Sober is the new black… especially for those of us that don’t wear drunk well … Have you ever been around a depressing drunk? I have every time I took a gulp… (I wasn’t a sipper)… I became “that guy” … first the loud in your face party boy and then without warning I became “poor me” guy. Both are irritating but “poor me” guy is the worst!
The reality is that I have lived with depression my entire life. Sometimes it is so crippling that I find it difficult to leave the house. Fortunately, with medications I am able to control the lows that once controlled my life.
Depression leads us to use alcohol as an escape. Alcohol is a depressant drug and compounds our depression. We feel more depressed and self medicate with more alcohol and justify this by repeating that life is just shit. And so on; the vicious cycle of negativity is reinforced and self-perpetuating.
This may not have been your theme but it certainly was mine. For many years… I did not want to face up to the reality of my problems: I didn’t want to have depression and I most certainly did not want to be an alcoholic. I knew I was using wine as a form of self medication, to blot out the here and now for a few hours. As this means of coping continued, both problems escalated, and the drinking required to offset the misery in my life became so great as to become unmanageable and I had to stop… you know the rest of that story.
As well as stopping drinking it’s important to address the reasons for drinking in the first place because these will be unchanged and will require some form of management in the absence of your usual crutch.
Why did I drink? Why did I need to escape from a life which on paper looked pretty good? I often wondered and could not for the life of me fathom what could be wrong.
Having a good life does not prevent depression and that is one of the reasons it is hard for others to understand. There doesn’t need to be a reason you get depression in the same way that others develop high blood pressure or underachieve thyroids. My depression manifests itself as very low mood, being unable to be bothered to do anything and, most notably, physical exhaustion and excessive sleeping. To the uninitiated, I can pass as being merely lazy. The thing is, until I admitted my diagnosis and sought effective treatment, I thought I was just lazy too. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I was better that I looked back and realized just how depressed I had been.
Why mention this now? Two reasons. First it seems a bit misleading not to acknowledge that the turnaround in my life has been helped by having treatment for depression, (although giving up booze was integral to that). Second, I’m not ashamed of an illness I didn’t create… part of the spiral to my rock bottom was coupled with major depression. The secret is out and I feel better!
I didn’t actively decide to keep it a secret. I just chose not to tell anyone. I didn’t want the stigma nor the labels. I know depression can not be cured but like addiction it can be controlled. I’m a creative, intelligent and loving man. I want my life to mean something while I can.
I don’t want to be remembered like Robin Williams lost to a disease he could not control.
The one glaring truth that comes to light after Robin Williams’ suicide is that depression, addiction and suicide do not discriminate. Depression and addiction are not diseases that are more likely to occur in the poor or the rich. The truth is that depression and addiction are human diseases; no matter whether you are rich, poor or middle class.
Realizing my addiction to drugs and alcohol was part of a disease made accepting the problem possible. It now had a face and I could address it as more than a dark shadow in my life …. The same holds true for depression… recognizing the signs and causes has allowed me to seek professional help that has saved my life!