Byproducts Of My Perception

I've been living with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. 

As a kid, I recall having terrible nightmares. 

I used to have this one recurring dream about a little girl in a sundress walking through a field of sunflowers.

It was a beautiful day. 


Then there was an ominous feeling of dread that would slowly start to build. It was like a low hum that was barely audible, but I could feel it. It would continue until it was clear that something awful was about to happen. All the while the little girl went about her business, having no idea of the imminent doom that was playing out around her. There would never be any resolution. Just continuous dread. 

I would eventually wake up to find myself hiding behind my closet door scared half to death.

Poor kid.

My parents got divorced when I was 8 or 9 and I shut down.

I started isolating and bottling up my feelings. I found it hard to have meaningful connections with anyone. I became the class clown as a distraction. I didn't want anyone to know how disconnected I felt. 

I started drinking at age 13. It made those feelings that I couldn't identify easier to disassociate from.

By the age of 15, I was drinking by myself.  I remember listening to The Cure and writing poetry in my basement. I disguised my depression as creativity and my alcoholism as inspiration.

When I was 17, my girlfriend's mom told me I was an alcoholic. 

For the next couple of decades, my alcoholism and depression progressed. I was untreated and I used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate.

Eventually that medication stopped working but my alcoholism kept progressing and my depression continued to escalate.

I got sober at 39. 

Although I stopped drinking, I was having panic attacks on a regular basis. When my wife and I went out for dinner, she would go into the restaurant before me to make sure it wasn't too crowded.

In early sobriety, I hadn't yet found the tools I needed to manage my emotions without a drink.

That took some time, but I felt relieved that I didn't need to do it all on my own anymore. For the first time I felt hopeful that things would slowly get better.

I remember three things that people told me that helped me early on and continue to help me today.

One is that "my alcoholism is a disease of perspective." I have the power to choose how I look at any given situation.

Two is that "feelings are not facts." No matter what my mind tells me, it doesn't always make it true. 

Three is that "this too shall pass." Everything that comes my way is temporary. It doesn't matter if it's good or if it's bad. Nothing lasts forever.

Now as a 53-year-old man in recovery, I have learned from experience that I can handle anything that life throws at me.

Good and bad are only byproducts of my perception.

Life isn't happening to me; it's happening around me.

No matter what, I know I can handle it without the need to take a drink. 

That's a remarkable thing.


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