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.

 

 

“I realized that I was addicted to the self.”

” As a person that has suffered depression since childhood, I can say that until you start to open up, share your hurts and feelings, listen to the members of the group, watch them as they grow from the support of the group, you will not be able to get out of the prison of your depression. I have been going to Depressed Anonymous for four years and only until recently have I realized that I was addicted to the self.  Only then did I start to take a good look at myself and start to ask God for his help and truly mean it. I am learning to trust in God  and do His will and not mine. I feel better about myself. I can tell you it is a lot easier to be depressed than it is to work on yourself and admit to yourself that there is a problem. It is God’s will for us to live each day to the fullest because of our time on earth is limited. Live each day, not yesterday or tomorrow. Share with the group and your friends and you will be surprised who will be glad to listen  if you would give them a chance. Accept the fact that all of us at Depressed Anonymous are here to listen to you and not make judgments  on you or give advice. Even if you don’t want to share, come to the meetings because you can always get something out of them. Eventually, you will want to share and the group will listen.

In conclusion, trust in your Higher Power – God as you understand God. Support groups are the  way out of our addictions. We may have given  up on God, but God hasn’t  given up on us. Start your day out by asking God: God I pray for the knowledge of your will and the power to carry it out. ”

-Starr writing about her experience with depression and the healing support that she receives in the Depressed Anonymous 12 Step mutual aid group.

Read Starr’s whole story in Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. (Personal Stories section/Pages 129-130 ).

The price of recovery

Many times in my past I would ask myself if I could possibly live without my addiction? I always said “yes”, I could–but not just yet. How often I repeated that phrase to myself over the years. Or I’d tell myself “I’ll do it when I feel better.” That was another favorite mantra of mine. Have you ever said those same words to yourself? It’s like if I just keep pushing it off maybe the problem will go away. But, we know that is not how it works. If you are presently reading this and in recovery you know how this recovery really works.

For me, it was told to me that really what recovery is all about is to accept the pain of withdrawal  for the short term or to choose to continually  abuse yourself for the long term. When I have a toothache I can see a dentist and have the tooth and the associated pain   neutralized or I can continue with the pain till it is unbearable and then I  must do something radical and drastic–like pulling the tooth.

I began this whole painful process of recovery with an admission. I admitted that my life was unmanageable and that my life was out of control. That was the first step. And then having admitted that, I  listened to other members of a 12 Step fellowship group and I learned how the  program worked for them.  In fact it worked so well that many of them have not fallen back into any of their old past addictive behaviors. But as you and I know, there is a price to be paid for this new way of living. We first had to admit that we had a problem. We needed help.  And we needed it now. We had hit bottom. We then came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to a life of sanity. Making a decision to turn my life over to a Power greater than myself really got the ball rolling. I now knew that there is a God, of my understanding–and  I wasn’t God. When drinking and drugging we had the feeling that we  could do anything–that we were immortal and God’s gift to humankind.

This is where we had to face all this garbage that was ours and we had carried around for years–we needed to take an inventory of where we had screwed up. This is   painful to have to look in the mirror and see that person who made our life so miserable. No blaming anyone else. As Pogo, the comic character tells us, “we looked for the enemy and it was us.” You don’t have to look very far do you?  We might also look in the mirror and ask, “mirror , mirror who is the craziest of us all?” I think you get it. Without a doubt it is necessary if we want to stand tall and face life past and present with hope. and a sense of peace. There is pain, lots of it –but let me tell you, there is a great sense of relief that we no longer have to live in the shadow of life but now live in the light and the good humor of freedom.   The shackles of bondage are thrown off. I am a person who is free now and able to tell my own story at a fellowship meeting  just like when I walked through the 12 Step fellowship doors and found what I really was looking for: freedom from the pain of my depression and addictions. Look for a freedom group in your area.

SOURCE:   (c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

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

NOTE: These two books comprise The Home Study Kit. See VISIT THE STORE.

 

 

I am more than my addiction!

“…Because addicted individuals generally  possess such strong feelings of shame, embarrassment and self-loathing, it is extremely curative when they learn that they can be viewed by others in a positive manner.

