This week I have a guest blog post from a good friend. Enjoy.
By: Julie Lynn Haibach
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That is what comes to mind when we think of mental illness that may lead to self-medication with alcohol. The alcoholic dabbled with other substances, but nothing seemed to cure anxiety and depression like a good bottle of wine. Yes you read right; the alcoholic will need at least a bottle.
The alcoholic would like to believe he or she is a huge advocate of mental illness, but like the majority of the country, he or she was taught if the pain is internal, then it is not real. A broken arm will get you sympathy; a broken soul will hide in shame, holding back, pretending to be strong. The alcohol will help the alcoholic share his or her inner pain by allowing the person to finally scream out his or her internal madness with words and actions. The problem is when the alcoholic is so suddenly irrational and out of character, that is when he or she is shunned, at least in his or her own anxiety-filled mind. The alcoholic will slowly start isolating him or herself out of fear of what he or she will do next.
Looks like I stole the first two paragraphs from a medical journal, huh? I swear I didn’t; I am Julie, a 46-year-old recovering alcoholic who is just starting to deal with the anxiety and depression that has plagued me my whole life. The first two paragraphs would be something I would read and say, “No, everyone knows I have issues.” I just visited my best friend last night. What did we talk about? The only way I could survive was to keep myself in complete denial. I was truly scared of what I had become which finally made me scream out, “HELP ME, HELP ME,” with true emotional devastation. It was brought on by an eye-opening somewhat fog–induced, remnants –of—pills—and—too—much—wine– minded panic attack, by an angel asking one simple question, “Where was Dad through all this.” I had isolated so much that even the person I lived with and loved the longest had no idea.
I trusted no one, especially myself. I started drinking at age 14 and didn’t quit until September 2nd, 2018. Fast forward to June 2nd the end of a perfect day. I was given the opportunity to make my last drunken word garbage blog disappear. Aimee asked me to be a guest blogger. Because of this and still thriving on the glow of a Woman’s Retreat, I spent my third night in a row not sleeping . The next day, Monday, I knew what I was going to write but only got a couple of pages done. My idea was all based on one single moment of my life. I pulled this idea out of the deepest darkest corner of my mind. It was making me uncomfortable. Man, I glimpsed at the black blob a couple of weeks ago. I remember how ugly you are. I really hope I can make you shiny. I kept working on it and I just kept getting more anxious. Finally, after talking to my Mom and telling her this deep dark secret sober, I just started bawling. Why am I crying? This happened a lifetime ago. But I wouldn’t let it go. I texted the woman that would be hurt most by this backlash the most, trying to convince her that if I share this deep, raw, secret it would be for the greater good; also it would have played well in my original fictional story woven with the truth. The worst part was I couldn’t share with her what happened. I just expected her to see how this would affect the greater good, the women in general. I saw my insanity when I was going to apologize for the 100th time. I exaggerated, but it was probably the longest text conversation I have ever had with her.
I just had contact with a couple of people and portrayed myself as perfectly fine. How do I take that back? Jerry is golfing and he deserves to. A few minutes ago, I talked to the one person that knows almost everything about me, “Do I call her back?” No, then she will see my real shame, the turmoil of my mind with anxiety filled depressive issue, and how I am failing at handling it. “I AM NOT DRINKING, THIS IS NOT FAIR, I AM DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT,WHY AM I FEELING SO MUCH SHAME!!?!!”
Screw it, get away from that uncomfortable black blob, is it getting darker? I know another safe place. I went and all of a sudden, my safe place didn’t feel safe; I was cut off before I even began. I walked out and couldn’t breathe, I was shaking and sobbing trying to light a cigarette. A woman came out to talk to me; well, I did most of the talking. If she interrupted me, I would cut her off and scream, “LISTEN TO ME!”
Finally, she very timidly asked, “Can I talk now?” I laughed a snotty face laugh and said, “Yes.” She convinced me to come back and listen to everyone else. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “ I can’t promise to listen.” I went back in angry and emotionally drained, I slumped as far down in a chair as I could and crossed my arms. Then a magical thing happened: a dear friend grabbed my hand and I couldn’t let go. His hand felt safe, warm, and dry, and I held on harder and started listening to the people around me.
I am shining already, and I am becoming shinier every day. Another friend told me that I shone like a diamond, hence the diamond theme of this blog. I went on to the person I trust most and we settled the issue. The black blob was going back on the shelf, not the box, and will be thoroughly examined, then put back in the box. It happened, this tragedy, but so much else has happened as well. I can put this to rest on my own, and when I am done, I will give it to God.
I really tried to fix the original post so I could at least keep the fictional concept, t but it still keeps coming out wrong. Finally, I took the first two blogs and pulled the truths and raw honesty out of each one. What I realized was that by sharing how my internal madness went from 5 to 100 in what seemed like a split second. my anxiety med did nothing. If I didn’t have my safe places and safe people who knows what I would have done. I do know that it would have included a visit with the very nice lady at the liquor store, who would tell me the best deals on chardonnay wine for the week. Oh, I wonder if they two pack cellophane bottles. You get a lot for your money, and I was always trying to save money on my drug of choice. I didn’t and I don’t think I ever will. I did learn a lot this week. The depression and anxiety did come first, second the alcoholism, third the shame of both. I realized I can say that I am a proud recovering alcoholic, but I still haven’t figured out why I am not proud of my mental illness. I deserve an Emmy for how well I have hidden it. What broke my acting career was the medicine I was taking. Now that I don’t drink anymore how do I hide my inner demons? I can’t hide it anymore. I can’t blame other people for who I am, but I also need to start trusting that people do listen to me and I will keep listening to them. Someday, I will receive the shiniest award possible, my peace of mind and the knowledge that my illness isn’t shameful. I am sick, and I am still recovering. I am recovering, and I am finally truly happy, just a little broken. Aren’t we all?