I knew I needed "something" more so began researching dual recovery on my own.
In order to explain my story, I have to tell a little bit about my childhood. I can't say anything particularly "bad" happened to me – no physical abuse, no sexual abuse, my parents' marriage was always strong and we never had any financial concerns. I was the youngest in a large family and was able to be the center of attention fairly easily.
But there were also constant "moods" in the household. There was always someone in a "mood" – that's what we called it. It would be years before anyone would hear anything like "bi-polar", or "chronic depression" but that's what it was. The brother I shared a room with was in a "mood" pretty much all the time. What I remember most was the rages, the constant complaining and the eating binges. And through it all my parents said he was 'going through that phase.' Even as a child, this struck me as odd because he had always been in "that phase".
My greatest fear was that someday, I too, would go through "that phase". I liked positive attention, I didn't want people to feel about me as I knew they felt about him. So, I learned that I must always "act happy" whenever I was around anyone. I should never complain or fly into a rage, or anything that would make people think that I was in "that phase". The problem was that I didn't usually feel happy, I was filled with this constant feeling of impending doom or worthlessness, but I knew I was supposed to act happy, outgoing, friendly and confident. So, I got really good at wearing masks. When I couldn't wear the mask, I isolated. It was always one or the other. I isolated a great deal. I remember a pattern developing in 2nd grade where I would wake up and know that I just couldn't go to school that day. I was just too scared even though I couldn't put my finger on why I should be scared. I just was. And so I would tell my mother I was sick and stay home and stay in my room. I would do this for a stretch of a few days and then go back. I kept this pattern up for all of my school years. And I remember beginning in fourth grade praying to God to just let me die. I couldn't bring myself to kill myself but I wanted to die so badly.
At fifteen, I met alcohol. I loved it immediately – it made the mask so much easier to wear and quieted the negative feelings inside me. It immediately became a central aspect of my life. I didn't drink daily but I did do it every weekend. And all week long, I'd be counting down until I could do it again. College was much the same way except that I didn't always wait until weekend and my drinking now often included sex. Through those four years the feelings of anxiety and despair rose right along with the alcohol. I could still "act" happy but the only time I felt happy was when I had a drink in my hand, or lines of cocaine on my mirror. I did drugs a good deal but my drug of choice was always alcohol.
Somehow despite all this I made good enough grades to get into a good graduate school. (I had to go to graduate school because I terrified at the prospect of trying to have to work.) I vowed to myself that once I got to graduate school, I would 'get my act together'. I didn't. Things only got worse, more drinking, more drugs, more feelings of despair and daily thoughts of suicide, so I dropped out. I pretended to my family that I was still in school and tried my best to "act together" at least when I went home on vacations. I quickly degenerated into a total mess. A few months later, I got a DUI.
A night in jail made me realized that I was an alcoholic. I returned to my hometown, told me family that I was alcoholic and that I needed help. They were stunned. I think they had known something was wrong but I wanted to believe the act so much that they were in denial. I went to a therapist within a couple of days and in that first meeting she confirmed that I was definitely an alcoholic. She also said that she thought there was something else going on – like clinical depression. She admitted that clinical depression was outside of what she could handle because she couldn't make the diagnosis nor prescribe medication, so I should have that checked out by a psychiatrist. I really had no idea what she was talking about but I was willing to try anything. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist ran some tests and found that there was definitely depression, but that it was alcohol-induced, sobriety should clear it up. And so I went back to the original therapist and threw myself into AA.