I'm sober, I'm depressed and I hate AA

After nearly six years sober, I almost wish I was drinking again

By Cary Tennis
Published March 17, 2011 1:01AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

It's Saturday night and in a few more weeks I will have been sober six years, with the help of AA, daily meetings, sponsors, steps, the whole bit. I've had times of peace and serenity, and gratitude for my healthy body and mind. But, for the most part, I've hated it from the beginning. And it's just getting worse. I try other meetings -- there are hundreds every week in the city I live in. I've also been to meetings in many different countries, and in the U.S. from Anchorage to Key West.

I'm a musician and travel a lot. That's another thing. I don't find any joy in my music anymore. My neighbors are having a jam tonight and I am in bed, listening, trying to watch a movie, wishing I could be there drinking a beer and jamming with them. My joy is gone. Vamoose. It went back in March of '05. And now, even if drinking means death to me, it seems like a better choice than continuing to live this way.

I've been feeling dead for the most part, for years now. My life was good and rich, fun while I was a functional alcoholic. I knew I was an alcoholic and that was fine with me. I had no desire for a "normal" life, did not want a family.

Somewhere I crossed the line from functional to unable to leave my apartment. Just drink around the clock for weeks at a time, not showering, eating ... until I ended up in hospitals more times than I can count, once in a coma for 10 days. A priest gave me last rites.

And yet ... I want to drink. I am on medication for depression and see a therapist once a week. But I am ready to quit these. I don't want to spend my life in AA meetings, having those people as my community and support base.

My old drinking friends were better than any I've made in AA.

I'm at the "jumping off place." I can't do this anymore.

"To thine own self be true," it says on all those chips we pick up. And I'm not being true to myself by staying in AA and faking happy, joyous and free. I want out.

A Hard Case

Dear Hard Case,

It's great that you're getting treatment for your depression, but it sounds like the treatment isn't working right now. If your treatment were working, you wouldn't be depressed. You'd be jamming with your neighbors. Instead you're thinking about drinking.

When depression gets you down, it's time to call somebody and just say, you know, I'm so depressed I just feel like giving up. Let people know what is going on. You can get through it. People will help you through it. You're well-loved. There are lots of people who care about you. Call one of them. Be honest. Say what's going on.

And then it's time to talk to your therapist or psychiatrist and start trying out some new treatments. As you may know, I heartily recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. It has helped me and lots of other people.

It would be a shame for your depression to lead you back to drinking. Given what you've told us about your history, you might not survive another bout of drinking. And I personally would find it a great shame to lose another musician to the booze.

As long as you're not drinking, you've got a good chance of beating the depression. So please: Ask your doctor for a referral to a cognitive therapist, ask for some different medications, and consider other factors, dietary, chemical, hormonal, metabolic, what have you, may be at play. Recently I heard from someone who said that a Vitamin D deficiency was a factor in her depression. If you are a musician and you work at night and do not get much sun ... well, all I'm saying is, ask your doctors about everything: diet, vitamins, nutritional needs, hormonal changes, everything.

You don't have to let your depression get the best of you. It's very hard but it can be cured. The last thing you want to do is start drinking now. As long as you're sober, you have a chance of beating the depression. Once you start drinking again, it's a long climb back.

Congratulations, meanwhile, on your upcoming sobriety anniversary. I'm glad you survived. (Incidentally, I have also heard people in AA talk about how they get a little anxious and depressed when they have a sobriety anniversary approaching. I don't know why that should be so, but that's what people say.)

I know so many interesting, talented people who might be dead now if they hadn't been able to quit drinking, and it sounds like you're another one. The musician's life is tough and demanding to live sober, so I salute you for continuing.

It will get better.

January 2011 Creative Getaway

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Cary Tennis

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