happiness overall. When I became sober, I had the maturity level of a thirteen-year-old. The problem was, I was nineteen. Six years have passed and my maturity level has finally caught up to me. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If you make it through a struggle, you deserve to live heaven on earth.

Author's Bio: 

BIO:  Ben Emerling is a content writer who works in the Metro Detroit area. Creative writer by day and avid adventurist by night, he dedicates his life to helping people achieve sobriety. Ben currently works for