Chronic depression is a disease, as is the disease of alcoholism and addiction. No one asks for it, the causes aren’t always clear and there are a variety of methods to help to treat it. Often depression and addiction go hand in hand. People with chronic depression often self medicate with alcohol and other substances because they either don’t understand their condition, or they do and believe that they have found a socially acceptable manner of dealing with it. Depression is part of my story as well.
I sought treatment for depression in my late twenties. An abrupt change in career path brought about a time when I could no longer cope on my own and I knew that self medicating with scotch whiskey was no longer helping me. I didn’t want to go the medication route at that time as I had plenty of prejudices against psychopharmaceuticals. I went the route of talk therapy and it helped me through that difficult time and also helped me to look at various self-help programs which I applied to varying degrees of success to my own life. The therapy helped me in putting some order back into my life and the depression lessened. I was able to put down the scotch and stayed dry for the next five years.
Like any other chronic disease, depression ebbs and flows, but it is always there. After that five year hiatus I returned to alcohol, slowly at first, then back with a vengeance as if making up for my dry time. I was always trying to control it, fight it and stop, but I was losing my battle. Depression and addiction worked together in my life creating an ever deepening pit of darkness. I was only able to complete the bare minimum to survive. I would spend hours alone, playing solitaire on the computer because that was about all I could do. I didn’t want to socialize, I didn’t have the energy for it. I could put on a happy face when necessary. “I’m fine!” I’d say when asked, but inside I was alone and dying. I had enough self awareness to know that my addiction was not helping me, but I couldn’t come up with better treatment plan for myself.
After one particularly bad night, combined with a severe physical and moral hangover that lasted for two days, I found the strength to stop everything cold turkey. I don’t know where I found the power to do so, but I stayed stopped. But after two months dry, and in a deep depression I sought out help again. This time, I said to my doctor that I wanted medication. She started me off on a low dose of an antidepressant and slowly increased it until I felt what I thought must be normal. It was working. I felt so normal that after six months I decided that I could start adding alcohol into the mix again. And thus began a downward spiral of depression medication and self medication. I should add that I never told my doctor that I had started self medicating again along with the antidepressants.
Time goes on, I hit my bottom and came into a recovery program. Fortunately I had a sponsor who encouraged me to talk to my doctor and stay on my prescription medication. After about two years in the program and working with that doctor, I weaned myself slowly off of the pills. I have had bouts of depressions since then, but I have been able to work through them with the help of the program.
Most of us arrive at recovery with more difficulties than our addictions. I know there was a tie-in between my depression and my consumption. Everyone is different. I encourage people in recovery to be honest and candid with their medical professionals as well as their sponsor. Many of us use various types of therapy to help us live life to the fullest and there is nothing in recovery that should hinder sound medical treatment. By being rigorously honest we have a much better chance at success in our programs.
I applaud Wil Wheaton who shared his story of living with chronic depression. You can find his story (and the inspiration for today’s blog) here: http://wilwheaton.net/2018/05/my-name-is-wil-wheaton-i-live-with-chronic-depression-and-i-am-not-ashamed/