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When Depression and Alcoholism Collide

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I believe my lack of formal education regarding the subject of depression or alcoholism in school led me down a more destructive path than if I had been properly educated. Our health guidance courses may have touched on the subjects, but only a small paragraph and never anything we were tested on.

When my first major depressive episode hit, I was a sophomore at The University of Arizona. This school happened to be known as a big party school. When the darkness overcame me and my brain all of a sudden turned against me, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. All I knew was that my bright and promising life was now dark and filled with hopelessness and despair. The only escape from all this pain was to engage in binge-drinking, which lead to many blackouts and too many incidents of me putting myself in harm’s way.

I could not articulate what was happening to me due to my lack of formal education. I felt it was just what life was throwing my way and the medicine was the alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, after many nights blacking out, not remembering what had happened the night before, I fell into a deeper hole. This hole was now not only darkness and despair, but massive shame and guilt for acting so destructively.

This combination of depression and alcohol made my suicidal tendencies way more frequent. Since everyone else around me was partying, no one could see I was drowning and wanted to die. Attending a dual diagnosis rehab saved my life because I was able to have both major issues addressed.

There at the age of 36, 17 years after trying to self-medicate with unhealthy mind altering chemicals, I learned both depression and alcohol were diseases. They were the types of diseases that wanted to take me down and out of this life.

My wish and hope is for more people to talk about these things. It’s too easy for young people who don’t know about their own depression to engage in binge-drinking and drugs. People can be young when alcohol shows up in their lives, and peer pressure comes into play.

We need to talk about depression and other mental health issues. When a young person starts to see the symptoms of any type of mental illness, they then can reach out and get the necessary help from their parents and doctors before they reach for something recreational. I am here to share my story because I don’t want others to travel down the same dark and self-destructive path I did.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


Originally published: July 8, 2016
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