Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Depression and addiction have served as my longest companions in life. Beyond any friends, beyond any family, they were nearly always by my side.
When it started
I couldn’t tell you exactly what moment or what event made me realize I had depression. I can only tell you that, when I did, the person I told did not take it seriously.
I remember vividly telling the teacher at the after-school program at Christian Life School that I had “major depression”. I chose to put it that way because of how it felt, not familiarity with the psychological term.
In response, that teacher ⏤ who I would see everyday ⏤ laughed in my face. They made it abundantly clear how foolish they thought I was for saying that. That teacher even roped in another one of my colleagues to make jokes at my expense.
You see, to them, I was just a typical 9-year-old. What could possibly be depressing me?
How difficult it is to talk about for the first time … again
Eleven years passed before I finally decided to try to talk to another older person about my condition. When I was 20, I started attending counseling for about two months.
Now, the counselor who worked with me was a very nice man. He listened, and he gave me great tools that I could use to try to counteract the negative thoughts that build in my mind daily. This included stacking feelings against reality, journaling, breathing techniques and more.
However, he unintentionally gave me an excuse that I would use for a long time to get out of any of that.
In telling my counselor what my first memory from my life is ⏤ an instance of abuse ⏤ and the details of it, he almost uncontrollably let the words, “Wow, you really haven’t had a good life,” pass from his lips.
And in that moment I came to two conclusions I wish I hadn’t: 1. He’s right; I haven’t had a good life. 2. I’m just the product of a bad life; it’s not me.
Accepting comfortable loss instead of striving for needed victory
So what do you do when you decide that you’re going to blame your issues on your circumstances instead of internal things you can fix?
Turns out, not much.
I moved away to Nebraska after college, at 22. There, I fell further into depression, reclusiveness and alcoholism.
And though I had gotten sober and mostly back on track before I finally moved back to Kenosha after five years gone, I still had miles to go to address my negativity.
You see, once you let yourself accept defeat, it’s really hard to convince yourself you made a mistake. Even if your reality is awful, at least it’s something similar to what you have always known.
Thus, it’s a comfortable life ⏤ even if it’s objectively worse than it could be.
What’s left to lose?
There comes a point in the marriage of alcoholism and depression when you’ll have already lost most things you used to love.
People who were regulars in your life become heartbroken strangers. Family become people wearing familiar faces you used to know, but don’t really anymore.
Even the places that you used to call home seem to grow cold and lonely.
And at that point, you’ll have thought you’ve lost all you could. You’ll think what’s left is just what’s left.
The last loss … though temporary
Then, I took a trip to see one of my closest friends of all time back in fall 2016.
Not only did that trip not go well ⏤ I was drunk the whole three days ⏤ but it shattered the relationship I had with my friend. We actually didn’t talk again for about 9 months.
Before that, we talked every day.
And that all made me finally sincerely ask myself a question: How many more things are you willing to lose?
Giving up on dying and choosing to live again
I had my last drink of alcohol on Dec. 31, 2016, and I’ve been completely alcohol-free since Jan. 1, 2017.
And while drinking never served as the cause of my depression, it exacerbated it to the point that I would play dead for days, too heavy to really interact with the world. Rather, I spent my time in a fantasy reality concocted by my drunk brain.
Without that crutch, I had to learn how I should think now. I had to live fully in reality again.
Thankfully, I have since developed a more positive way of thinking.
I’ve done that through journaling, reading, keeping up with exercise and generally trying to take care of myself much better than I ever did before.
Any time I have a negative thought about myself, I also try to say or do something that adds value back into me, in how I perceive myself.
I know that I haven’t gone too terribly far into specifics about my process. That’s because what works for me in a very detailed sense may not work for you.
However, there are some pieces of advice that helped guide me that I’d like to leave you with here:
- Don’t ever tell yourself you CAN’T do things. You DON’T do certain things. You are choosing to cut things that are harming you out of your life. You have the agency in that.
- Don’t ever let the ghost of who you were drag the present you into its grave. I was an alcoholic for more than 10 years. Trust me, if I let myself, I could tear every little positive fiber of myself that I’ve built since getting sober apart with memories of who I used to be. Let go. You’re not them anymore.
- Don’t be afraid to do it alone. Listen, you NEED a support system for the big stuff. Do not quit drinking, drugs or anything that can have medical ramifications on your own. However, if there is an adjustment in how you do things that you need to make or something new you feel you need to try, do it ⏤ even if no one will go with you. Sometimes we first have to prove our commitment to ourselves and that we see our own worth before others will too. But they will. Keep going.
Don’t ever stop
No matter what, don’t let depression or addiction get the best of you in the end.
You CAN have a better life. You CAN look at the world in a positive light.
You just haven’t learned how to yet.
But you can.
And you will.
There is Help
Vivent Health offers fentanyl test strips, so that users can determine the presence of fentanyl in other substances. For more information, call 262-657-6644.
Kenosha County Public Health also offers free training and supplies of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/KCNarcan or call 262-605-6741.
The Kenosha County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center may be reached from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 262-764-8555.
The Kenosha County Crisis Hotline operated is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, at 262-657-7188. Kenosha Human Development Services operates the hotline.
Inside the Mind of Daniel Thompson (podcast)
Ep. 13: The problem of being overly positive – Inside the Mind of Daniel Thompson
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