Friday, August 7, 2015

Depression (A chapter from my upcoming book)

Here is the chapter from the book I am currently writing addressing Depression. I would love to get some feedback on it, as I am still trying to get the book cleaned up to send off to the editor! Please, let me know what you think:

Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad, oh sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around

In my addiction, my hopelessness and depression reached abysmal depths. I got so low I attempted suicide. If not for my sister finding me unconscious in a pool of blood, I would not be here. She saved my life. Not that I would call what I had then a life.

When you spend 6 days awake on methamphetamine, sleeping only 1 day a week, you are not really living. I would have told you otherwise, if you would have cared to ask. I would have told you I was fine; FINE stood for Fearful, Insecure, Numb and Emotional.

Fearful - I was afraid that I would never stop using drugs. I was scared that my life was never going to get any better. I was terrified that when I died I would turn to dust so nothing that I ever did mattered. I was horrified that I had let down my family, and would never do anything they could be proud of me for. That fear turned outward, and was expressed as rage. I was violent and angry in hopes that no one would get close to me. I did not want to give people the chance to hurt me again, so I stopped caring about anyone and anything but myself and my next fix.

Insecure – I knew that other people had not been beaten like I had, but I could share that. I knew that other guys had not been molested like I had, and was so afraid of what people would think if they knew. I was depressed all of the time and felt weak and soft.

Numb – That is what a lot of my drug use was. I never wanted to be hurt again emotionally or psychologically, and staying high was a great way to insure that no one could get close. If my focus was on getting high, I developed no close relationships. Staying spun allowed me to feel nothing. No true relationships and not feeling are the perfect storm for creating that numb condition I desired.

Emotional – I would cry when I was by myself. I could feel alone in my house with 10 other people, or at a club that contained hundreds. I was depressed to levels that no one should have to live with. Other times, I was so angry that the littlest thing would cause me to erupt. I would put holes in walls and hit people for no reason other than I did not like who I was and what I had become. I was so unhappy in my own skin, and nothing I did changed that.

As for the suicide, that would not be the last time I tried to kill myself. No, I was sure that there was no hope of sobriety in my future and my addiction was wearing me down. It had not even taken me 2 years of using drugs IV to realize that life sucked. Beyond that I only knew one thing, my life was only going to get worse.

I promised my sister that I would never try to kill myself again. I lied. I would attempt suicide on several more occasions, probably a half dozen times. It would generally happen on my birthday or after really long meth runs (a meth run is an extended time spent awake on methamphetamine without sleep). In order to keep my promise to my sister, I would play Russian roulette. I could make the argument that it was not me killing myself if I was successful, but instead that it was chance.
I would empty my revolver of all but one bullet, spin the cylinder and put the gun to my head. I would be lying if I told you that the hammer clicking was not the loudest sound I had ever heard. 

There was some anger at the gun not going off, and relief at the same time. I was so conflicted about what I wanted to do and whether or not I wanted to live.

People who struggle with addictions can justify anything, even making decisions they really don’t want to. It wasn’t that I wanted to die. I just knew that I could not go on living my life the way I was. I was so tired, hopeless and depressed. I always covered it up so well that no one knew. I put on the mask of the clown, laughing and joyous on the outside.

I was an amazing actor. I had built walls that I hid behind and no one was ever allowed to see the real me. I had been faking those walls since my early youth. It had started when I was being abused at 3 and 4. Through the years I had gotten really good at showing people what I wanted them to see. They saw happy, popular, outgoing me. It could not have been further from the truth.

I was depressed all of the time. I looked around and saw how happy the people I partied with were and I knew that there must be something wrong with me. How come I was not happy? Why did I not feel motivated to do anything unless I got high? Why did I feel so alone while they all seemed to be living it up?

The lie most people hear is that people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol use because it makes them feel great. It helps them escape from the day and be irresponsible. That could not have been further from the truth. I was no longer using to feel good. I was using to feel less bad. My life sucked each and every day. I did not have the motivation to leave the house and if I went to sleep I didn’t have the ability to get out of bed and function unless I got high.