…Shame, a more profound feeling all alcoholics and addicts (saddicts)  struggle with implies “I feel bad because of what I am.”  Addiction from this view implies that group therapy must enhance the self understanding and the acceptance that one is worthwhile despite their strong feelings of self loathing and self-hatred.  (The Depressed Anonymous Fellowship Group. ED)   ….before a person can  be healed, they have to know they can heal another. …It is this opportunity to learn that one has the ability to help another in being a healer which supports the use of  group psychotherapy. In  fact, this is the very same principle which AA  (DA) applies within the Twelfth Step of its Twelve Step program for recovery. The alcoholic and the addict (saddict)  maintains their own sobriety by helping another alcoholic get sober.” Source excerpts: Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Populations.  , (1988)  Flores, Phillip J., The Haworth Press. NY

Likewise, the person depressed has a better chance of  overcoming depression when they hear someone else,  with the same situation, feeling better and overcoming their depression.

SOURCE: Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications.Louisville.

“My depression is such a comfort to me.”

How many times have we heard this from those who are depressed.  Many depressed people say that this feeling  of worthlessness and hollowness is all that they have ever known. In fact, they add. “since it is all I’ve ever known I’m too scared to feel something different.”  In other words, their feelings of sadness is like a life-long friend and to change now is asking the impossible. Their whole identity has ben centered on how bad they always feel. Even though they are sick and tired of being sick and tired they cling on to the familiar and secure sadness.  This is all they know and can’t trust themselves to surrender this debilitating sadness and attempt to feel something different. It’s a risk to try and feel cheerful. Being sad all the time is predictable –at least  they know what they have. Getting oneself undepressed is almost too frightening to think about, much less spending  a lot of time  and energy trying to figure out how to escape it.

How can I help myself out of this deep pit if I believe what I have is better than what I might get?  I recommend first of all that a person admit that their life is unmanageable  and out of control because of their depression.  Your compulsion to depress yourself might make you feel secure but it does  make for a life lived in misery and fear. You have to admit that you no longer want to live this way.  You have to say that you are NOW wiling to listen to other people and find out how they are able to risk feeling something  other than sadness.  You have to want to quit  saddening oneself!  If you have felt this sadness all or most of your life then you can now learn a way to escape the personal sadness and constant fatigue that feeling disconnected from yourself and your world makes you feel.”

SOURCES:  Material taken from the Home Study Combo:

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) and The Depressed Anonymous Workbook, (2001)  Depressed Anonymous  Publications. Louisville. [VISIT THE LiTERATURE STORE for more excellent resources. ]

THE RISKS OF FAITH

Dr. Gerald May in his life giving book, Addiction and Grace, shares his thoughts about the risks of faith.

He states  that “Several times now I have said that our real hope lies in  that no matter how oppressed we may be, we always retain some spark of capacity to choose. We can use the ember of freedom to choose to risk ourselves in the goodness of God or to continue to strive for our own autonomy or to give in to the powers that oppress us. I am convinced that nothing whatever determines the choices we make at the primal level, here, finally, the choices are totally up to us; we really are free.” (p.127)

After reading these pieces dealing with hope we are left with the possibility that maybe even I or you have to start today. Yes, obviously to hope is to be living with some risk,  but that beats, by a long shot, living in the unreal world of certainty that things will never get better for us.

The following is a text taken verbatim from the Depressed Anonymous Publication (c) I’LL DO IT WHEN I FEEL BETTER (2009),  PAGES,  66-68.

“Ray (member of Depressed Anonymous fellowship) continues to talk  about the various parts that make up one’s progress on the path to recovery. I think most depression sufferer’s go through a time of hopelessness and this feeling is very disabling for many of us. But with most problems or illnesses there is always hope. Hope that our problems will be solved or that will get better. So if hope is part of the solution, how do we find our  own path of hope?  Before we take that path I think it is important to see how the path is formed.

1. The first item is choices. We make choices every day for  ourselves, some simple, some complex. These choices may affect us for the rest of our lives, that is, what do I want to do in life?  What do I want from my life? What are my goals in life.  Our lives are formed and maybe our own meaning of life is revealed to us.  So our path is first formed with the choices that we make.”

2. Continued tomorrow—-stay tuned! Thank you

Copyright(c) How to find hope and let it blossom. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Ky 40217. Pages 10-12.

ALL OR NOTHING.

ALL OR NOTHING

“During acute depression, avoid trying to set your whole life in order all at once.  If you take on assignments so heavy that you are sure to fail in them at the moment, then you  are allowing yourself to be tricked by your unconscious. Thus you will continue to make sure of your failure, and when it comes you will have  another alibi for still more retreat into depression.

