Today begins the series for Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ll put “MH” in the front of every subject. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please check out this post about it.
The first two posts will be about my experiences with mental health issues. Tomorrow I’ll write about what my therapist calls “adjustment disorder”, which I always called situational depression. I’ll touch on that a little in this post, because depression and alcoholism went hand in hand for me.
I’ve already shared a lot of my story on this blog, and to go into great detail in this post would make it extremely long haha. I’m going to focus more on the mental health aspect of my alcoholism.
My heavy drinking began in 2000 and into 2001. I pretty much had waited to drink until I was 21 and legal. Good girl, right? When I had moved out of my dad’s house a little over a year after my mom died, I shared a house with three other girls, and we had a lot of parties. At first it was all social drinking, but before I knew it, I was drinking a glass of wine to sleep, which eventually turned into a few beers before bed and before long, I was drinking every night. The years that followed became all about drinking. Working was just a means for money to drink. A home was just a place to crash. I bounced around from home to home and man to man, job to job.
Towards the end of my drinking, the depression started. At one point it got so bad that friends urged me to go to an emergency mental health clinic and I did. When they asked me if I had been suicidal, I said no, because I knew they’d lock me up for that. I think I talked to the clinician for an hour or so, and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Ask B today if he thinks I have that and he’ll laugh his butt off. It’s incredibly hard to diagnose any kind of mental health disorder when someone spends their life drinking, constantly altered by the alcohol, never truly being in touch with reality. So I was given Celexa and told not to mix with alcohol. Ha! Yeah that didn’t work.
I didn’t stay on the medication because it completely numbed me out, to the point where I couldn’t feel happy or sad. Granted, I liked to escape with booze, but I didn’t like feeling totally shut down. I didn’t keep up any kind of therapy, just went on drinking.
Eventually I lived in an apartment all alone and I could drink whenever I wanted. I had gotten back together with my high school sweetheart and we just drank and played pool. Eventually I got a job at the pool hall. That led to the demise of the relationship because I would be out until all hours, going to a coworker’s house to drink after work. My boyfriend thought for sure I must be cheating, because I had lost interest in sex so he thought I was getting it elsewhere, and I was hardly ever home. All I cared about was where the next drink came from. Eventually he got fed up and left me and when I came home to find him gone, I got a cab to his parents’ house, drunk out of my mind, banging on the door in the middle of the night. Yeah, that’s the way to get someone back.
After he left I fell into such deep depression that my apartment was disgusting. I hibernated in my bedroom, a garden of empty beer bottles and cigarette butts all over the computer desk. I had stumbled upon a mental health forum before my relationship ended, because I was trying to fix my sex issues.
So I ended up hanging out at Psych Central, going into the chat room nightly to drink because I didn’t want to drink alone because that would mean I was an alcoholic. So I’d have drinking competitions with the other depressed people.
Eventually, something, a thought? An idea? At the time I didn’t know, but something told me I had to stop drinking. When I got sober and read ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’ by Dr. William D. Silkworth in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, it all clicked. I finally understood why I drank.
I didn’t drink because I was depressed. I was depressed because I drank. Alcohol became my master. Alcohol ruled everything. It came first, before relationships, before jobs, and most of all, before me. Once I took that first drink, my body reacted, the phenomenon of craving took over and I couldn’t stop. There was no such thing as just one. One was always too many and a thousand was never enough.
It didn’t take long before my mind started clearing, after I learned how to fall asleep that is. I knew how to pass out, but I didn’t know how to fall asleep. It took about a month of listening to really soft music and sleeping with that book, for me to fall asleep naturally. I started taking the steps that others before me had taken and before long, the depression lifted. I learned that I had to change my thinking. That it wasn’t a matter of being weak willed, it was a matter of not having the skills to cope with life’s curve balls. Who wouldn’t be depressed if they don’t have a way to cope? It wasn’t my mom’s death, it wasn’t the fact that I dropped out of college or couldn’t keep a man or a job that made me drink. It was my reaction and inability to cope with those things that led me to the bottle, my best friend, my salvation.
I had to find something greater than alcohol. A higher power they called it. To this day, I don’t know what that is. But I know I believe in it. I know my faith in a power greater than me and more importantly, greater than alcohol, has kept me sober for 5 years, but not just sober, happy. Joyous. FREE.
By changing my thinking and my outlook on life, by learning to accept what I can’t change, I am free. The alcoholic depression has not returned. The desire to drink has been lifted. Sure, I still drool over commercials sometimes, but that’s just a good reminder that I’m an alcoholic haha!
Eventually I ended up being asked to be a moderator at Psych Central. The place where I had drank with other depressed people. They trusted me now to give me access to the mod forum and chatroom, the ability to edit and delete posts. Talk about redemption. I held that position with esteem. That site had saved my life until I got sober. I fully believe that.
There’s debate as to whether alcoholism is a mental health disorder. It has been classified as such, but there are still people who believe that we’re just weak willed. They can have that belief, but for me, it’s a lot more comforting to call it a disease and not just something horribly wrong with me. I still have the alcoholic thinking. That will never go away. I constantly have to work on it. I am quick to judge, quick to feel judged, quick to be offended, quick to emotions. But today I recognize it when it happens and I tell the shitty committee to shut up.
Turns out I really did need therapy though, which I’ll go into tomorrow when I talk about the adjustment disorder, or situational depression.
I don’t know if I’ve made alcoholism make any sense. There’s a whole book about it so I know I’ve only scratched the surface. But that was a brief glimpse into my own experience. I figure this was a good way to kick off Mental Health Awareness month, especially since I’m asking you all to contribute. Only fair if I contribute, right?
I’m curious to see what this month will bring! Let’s get aware!