Drinking Depression: One man’s story of recovery from alcoholism and depression.

 

DRINKING DEPRESSION:  One man’s story of recovery from alcoholism and depression and the parallels between the two. 

By Steve P.

“I have had experiences with alcohol abuse since childhood. I have also struggled since childhood with depression. I quickly learned to rely on both.

I call  this paper “drinking depression” because that’s exactly what I did when I no longer had the alcohol. The following thoughts will express my feelings and the parallels that I have seen between these two addictions.

RELIANCE

There was always an excuse to drink, mostly I was upset with something –I should say angry, for it was anger at the root of my depression that I was trying to suppress in medicating myself with alcohol. Later, I learned to do the same thing with my depression except to be in a depressive state high.  I didn’t even have to leave the house and after awhile I didn’t want to break the cycle of reliance that dependency had begun. Where I was absorbing alcohol into my blood stream  I was now   injecting the depression into my soul and absorbing it like a sponge

FAMILIARITY AND COMFORT

As a recovering alcoholic, I can look back on my drinking and see where I took comfort in being drunk because   eventually   the numbness became the only way I could feel better.  When I was drunk I could retreat into myself and not have to deal with everyday life.

The same escape tool was used in the form of depression. I could ball up like a wooly worm and the outside world was not going to hurt me. However, the more I wallowed in the darkness of my depression the deeper I got stuck  in the mud of despair and hopelessness.

DESPERATION

In order to deal with alcoholism and depression I had to hit rock bottom. I had reached a point in both that I had to call out for help or drown in my addiction.  I called on my Higher Power to help  deliver me from alcohol and he led me to a counselor  to  also help me with my depression. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit I am harnessing my talents now and I am seeing incredible results. My recovery has not been overnight but it is a day by day and step by step recovery process.

THE PHYSICAL

After some time had passed,  the drinking affects the physical body breaking it down. Once I saw a film in which the brain of an alcoholic was compared to the brain of a heroin addict and they were very similar. The depression I  experienced also had physical implications. For over twenty years the way my body would respond from too much emotional stress was to pass out. Instead of blacking out from alcohol I was using depression to numb myself and my brain.

THE SPIRITUAL

When I was drinking I felt alienation and guilt. I felt professing Christians did not drink. The more I drank the more guilty I became. I felt  much more distant from God the more I drank and spiraled further down into a cycle of despair.

In my depression,  I felt God had no time for  me and that I was unworthy of his love. Again,  it was a carousal filled with guilt and anger going round and round so that I couldn’t get off the merry-go-round.

SELF-ESTEEM

When I was drinking,  I was sure that no one cared or could understand what I was going through, so I had many pity parties and I was the guest of honor. Why should I care if no one else cared? This was my way of thinking.

From painful experiences in my childhood I felt  I was of no worth and just taking up space. It has taken therapy and the support of family and friends to finally look in the mirror and begin to like what I saw.

HOPE

I have been sober over two years although I often have the desire to drink I daily call  on my Higher Power to help me and march on one day at a time experiencing serenity and a release from my need to take that first drink.

I have been in therapy for almost a year off and on, although in order to recover one has to stay with it. I have to take my emotional and spiritual healing, like my drinking —one day at a time knowing   I can make it.  It is only by opening the door of the past that   the light of the present can get rid of the darkness  today,  providing  hope for the future.

It is my hope and prayer that this has helped you,  in some small way.  It has helped me by writing about my experiences. May God put walls of protection around you so that the way ahead for you may be crystal clear so that today may be your first step towards recovery.”

God bless.

Steve P.

+This article first appeared in THE ANTIDEPRESSANT TABLET, Spring 1994.

 

 

Shame, Shame, Shame

On deciding what “go to guy” to help me, when setting up the 12 Step Depressed Anonymous mutual aid group, I went to Aaron Beck’s book, Cognitive Therapy of Depression.  It was there that I found out the why’s and how’s we shame ourselves.  Many times we feel shame to tell another that we are depressed.  I have felt this myself. So, when it came time to form a group for the depressed, it was there that at many of the group sessions the fact of shame came up in the fellowship. I saw that what  was   needed was a therapeutic way to deal with the fact of how to overcome the “shaming” of ourselves.