“in short, the ‘:all or nothing’ attitude is a most destructive one. It is best to begin with whatever the irreducible minimums of activity are. Then work for an enlargement of these –day by day. Don’t be disconcerted by setbacks – just start over.”  Bill W., As Bill Sees it. (p.308)

——————————-

I know  about this “all or nothing ” experience. It was really made manifest in my daily study of the Twelve Steps and writing down my thoughts in my journal. Now I use the HOME STUDY PROGRAM, which lets me go at my own speed and examine my own life in relationship to the Steps as spelled out in the Depressed Anonymous Manual and  with questions asked in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook. Together,  these really have helped me focus on one piece of the puzzle at a time. When I first entered the Twelve Step fellowship I wanted to devour everything there was to know about addictions in one big gulp.  Gradually I learned that if I took my time, read the literature and continued to use Workbook and Manual one day at a time, that my life began to have that promised serenity and a hope that continues to this day.

“I find the insights of Bill W., to be at the cutting edge of whether or not a person depressed gets better or just simply gets., that is,  gets more isolated and disconnected from life.  Many hurting folks come to  Depressed Anonymous with the mistaken belief that they are coming to a class; while there, someone will teach them about how to quickly get out of their depression. They want a quick fix and then get right back to living the way they used to – never realizing that they have to do some work on themselves if they indeed want to stay free of depression…” DEPRESSED ONCE – NOT TWICE.

Surrender and win: a paradox of the spiritual principles of all 12 Step programs of recovery.

SURRENDER AND WIN!

How can this make sense. Surrender and win? Well, in my life and probably in the lives of most of us who live with an addiction(s) we finally discovered this statement to true. Painfully true. I remember repeating to myself that “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It became like a mantra until one day I was forced to do something about my addiction.  It was like my hands went up in the air and the white flag I was carrying  declared  that the enemy finally had won the battle. I had no place to go. I could only admit that, yes, I was beat. Pushed down and stomped on.  By admitting my defeat  and surrendering to a belief that it was my last hope of survival. If I was to win it had to be on it’s terms. The ” IT ” here was the First Step of AA which stated that “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Wow! I knew deep down that it was my only chance to survive and leave behind me that awful bondage of my addiction for alcohol. The day that I entered that AA meeting for the first time was the day that I began to wrest free from the scourge of my being imprisoned by alcohol.  I learned a lot at that meeting: I learned how it was just in the admission that I had a problem that freedom finally became a reality

Whether addicted to sadness, food, booze, drugs, pain pills, or pornography, sex, _____________(name your own)  there is hope for you too. Wherever there exists an addiction, more than not, there exists a mutual aid group of like minded people who were there but now they are here (free).

The paradox of course  is when you finally give up and say “I’ve had it ” that there is a group of persons just like you who will say, “Welcome, to the fellowship.”

By surrendering and admitting I was living with a cancer that would eventually kill me, I made a decision to get help–surrender–and win back my life. That day, on  December 8th, 1982 I became a winner. I thank God, my Higher Power that I had enough hope left to surrender and find help! I won by surrendering!

TO SHARE YOUR STORY IS TO SAVE YOUR LIFE (Yiddish proverb)

“It seems to me that the more we share our story with other members of the Depressed Anonymous group, the more we can hear for the first time our own unique story. It is amazing how, when we speak to others about ourselves and our addictions,  we begin to loosen up and release in ourselves a new sense of ourselves — a freedom  to express our true selves.  It is at these times when we discuss our addiction at the Depressed Anonymous meetings that we get first-hand information and feedback on how others are walking free of their sadness and hollowness.”

Source: Depressed Anonymous (2011) 3rd ed., Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky. Page 79.

PS.     Also, in The Depressed Anonymous Workbook, on page 68 and at # 8.36 we discover how our depression may have kept us disconnected from others.

Therapists Views on Depressed Anonymous

The “Birth” of a Depressed Anonymous Group. Judith Bouffiou, Ph.D. (Cand.), Olympia, Washington

Isn’t life just full of expected and unexpected challenges, synchronous happenings, joys and griefs. Your life and mine. Following is a synopsis of a time in my life when I experienced all of the above. The summer of 1991 saw the dissolving of a business partnership for me; a painful, but healthy decision. The counseling center my ex-partner and I operated had provided the community with a Domestic Violence/Anger
Management (DV/A M ) Program for court and self referred clients, plus each of us had a private practice. M y decision to dissolve the partnership was motivated by a number of reasons, among them a desire to go back to school, and to spend more time and energy in my private practice. Over time my private practice had evolved into a growth and development type of practice, which I loved doing. A long with the dissolution of the partnership came the decision to no longer do the DV/A M work. I had a desire to still give the community some type of community service, but what?

