Imagine you have a friend – your best and oldest friend. You have known each other since you were teenagers and since then you have shared everything. On dates, to parties and at weddings and funerals, this friend was there with you. Tailgating at football games and New Years – you were together.
This friend knows your secrets and has seen you at your worst – and best. Every single day, rain or shine, your friend is there for you. You count on this friend, trust this friend and can’t imagine what life would be like without this friend.
Then one day, the friend is gone. No good-byes and no hope of ever seeing this friend again.
That’s what it feels like when you are an alcoholic and you quit drinking. We have lost our best friend. Never mind that this so-called friend destroyed our relationships, ended jobs and put us in jail. Our friend is gone – forever. It is a huge loss. To you earth people – “normies” – this probably sounds as ridiculous as mourning the loss of gravy or hairspray. But cutting alcohol from our lives is like losing your best friend.
It not only hurts but it leaves us scared and terrified. How will we behave without our best friend? Who will give us the courage we need to get on the dance floor or hit on that girl at the end of the bar? Sex without alcohol? How does that work? It feels like someone has taken a potato peeler to our soul. We are raw. We don’t know how to go on.
I am not exaggerating. I want you to understand why some of us are so crazy when we quit drinking. You think our lives should be all honky dory when we put down the bottle. In reality we have no idea how to deal with people, bills, bosses or lovers. This is a terribly confusing, sad and difficult state of mind. Of course, the lucky few will put down the bottle and hop up on a pink cloud and their lives will be honky dory. But for many of us, there ain’t no pink cloud.
It may be hard to believe, but some of us slip into depression when we quit drinking. We have lost our best friend and we have no idea how to live without a drink. We are scared and pissed off. We are alone and we spend more time thinking about alcohol now than we did when we were sober. It feels like someone took a potato peeler to your soul.
It seems ironic that we fall into a depression when we have made such a monumental accomplishment. Same thing happens with smokers, which is why many are prescribed Zyban (Wellbutrin) when they quit. Funny thing is, no one is going to begrudge smokers for taking Zyban to help them quit. In fact, it is even encouraged. But God forbid an alcoholic put down the beer bottle and pick up a prescription bottle. Why is that? Is the depression of a newly sober alcoholic less painful than that of a smoker trying quit?
Of course, we have to be careful. We have to be honest. If we are going to seek medical help for our mental health when we get sober we need to tell our doctor that we are alcoholics/addicts and WE DO NOT WANT TO BE PRESCRIBED ANY DRUG THAT COULD GET US HIGH! In other words, ixnay on the enzo-bays. No Xanax!
Getting sober ain’t easy. Don’t feel ashamed and don’t let anyone shame you if you fall into a depression or suffer anxiety attacks after you quit. It happens to a lot of us. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to take antidepressants and mood stabilizers – as prescribed. Many of us alcoholics have struggled with depression, bipolar or other mental illnesses our entire lives. We used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
But some alcoholics and addicts do not have depression or bipolar. So, slipping into a depression AFTER they quit drinking is very confusing. For these folks, their depression could be situational, linked to the loss of their best friend – the bottle. They may only need to take antidepressants for a short period of time. For others, like me, taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers becomes part of our daily treatment for our other mental illnesses. It’s a life-long situation.
I have heard it said that feelings aren’t fact. But they sure as hell feel like it. So, if you are getting clean and sober, respect your feelings. Don’t tell yourself you shouldn’t feel that a certain way because you are clean and sober. Overwhelming feelings of sadness, apathy, anger and loneliness can easily lead you to a drink or drug.
And we know where that will lead us.