All posts by Doreen K

DA – A Truly Life Changing Journey

My first psychiatric hospitalization was at age 15. That began two decades of waves of major depression, later called “treatment resistant depression.” I tried just about every medication and therapy there was. My depression lied to me saying I was not good enough (in reality, I was a straight A student and won numerous awards). In my mind, that was not enough, I was not enough. Depression told me “the world would be better off without me.” I found alcohol and other substances to escape my pain. That worked for awhile, but ultimately plummeted me into self-hatred. I had periods of functionality working and pursuing activities I enjoyed. Then depression took over, I couldn’t work anymore, I just could not get up. This depression was a tsunami that swept over me, consumed me. I let everyone down and I hated myself.

Because of my depression, I went on disability with help from my Mom. I made it through one semester of college, then the drinking, the depression and the eating disorder took over. I was hospitalized again. I withdrew from school. I was suicidal and made attempts.

Eventually, I found AA, got sober, worked the steps and found a new life! I still struggled with the eating disorder and the depression but I graduated college and started a career. Depression arose again. Everyone in the rooms of AA was happy, joyous & free…. so what was wrong with me?

After I had my daughter, things were better for awhile. She was the light of my life. Depression kept coming back, even stronger than ever. I was still sober in the rooms of AA, but depression was going to kill me. I tried something new to me: ECT, 6 series over the next 6-8 years. It hurt. A lot. Hellish to go through. It initially helped but the last session put me in a zombie state, unable to speak properly, vocalize or even write my thoughts. Something happened that should not have happened. It scared the hell out of me and my family. Over time I regained my function but I still have memory issues. ECT was no longer an option for me.

Ketamine helped for a while but it felt very addicting and so I stopped it. Suicidal feelings came again and I felt completely hopeless. I might live in an institution for the rest of my life. Even in sobriety I was helpless and hopeless and victimized by depression.

In desperation I googled “depression and 12 steps.” I found the Depressed Anonymous website. I was too afraid to go to a meeting but spoke with a member. I was desperate, utterly despairing. This DA member said he had also felt like that and there was hope for me. HOPE. For Me? I wept. That phone call saved my life. It launched a new life for me, it launched a new path. I got the courage to attend a meeting, I didn’t feel so alone after that. I met people across the globe who experienced depression, understood how I felt and yet they were doing better! I got the DA literature and a sponsor and started doing the work. A few months into DA, I had another severe depression and hospitalization. But I didn’t give up and I kept coming back. My willingness renewed, I worked through the steps with my sponsor and learned I am responsible for my recovery. I am powerless over depression but I am not hopeless. Eventually I started chairing meetings. Service helped me so much! It started to give me the sense that I was just a little capable. I took baby steps. All growth is gradual.

My recovery is like a puzzle: DA is one huge piece of the puzzle. Along with my Higher Power, connecting with my Higher Power, medication, AA, working the steps, eating fairly healthy, weight lifting and going to the gym. There is also puzzle pieces of outreach and service and more. I am off disability for over two years now, and excelling at a great job that I love where I can be of service. I am both a devoted, loving Mother to my daughter and a caring, giving daughter to my Mother. I am capable of being there for myself and others. Yes, I can balance work, life, recovery, service AND learn to have fun again, too!

I have so much gratitude to my DA sponsors and friends, our amazing founder, and all those in this fellowship. This has been truly a life changing journey for me. Life still presents sadness, challenges, fears and “life on life’s terms.” But just for today, I am capable, I have hope and I am not alone.

Yours in fellowship,

Stacy S., March 2024

How DA Has Set Me Free

Working through the DA 12-Step Program started me on a journey which allowed me to face certain truths in my life. They were truths I may not have been aware of or willing to face otherwise. This recovery continues and helps me even today. What is buried deep within can be revealed. I can understand how and why I arrived here. I can come to understand what it is that I need to make myself better. I know that my Higher Power led me here and remains by my side as I continue to navigate my way through life.

When I found DA and the 12 Steps, I was desperate. I was fighting with everything I had to not fall back into another bout of depression. When I’m depressed, I retreat from life and go into survival mode. I sink into a deep, dark hole. My body feels hollow and my emotions are frozen. I lose all interest in “living” my life. My only goal is to survive the day so I can return to the “blessed oblivion” of sleep at night. I do whatever I need to do to stay out of my head which is full of negative thoughts. It feels like hell but it also feels safe and comfortable to be in this dark hole because it allows me to check out of my life. I’ve freed myself from being an active, contributing member of my family, my community and the whole human race. Depression is the excuse I use to not have to deal with any expectations placed upon me by myself or others.