Then I remembered reading some time earlier in one of my professional journals about a man who had developed a Twelve-step program, Depressed Anonymous for individuals who suffered from depression. Like most therapists, a significant number of the people I saw (and still see) in my practice were experiencing depression to one degree or other.

The more I thought about the concept of Depressed Anonymous, the more intrigued I was, so I contacted the founder of Depressed Anonymous for information and details. Information was sent to me and that was the start of the first Depressed Anonymous group in Washington State.

From the Depressed Anonymous material I received, I photocopied, organized, prepared and prepared and advertized. I decided on a start time and date, sent notices to our local paper, our Crisis Clinic, therapists and physicians in this area, tacked up flyers all over town, and of course, lots of word of mouth advertizing. The Depressed
Anonymous group originally met in a group room at my office, and eventually moved to a local church when I moved into a smaller office space.

A s a therapist I organized, started, sponsored, and “mothered” the Depressed
Anonymous group for a time, before withdrawing to just being the phone contact person that people can call in for information. From the very first meetings, which had 8-10 people, a “home” group evolved; fine people, some of whom had previous Twelve-step experiences. One of fine traditions and legacies of Twelve-step groups is the willingeness of folks to be and do the supportive and necessary work (the glue) that holds the Twelve-step groups together. The Twelve-step tradition and service continues on.

As is often the case, I have received more than I’ve given as the person who organized and started this Olympia, Washington Depressed Anonymous group. Now that I’m not a person who suffers from depression, other than short term appropriate situational depression; nothing ever deep or prolonged. A s I organized and started this Depressed Anonymous group little did I know that I would benefit from the Depressed Anonymous process and group in such a personal way.

The Depressed Anonymous group had only met two or three times when my middle son unexpectedly died from a type of cancer that years before had taken his father. So, in a synchronous manner, for a time and in a different way, the Depressed Anonymous group supported me as much as I supported them. In my prior work as a nurse, I had often been witness to dying and death, also in my personal life. However, the death of one son and then a year and half later, the death of my oldest son (two out of three) have been devastating experiences for me.

So in many, many ways being the organizer and sponsor of the first Depressed Anonymous group have been an exceedingly enriching experience for me. A s mentioned before, because of the wonderful people in the group, and with great confidence on my part, I turned the operation of the Depressed Anonymous group over to the capable hands of the home group people. I remain the telephone contact. The Depressed Anonymous group continues to thrive and grow. Just recently I talked with a man from Portland, Oregon, who is thinking about starting a group in the Portland area

MY VIEWS ON DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS

Denise L ., Louisville, Kentucky

One of the greatest resources I’ve used in working with many depressed persons has been Depressed Anonymous. The transformation it causes in an individual’s life is truly miraculous. This stems from it being primarily a spiritual program of healing and recovery. It encourages a person to seek a personal relationship with God, whoever they understand him to be. In doing this it helps a person to look inside for healing, rather than in a pill or some quick “cure”. M any persons who suffer with depression look on God as a being who judges them harshly. This thinking usually leads to much anger towards God, which results in more negative thinking. I know this from my own
experiences with depression, and the angry relationship with God I had during those times. This is where Depressed Anonymous offers hope by getting a person connected to a group who also suffer with depression, and are working the twelve steps. In doing this, it helps a person come to a realization that it will only be through a power greater than themselves, that they will find sanity in their life. Depressed people cannot do this alone because of the compulsion to ruminate endlessly over negative thoughts. It is only through coming together with a group of people like Depressed Anonymous, that they are able to break the cycle of negative thinking.

A client I was working with is a good example of the above. H e spent his time alone and many countless hours thinking of all the disappointments in his life, which continually reinforced his depression. Then he started going to DA, and found that through being with other people like himself, he didn’t feel as alone as he did before. H e started sharing his pain, and found understanding and support. I noticed his face began to soften, and he started smiling more. Then I noticed his face began to soften, and he started smiling more. H e also found help spiritually from DA, for he started
working the twelve steps, and as a result he started trusting God more for his healing. H e is one of many persons I’ve worked with who have found help and encouragement through attending DA .

The spiritual emphasis of DA is it’s greatest strength. People come together and hear from one another how their higher power is healing and guiding their lives. They realize that in being part of the group they are not alone, and also encourage true healing. DA has been a wonderful healing tool in the lives of many depressed persons I’ve worked with. It will always be one of the greatest resources I use in my work. It is true that “it works if you work it.”