When I listen to other addicts and alcoholics tell their story it almost always seems like one of the first things that drew them to substances was the fact that it helped them feel comfortable for the first time. They felt that warm feeling and could suddenly talk to people and not feel awkward. They felt like they had an in and belonged for the first time ever.
Maybe everyone who ever goes through adolescence goes through this. You find that you can talk to the popular kids with a drink in hand. You are suddenly funny. Or cute. Or charming. The average age of the first use of alcohol is 14. People who reported using alcohol before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
It seems we addicts are missing some key component in our spirituality that keeps us sick. Keeps us needing to be altered in order to feel normal. We, for whatever reason, cannot feel comfortable in our own skin. That’s a buzz phrase, but I find it to be true for me.
It seems also that this is where the depression comes in. Not being comfortable takes its toll. I had a pretty recent bout with it for the first time in a long time. It was so sneaky how it made its way in.
It was slow. For a few days I just didn’t feel energetic or like doing anything. I figured I was just tired or the fact that I had a lot going on was catching up to me. I started binge eating bad foods also. Replacing one addiction with another. The bad foods, like the alcohol, are comforting at first. But food takes its toll on you. Not just your body, but your mind.
I belong to many support groups for depression and addiction. It felt like the entire universe was having increased symptoms of depression. It got so overwhelming for me I had to take a step away. I literally felt like I was feeling everyone’s pain. I left a lot of groups and stepped away from my social media accounts for a bit. It was really hurting me to see everyone hurting. Almost like depression is contagious.
I’m saying all of this to say, I know why I used to drink. It was easier to drink and numb than it was to stay and feel. I was running away. The big problem with this is maybe I could keep the depressive symptoms at bay by drinking, but drinking was also keeping my happiness and even just my normal at bay.
Those thoughts that find their way in during these episodes are sly. I had almost forgotten how debilitating depression is, as I hadn’t suffered any symptoms in over a year. I felt like I was in a boxing ring and I was losing.
So, what helped me get passed this bout without drinking?
Meditation and prayer first. If I were depression and I wanted to get to someone, I would make sure they got too busy to do the healthy things. I would always send distractions their way.
I started moving. 2 mile walks, hitting my Fitbit goal. If you look at my Fitbit history, you can see where the depression started.
I surrounded myself with family and friends. In the past, I avoided everyone. Depression wants you alone so it can tell you life would be better without you. Being with those you love negates those thoughts.
I spoke about it out loud. Depression grows in the silence.
I took care of me. It’s not selfish to sleep that extra hour if you need it. To get the massage, to do what is necessary to stay healthy. Simple acts like washing your face are big signs that your symptoms are sneaking in. Wash your face.
It was comforting to know I could get through a bout of depression without drinking. It takes work, but the work works. I survived.