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