I have discovered a lot about myself on this path. I’ve exposed feelings of fear, shame & unworthiness. I’ve had to work on accepting my negative emotions and becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable. Allowing myself to be vulnerable, to practice self-compassion and to accept all of who I am both the good and the not so good. This has been a difficult but necessary part of my journey. I’ve had to work on my negative thinking which causes negative feelings which then drives negative actions and produces negative results. Positive and negative experiences/feelings are a natural part of existence. The key is to be able to accept them both!

I am grateful for DA, the Program. Community & all the members who have helped and continue to help me as I go forward. My wish is that everyone who joins DA will find what they need to help them manage their depression. I know this program really does work. There is hope for you, too!

MT, February 2024

Coming to DA I learned how to be free from saddening myself

When I was about twelve I heard the term manic depression for the first time.  I did not understand the definition I was given but I knew it had something to do with me. It was then that I began the process of hiding my sadness and negative emotions because the message from those around me was that being sad and afraid was unacceptable.  More than once in grade school teachers called me aside to ask about what might be going on in my life that could cause me to isolate on the playground.  I did not know what to tell them as I did not understand myself, but it was the beginning of habitual self-abandonment.

Throughout my teens, I had continued periods of isolation and social hyper-activity.  I became an introvert but disguised myself as an extrovert.  To hide my social anxiety and fear I got involved in school plays, clubs and leadership.  I began to split my personality between the boy who made his family and friends laugh and the boy who cloistered himself in his bedroom.  Escapism began to be a big part of my thinking and desires.  In college I became even more depressed and felt more isolated.  I habitually cut class and spent the days dissociating by “philosophizing.”  I was clearly searching for personal significance and a connection to a God of my understanding.  I felt alone like never before with the increasing awareness of the great disparity between the world I came from and the world I was faced with in college

In graduate school I maintained a high degree of involvement in the department and in the school leadership.  I cultivated a robust social life finally being accepted and stimulated socially, culturally and intellectually.  For the first time in my life I felt accepted among an understanding group of professors and colleagues that nurtured me just as I was.  I learned a great deal in a safe environment, one that I never knew existed, and I excelled intellectually in a manner I never thought possible.  I proved to myself that I was worthy and able to perform in academia.  Still, I often cried myself to sleep wishing I was dead and not understanding why.  I developed PTSD after 9/11 and as the depression became unmanageable I spiraled into near homelessness.

After discovering DA I came to know that I was not alone but that other people had gone through the same things I had or worse.  I found a group of people that understood what it is to be depressed and accepted my story without judgment or added stigma.  DA relieved me of the stigma of being damaged beyond repair that had plagued me my entire life.  Coming to DA made me realize I was not the only one carrying the burden of depression.  I was not chronically alone.  I was not isolated in the despair of depression.

Through DA and hearing other people’s shares I realized my experiences were a valid source of the disappointment, dismay and depression I had been feeling all my life.  I learned also that surviving those experiences could be a source of strength that testified to my perseverance over them.  This self-awareness has also given me new found hope that had been missing from my outlook on my life and future.   Hearing others’ experiences as well as working the steps has given me hope: the hope that, yes, I can manage depression and live a fuller life.  Most importantly learning the concept of saddening myself has done more to liberate me from sadness.  I know now that my mind and emotions have been conditioned to recreate my past sadness which was instilled in me by others and society.  Now I can recognize the manner in which I sadden myself and take the steps to stop it and reverse it.

January 2024, Luis, NYC

Is Serenity Boring?

On the phone with a fellow traveler this morning, a question arose.  Is Serenity boring?  Let us consult.  So Oxford Languages says:  serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.  Boring (same dictionary) means not interesting, tedious.  This called up an immediate yawn in a three-part sigh, my hand over my mouth and feeling tired.  If we go a step further and look up Depression, Oxford says:  a medical condition in which a person feels very sad, anxious and without hope and often has physical symptoms as being unable to sleep.  (Of course, that is without Depressed Anonymous.)