Beck advises the following to a person saddled with shame:

The patient can be told that if he adopts an “antishame”  philosophy, a great deal of pain and discomfort can be avoided. When, for example, the patient makes a mistake that he believes is shameful, he can turn this experience into an antishame exercise by openly acknowledging it instead of hiding it. If he pursues this open policy long enough, his proneness to experience counterproductive shame will diminish. Moreover, he will be less inhibited and more flexible and spontaneous in his range of responses..

One way a therapist can help a patient to resolve feelings of shame over being depressed is illustrated in the following excerpt.

Patient: If the people at work found out I was depressed they would think badly of me.

Therapist: Over 10% of the population is depressed at one time or another. Why is this shameful?

Patient: Other people think people who become depressed are inferior.

Therapist: You are confusing a psychological condition with a social problem. This is a version of blaming the victim. Even if they did think badly of  you –either out of their own ignorance or adolescent way of rating people –you do not have to accept their evaluation. You feel ashamed only if you apply their value system to yourself, that is, if you really believe it is shameful.

Beck then goes on to say that “Other standard procedures, such as having patients list  advantages and disadvantages of expressing shame, can be used to deal with this response.”

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Sources: (c) Aaron Beck . Cognitive Therapy of Depression (1979). The Guilford Press, NY. Page 179.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook. (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

Depressionis the greatest misery…

Depression is the greatest misery, for in it we’re alone in a  prison from which there seems to be no escape. When we have a physical illness, no matter how great our pain, at times we can separate ourselves from our suffering and feel close to other people, sharing a joke, feeling loved and comforted. But when we’re in the prison of depression, and there is always a barrier between ourselves and other people.

People who are depressed describe this prison in many different pictures: “I am at the bottom of a black pit.”  “I’m locked in a dungeon and they’ve  thrown away the key.”  “I’m inside a black balloon and as much as I struggle, I can’t escape.” “I’m  alone in an icy desert.”   “I’m totally alone, and a great black bird is  on my shoulders, weighing me down.”  The pictures are many and various, but the meaning is always the same. The person is alone in a prison.

Even worse, inside the prison of  depression, we  turn against ourselves in self-hatred. We torture ourselves with guilt, shame, fear and anger. We tell ourselves that we shall never escape from the prison, and indeed, in some way, we do not want to leave the prison. It is torture. It is safety.

The prison of depression is torture because it is isolation, the one form of torture which as all tortured know,  will break even the strongest person.  But it is safety because the walls of the prison shut out most of the things which threaten to overwhelm us and cause our very self to shatter and disappear.”

SOURCE:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011). Depressed Anonymous Publications. ( Foreword by Dorothy Rowe, Ph.D., Page 11.)

” We are what we repeatedly do. ” Aristotle

“It is our own real, lived experience which leads us into the prison of depression. It is not a gene, or own hormones, or our dysfunctional and illogical thinking, our lack of faith, or our complexes and inadequacies which have brought depression  upon us, it is what happened to us  and, most importantly, what we have made of what has happened to us: it is the conclusions  we draw from our experiences.

That sort  of conclusions which lead us, finally, into the prison of depression was not drawn illogically or fantastically, or crazily, but were the correct conclusions to draw,  given the information we had at the time.

If, when you were a child, all the adults whom you loved and trusted were telling you that you were bad and that if you  didn’t mend your ways terrible things would happen to you, you wisely and correctly drew the conclusions that you were bad and had to work hard to be good. If, when you were a child, all the people you loved and trusted left you or disappointed or betrayed you, you wisely drew the conclusion that you must be wary of other people and that you should never love anyone completely ever again.  You were not to know that if we grow up believing  that we are intrinsically bad, and that other people are dangerous, we shall become increasingly isolated, the joy will disappear  from our life, and that we shall fall into despair….” SOURCE: Dorothy Rowe. The Depression Handbook. Collins. London.

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I believe that in my own case what Dr. Rowe points out is so true. Our childhood experiences are so important because they set us up for how we think about ourselves as we mature. I remember vividly when I was in the 3rd grade, a teacher shamed me in  front of the whole class because I couldn’t get something right. She told me that I  would never  be like my brother whom was brilliant or my uncle who was also brilliant. For many years after when I thought about that moment in the 3rd grade I could still feel my face getting hot with shame. The worst part is that what she said that day I believed. As I grew into middle age it became important to me that what she said had no bearing on me really, as I was not my brother or my uncle. And that that was OK.