Today I know most of the people I partied with were depressed as well. Most of the clients I have worked with over the years are just as miserable as I was. They too are hiding behind walls they have erected, never showing people the real them. That makes you even more miserable. You cannot be you out of fear of what others may think or do if they knew the truth.

You can never be yourself because you are terrified that people will either judge you or see you as weak and use you. Most of us have learned how to read people and act accordingly. For me, it began with my grandpa. The babysitter taught me how to hide how I was feeling, but my grandpa taught me that you had to read people to avoid abuse and hate.

Now I have studied the science of addiction. It has shed even more light on why I was so depressed. I will try to explain this in the simplest way possible, without getting too deep into the science of it.
The nerve cells in our brain act as a communication system by receiving, sending and processing information. Drugs disrupt that communication by either overstimulation the reward circuits of the brain or masquerading as naturally occurring chemical messengers in the brain.

Opiates and marijuana are the spies, infiltrating the brain by confusing the receptors and then sending abnormal messages by activating nerve cells. Stimulants, on the other hand, either prevent brain cells from recycling neurotransmitters or cause them to release tremendous amounts of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine.

I will focus on the amphetamines, because they saturate the brain with dopamine. Dopamine controls many things, but our focus in on how it impacts motivation, feelings of pleasure and emotion. We have these tremendous amounts of neurotransmitters released which make us feel amazing and in turn our brain teaches us to continue doing whatever it was that causes the euphoric effect.

I became behaviorally conditioned to do drugs, because they over stimulated the chemicals in my brain that make me feel not good, but GREAT! That sounds amazing, and at first it really is. I could escape my past, my depression and my trauma by flooding my brain with dopamine. Who wouldn’t want this, I thought at the time.

I did now know where the chemical process would soon lead me. Over time, the brain gets used to the intense amounts of dopamine being released and begins to reduce the amount of dopamine receptors and produce less dopamine. That means that I can no longer feel happy, joyous and free like a normal person because my brain has began rewiring itself. Not only that, but the amount of drugs needed to make me feel what I used to feel has to be increased. They call that tolerance.

That is just dopamine; we also have other neurotransmitters that are impacted over time: serotonin, norepinepherine, GABA and glutamate to name a few. We have depleted levels of the feel good, behavior control, memory, decision making, motivation and pleasure producing chemicals in our brain. The only way we can even come close to feeling normal is to take more and more of the drugs we are using. That is why we use, that is why I found myself mired in my substance abuse.

The truth…………………..

I was not happy.

I was miserable.


Even using no longer made me feel the same feelings I once had. That is what they call chasing the dragon, trying to find that same high you once had. I got the same feeling if not a better feeling from using a little bit more and a little bit more for years. Then the drugs stopped working that way. They started having less and less of an impact on my moods and motivation.

I woke up in the morning after sleeping with no desire to get out of bed, swallowed in a well of depression. I could never quite get out of the well, but I could pull myself up to the top and at least see the sun. Using took the edge off. It did not make me feel euphoric like it once had, but it made me feel a little bit better.

I had depleted levels of neurotransmitters in my brain.

That is why I was depressed all of the time.

In the end using made me feel less bad, and that was enough to keep me using despite all of the negative consequences substance use had on my life. 

Today, I have found happiness. I have found a Better Life in Recovery. How did I find this? 

For starters, refer back to the 5 Pillars of Recovery. Reread the Platinum Rule and  the 3 Questions that Changed my Life. Apply the Locker Room to your life. These are all things that I did and have seen many others do, and we have attained long-term recovery. Also, remember a couple  of things.

Don't just focus on taking negative people, places and things out of your life. Instead, continually add positive people, places and things to it. The negatives will be forced out due to the positives smothering and suffocating them. The positives you add will usurp the negatives. Slowly but surely, making positive choices will become second nature because they will create new neural pathways. 

Never sell yourself short; you too can find happiness. It does not happen all at once, but it WILL happen. 

It takes time.

 As I have heard many people say, "Don't leave before the miracle  happens."