Clearly, none of these is alike or interchangeable.  Serenity is a beckoning warmth, it invites us to “calm”, “untroubled ” waters.  At least every other day, I walk the 1 and 5/8 miles around Jamaica Pond.  This habit I acquired from hearing at a meeting how walking could help my depression.  Each day is a little different but my favorites are the clear-as-glass, not-a-ripple in the water except the trailing stream that follows the single file geese babies sandwiched straight up between the mom and dad.  And the end of day dusk walks with enough light for the trees and shrubs to be two places at once:  on the shore and topping the water in a marvelous mirage.  When it is quite dark dusk, it takes a while for eyes to focus in such pale light.  But then comes the grand surprise:  a crane or heron in silhouette of black, white and grey.  These are the gift of the day and evening:  the Pond giveth…..  Oh, Thank God for nature, it sets me right, it lifts my heart, it takes the toxicity of the world and injects it with its antidote of Sacredness.

Now, about Serenity.  God does grant it but maybe not right on waking.  After an inspirational reading, a little meditation, my regular yoga, a walk around the condo praying for the planet especially the animals and blessing the space, talking or texting with my DA family via phone/What’s App, things are feeling pretty good.  Good enough to start my day both knowing and feeling  I am not alone.  These, for me, hold the seeds of hope and inspiration.

Today I started something new.  Because I want that sacred thread through my day, that conscious contact with the Power greater than myself through my day.  I want extraordinary, I want to have it, to hold it, to live it.  If you had a catechism you may remember the very first question/answer.  “Where is God?  God is everywhere”!!  How I wish that teaching was expounded so we could learn and know that there is nowhere that God is not, to the edges of the Universe and to each and every heart, God is there.  And so is Divine Peace, Joy, Presence, Knowing, Bliss.  These, like God,  are always available.  The Universe (another name of God) holds no grudges, and wants me to receive all of its Good and I can have that Good.  I only need to catch the glimpse (like that heron on the dusky pond) to see it with my very own eyes and to remember God is with me and all is well.

For these ideals, I find a new use for my phone.  Every two hours I sent an alarm and so when the chime rings, there I am in an instant appointment with Higher Power, no need to wait in line.  I talk and listen and offer a prayer.  Since last Summer its been particularly challenging and that reminds me my very best prayers are “Thy will be done, not mine” and “Thank You.”

So this is how I’m wired now, wired with Twelve Steps and single days.  If you are wired like this too, we can answer the question together, is any of this boring?  “We think not.”  And as for Depression, it is what it is.  Against me alone, it can take a shot, although I vow to kick that beast to the curb every time.  But against me + my Higher Power, and me + the Power of the Group, it doesn’t have a chance.

Is Serenity boring?  I/We ….. Think …… Not.

Doreen K., New Year’s Eve, 2023

DA: A Wellspring of Support and Warmth

In September 2022, my journey with DA began as I stumbled upon the group during an internet search for a 12-Step Program dedicated to healing from depression.

Despite my busy schedule, working full-time and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work, I was taken aback by the depth of my own depression, as diagnosed by my doctor.  How could someone so occupied with both helping others and managing their own life experience such overwhelming despair?

Fortunately, the DA group proved to be a wellspring of support and warmth.  Making the 12:30 pm ET meeting a regular part of my life, attending at least four days a week, I gradually became acquainted with the compassionate individuals who constituted this community.  Active participation in the group’s WhatsApp channel made me feel embraced by a loving community.  Mutual assistance and empathy permeated our interactions; I was both heard and acknowledged by these caring individuals I had the privilege of connecting with nearly every day. When I encountered distressing moments at work, triggered by my colleagues and resulting in what I refer to as uncontrollable hijacking of my mind, the DA WhatsApp group members were readily available to lend an ear.  Their presence provided solace, support, and validation.

Given my history of intermittent depression throughout my life, the aspect I treasured most about DA was the continuous camaraderie and the opportunity to nurture a relationship with my higher power.  Through this practice, my mindset evolved constantly, reaching higher levels of understanding and growth.

Unbeknownst to most, deep within me, I harbored immense gratitude for DA, seeing it as a form of insurance. With my parents aging and my mother struggling with stage 4 COPD, I knew major life changes could transpire at any moment.  Consequently, the presence of such an incredible group and way of life became increasingly invaluable.  After nearly nine months in the DA program, tragedy struck.  I received news that I have reactive Epstein Barr Virus, and my doctor simply advised rest, dismissing the severity of the illness.  I found out I have been living with this active virus for over 14 years.  Consequently, I was forced to abandon my workout regimen, a crucial element of my antidepressant treatment.  It was during this trying time that I sought to employ the program to a greater extent.  Now I had a tangible and pressing reason to experience depression.  Yet, with the support of this program and the assistance of my higher power, I managed to stay afloat and recognize that I would never be burdened with more than I could bear.  Instead of succumbing to despair, I summoned the courage to seek progress in various aspects of my life.  Breaking free from my employment bubble, I mustered the audacity to apply for a new position within my organization, acknowledging that my fear had kept me stagnant in my current role for far too long.

