“You are so funny”. You always make me laugh” these are just a few of the things I have heard throughout my life regarding my quick wit and sense of humor. But as I awoke this morning to the rain beating on my window pain, I was promptly reminded of the depression I sometimes live with. It felt heavier this morning as I remembered yesterday’s tragic news of the sudden death of Robin Williams. I don’t say ‘sudden’ lightly, because I know only too well the reality of living with addiction and depression. In my opinion, addiction is simply a more painful, drawn out, slow form of suicide. Active addiction is not living, its more like an exhausting mode of survival.
During the active stage of my own addiction, I was unaware of depression. Drugs, alcohol, relationships, etc. were what I used to keep myself numb. With the constant availability of those devices, it became more normal to just be numb and unaware. Recovery often hurts! So much so that many simply cannot do it. Suddenly sober and having to feel EVERYTHING I had been numbing, almost felt at times as if it would be too much to bare. Statistically only 6% of those souls lucky enough to find the rooms of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) will actually have long term, lasting sobriety. A staggeringly sad reality of how hard recovery can be.
For myself, it’s been 20 years of thawing from all I had numbed. I’m still uncovering deep layers that have been buried because they were just too painful to excavate in early recovery. Staying sober for me means getting real with Pam, facing ALL of my demons, both real or perceived, and figuring out what is truth vs. what is perceived.
Underneath the painful denial, and lying on the path of my history, was a battlefield of the wounded. I was often a steam roller barreling through the lives of others in my desperate attempt to be okay, to ‘feel’ accepted. My point here is that recovery is hard. Facing what I’ve done, facing what I’d become as well as facing those I’d hurt, could easily become too much. Where turning back to denial & numbing becomes very enticing in its promise of comfort in the sick familiar. I am always just one drink away from total destruction. One lie of self deception can be the bottle opener to that drink. I don’t take this lightly.
Which brings up another staggering fact about the disease of alcoholism. It is a progressive disease, meaning if I were to drink again today, within 2 weeks of picking up that first drink, I would be at the same level of addiction as if I hadn’t stopped for the last 20 years. The disease progresses in my brain even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in almost 21 years. I still have recurring dreams that I can drink normally for a night. This disease still lies to me. Just last week I was jogging in my neighborhood, and as I passed the local tavern, I heard its insidious voice saying “Hey, no ones home, the kids are out of town, you could go in there and have one or two drinks and no one would ever know! Just think how good it would feel!” It’s actually terrifying when I realize how close I am to that one drink that could potentially take me down. Perhaps this time for good.
Don’t get me wrong, as hard as it is, recovery is worth it! But today, I feel for Robin Williams. Maybe even relate on some levels. Those demons don’t die easily and often their death needs to occur daily.
As I shared upon waking this morning, the depression is often there, seemingly waiting for me. Although I am a funny person whom God has gifted with an awesome sense of humor and a quick wit, who loves to make others laugh, underneath that laughter, if you were to look deeply into my eyes, you might see the depth of sad I carry at times. Is it the disease of addiction? Is it the chemical change my brain surely underwent after years of drug and alcohol abuse? Is it my demons? Honestly, on different days, in different seasons, I would answer those questions differently. Just for today, I am okay. For it is only by the Grace of my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God, that I am sober today.
In getting to know myself I have realized that my pendulum can swing dramatically one way or the other. I can be super funny and witty, making everyone laugh, then jump into my car and cry the whole way home. My sense of humor is the gift that has helped me to survive a challenging, sometimes painfully hard life. I guess my point is this, just because someone is funny, doesn’t mean they go home lighthearted.
I was just a young girl when Robin Williams came to fame as Mork from Ork. He is someone whose improvisational, comedic genius may never be surpassed in my lifetime. My heart aches today at this tragic loss. Way beyond the obvious void that is left in this world that only he could fill, is the painful reality of how many of us suffer in silence, wearing a mask of funny that hides broken hearts and pain and addictions and battle scars. Funny doesn’t always equal happy.
I pray this tragedy is not wasted. That it shocks us so much so that we will be kinder and more sensitive to those God has placed in our paths. I pray my personal struggle offers incite but mostly I pray it offers hope. Depression and addiction are real and they hurt. They hurt those suffering as well as those who love them. I pray too for The Williams family during this time. Let’s reach out and honor one another in great selfless love. The hurting might be standing next too you making you laugh. Give them a hug ask them, “How are you really doing?”
A photo of my “Life Recovery” 12 step bible..It keeps me sober staying in Gods word.