- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Years after I became a recovering alcoholic, I realized the extent to which our family was dominated during my childhood by both alcohol and depression. By the time I was sixteen, I knew that I would have what we politely termed a “breakdown” someday. I also realized that alcohol could alleviate the terrible pain of overwhelming anxiety and depression, if only temporarily.
I got married with very little knowledge of what kind of commitment that institution brought with it. I do remember thinking that if I had a mental breakdown at least I wouldn’t be under my parents’ roof when it happened. I always had a great fear of living out my days with them while I struggled to stay alive, coping with my declining mental state. Early in my marriage, my husband and I had problems. These, I thought, stemmed from my husband’s heavy drinking and his lack of any apparent feelings for me. I managed to discount any effect my depression and anxiety might have had on the relationship. Although our marriage was under stress, we both went back to school and got advanced degrees. Heavy drinking was an important part of the graduate scene as the rebelliousness of the 1960s rolled over into the 1970s. It also helped to keep reality from intruding into our attenuated student lives.
When we both obtained jobs in the metro area where we were living, I left my husband and went to live by myself in the city. The first night that I was actually in my own apartment, I bought a pint of scotch and discovered immediately that it “cured” my panic attacks. The drinking progressed both on and off the job. Finally I found myself in a highly responsible position that really increased my anxiety level. It didn’t help that I was in the middle of divorce proceedings during that time as well. When things devolved at work to the point where I either had to quit or be fired, I left voluntarily. A few hellish weeks later, I went into a 30-day alcohol rehab program.
That’s not where this particular story ends. It took me three tries before rehab managed to straighten out my thinking and I was actually able to commit to a 12-step program. I got a sponsor, and with the help of an excellent therapist, I was able at last to take a good, long look at the causes of my underlying anxiety and depression. My therapist worked on finding the drug regimen that would alleviate some of my worst symptoms. In addition talk therapy was a tremendous help, as I had never really been able to talk about some of the issues that had affected my dysfunctional behavior the most.
As a recovering alcoholic, I am grateful beyond words that I now have close relationships with both of my daughters. I went back to school in my mid-60s in order to earn my MSW and go into a field where I felt I could give back a little of what I have been given. I now work with a greatly under-served population of the mentally ill, many of whom I can identify with completely. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with anxiety and depression and to feel that only alcohol, that subtle deceiver, can relieve the pain. Thanks for letting me tell my story here.