The fellowship I have found in DA has become a source of immeasurable gratitude.  Without the presence of these remarkable individuals and the unwavering support they provide, I would have struggled to rebound and advance despite the daunting health news I received.  I consider myself immensely blessed and secure in the knowledge that I have discovered this fellowship.

Lisa P., California, June 2023

Personal Stories: DA and Yoga proved a powerful combination …..

My family immigrated from Kharkiv, Ukraine to the USA in 1992 as refugees. When I came to the United States, it seemed like I came from another planet.  Everything was different: language, mentality, and environment.  It seemed like I lost my identity and I did not belong anywhere.  In New York, I went to college.  However, I became severely depressed during my second semester and was hospitalized for depression.  When I got better, I returned to college and obtained my BA in Liberal Arts and MS in Education.  I wanted to become an elementary school teacher but became interested in school psychology and became a school psychologist for New York City, Department of Education.  The job was so stressful that i was hospitalized for depression and finally quit the job and went on disability.

One day I saw a yoga studio near where I lived.  I didn’t know anything about yoga.  I absolutely loved yoga after the first session.  Yoga helped me tremendously with my depression.  I did yoga in the hospital for myself and the other patients and the nurses.  Then I promised to myself and to God (even though I am agnostic) that I will be teaching free yoga to anyone who wants to learn.

I always searched for a cure for my depression and felt the need of a support group in addition to my psychotherapy and medications, so I was happy when I found DA online.  My first DA meeting was on September 22, 2020.  It’s my first Twelve Step program and I decided to give it a chance.  I thought “I don’t have anything to lose except my misery.”  I was very skeptical at the beginning, because nothing seemed to help my depression.  I couldn’t share anything during my first DA meeting and didn’t have my camera on.  I didn’t purchase DA literature for about a month because I didn’t have money and wasn’t sure if DA would help me after everything I had been through.  To my surprise, after being in DA for two years, I felt I became less depressed.  I didn’t get hospitalized during this time, I made friends by attending daily DA meetings, I was reading DA literature, working the 12 Steps, got a sponsor and joined two co-sponsorship groups.   I found my purpose in life by sharing my story and offering yoga to DA members twice a week.  I still feel anxious and depressed  sometimes but I know that I can use the tools of DA, reach out to my sponsor and DA friends, and count on their support.  I can see a tremendous difference in myself.  In a sense, I “love my depression” now because through it I found the DA community and feel like I finally belong.  I am so grateful to be a DA member and I hope my hard work in DA and my Higher Power (power of DA group, yoga and universal love) will bring me peace and serenity, and I will be able to say one day that I am completely recovered from depression.

Irene S., NYC, October 2023

Summertime and the living is ………

Happy June, companions of my heart!

How joyous am I to share my DA recovery here with all of you!!  I know that Summer is a time to be a little laid-back, to take it just a little easy.  Oh I do so love losing all those layers, the hats, gloves, and all that jazzzzzz…..  Yes, Summer is my lovely season, and recovery is my day-by-day diary.

Recovery, that one-day-at-a-time recovery is like a Lady Justice, blind-folded and at the ready for every new day’s work and wonders.   And although I may be or feel “blind-folded,”  because of this Spiritual Program, the sponsors, the meetings, the Co-Sponsor Step Study groups, all the tools and the brilliant, informative, transformative readings and interchanges, I am not blind-sided.  I will repeat that:  I am not blind-sided.

For me, the crux is the Steps and sharing my recovery with all of you.  I feel/know I am not only not alone, it is not me and my Higher Power  but me, HP, and all of you:    God as You: the most sincere, authentic, heart-felt, hard-working recovering brothers and sisters ever.  With complete earnest I say that I can be glad of my depression because without it, I would never have known this remedy:  your kindness, your perception, your  care.  I would never have traded roads from in-the-dark  diminutive,  to in-the-light expansive.  I am truly blessed.  The promises are my anchor and you all are my buoy.  Thank you for this exquisite fellowship, your love, your light, your caring. I will be holding your hands in my heart until we meet again.

Doreen from Boston.