Accepting The Dark

When I was in the early stages of my sobriety I told a friend of mine in AA that I had driven by a bar one day and really wanted to go inside and have a cold beer.

She told me I hadn’t yet accepted that I was an alcoholic.

I was stumped. “But I’m in AA,” I said.

“You acknowledge that you’re an alcoholic but you haven’t accepted it yet,” she replied. I acted all, “yeah, for sure, I know what you’re saying,” but I didn’t have a clue what she meant.

It’s taken me years to figure it out. If I had accepted that I was an alcoholic when I drove by that bar, the last thing I would have wanted was to go inside and have a drink.

My friend and others taught me that I had to accept total defeat in my personal war with alcoholism before I could start getting better. That meant I had to stop asking why and just accept that it was what it was. Is what it is. I am an alcoholic. I will always be an alcoholic. It doesn’t matter why this is, or how and it’s futile to go on expending energy asking those questions when all my strength should go toward turning my life around so that I didn’t drink. From there, everything else got a lot better.

I’ve come to realize that I have to take the same approach to my depression. I have to stop fighting the idea that I have a mental illness. You know, for years I never even acknowledged this? I somehow thought of myself as having depression, but stopped short of the whole mental illness thing. That was for crazy people. Crazy huh?

So today I decided the fight is over. I have a mental illness. It’s clinical depression. It’s time to stop reacting to it and to start being proactive.

I need to work more with my peer counselor from the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association on spotting my triggers for depression and find ways to keep myself as healthy as possible.

The first Wednesday in June I’m starting an eight week program that’s basically a support group of 10 people with depression getting together with my peer counselor, assessing our weak points and learning to build on our strengths.

I’ve been shying away from things like this. I think for years I’ve just hoped that the right medications and doing things like walking would eventually work for me.

Not so much really.

I’m still leery about what this group is going to be like but AA is all about group support and it saved my life, so I have to give this a chance right?

I want to do it for me, but I also want to do it for my daughter. She’s had to put up for years with a mother struggling with some very dark depression. Yet she’s still such a vibrant, shiny, brilliant person! And she loves me and I love her more than breathing, so it’s time to make both our lives better.

Living with depression means my life, my normal, is a place of light and shadow, of crippling emotional, spiritual, even physical pain. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and it’s like I’m looking at the world through a veil of deep gray. Then I am released from the dark and I begin to see the sun again. I see my daughter and I am overcome with a radiant joy and gratitude that she chose this old drunk, this emotionally and spiritually fragile woman as her mother.

She brings out the best in me and makes me want to be better. Whenever I start thinking this way that old song from The Sound Of Music, “I Must Have Done Something Good” starts playing in my head.

My daughter and I share a lot of laughter. She’s 11 now and she’s growing into a very funny, sharp, compassionate person. It’s a really special time in our relationship. Well, each stage has been special, but we are at a point where we are really communicating and I love it.

So, I guess it doesn’t matter if any of my dear readers who don’t have depression can’t understand what I go through, I just go through it. It’s my normal. My mental illness.

If you know anyone like me, who struggles in the dark, please learn what you can about depression and mental illness so you can be there to support them when they are weak.

You don’t need to make anything better. You can’t make the disease go away. But like I’ve written before, just knowing someone is there who cares makes all the difference in the world.

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