Thursday, August 4, 2011



When Daniel and I were on vacation, I read a post by another blogger whom I follow regularly (thanks, Karen G. for recommending her blog). This blogger, Ellie, is a recovering alcoholic. She is incredibly honest about her issues, and is a great writer to boot. But what has struck me, time and again, is how similar our lives seem to be. Ellie is less than a year younger than me. She is a mother and makes jewellery. But, much more than that, when she talks about her struggles with alcoholism, for some reason I feel a bond with her. I've never been an alcoholic. As a matter of fact, I've never been that much of a drinker. Sure, parties when I was younger, but I haven't been even an irregular drinker for years now. So why do I feel such a bond with this woman?

Well, that post of hers three weeks ago started to give me some hints. The description of her struggles dealing with her father's recent and very unexpected death just rang bell after bell with me. It was clear that Ellie was dealing with a bout of depression. The death of someone close will throw anyone into a depressed state - regardless of previous problems.

So I e-mailed Ellie (if you're reading this, Ellie, I hope you don't mind me talking about it). As far as I knew, I was a complete stranger to Ellie. And I was totally butting in. I sent a long, heartfelt e-mail to tell her how I thought maybe she might benefit from the use of anti-depressants during this difficult time - just to get her over the hump of her grief.

Ellie was more than sweet with her reply. She was grateful that I had reached out. And she had been on anti-depressants during her initial time getting off of the alcohol. She knew who I was and had read this blog before and complimented me on my honesty and writing (which was a HUGE compliment for me). Anyhow, it was a wonderful conversation and I hope it helped her.

So it twigged deep within me. Perhaps many of the people out there who deal with alcoholism, drug addiction, food addiction, shopping addiction ... maybe we all have something in common. Maybe we all, under there somewhere, are dealing with a similar issue. Perhaps, in reading this you might think "duh! Don't we all know that?", but we don't. When you're dealing with your own problems, you feel like you're the only one. Because so very few people talk honestly about what they are going through, there is little to compare yourself to. And you feel broken when absolutely everyone else is not. But I'm starting to think that, at a deep level, a whole lot of us are bruised and battered.

Then I was watching a documentary where a man was talking about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The founder had suggested that alcoholics take Niacin to help them with their depression. The distinct impression I got from the documentary was that the founder of AA assumed an underlying depression problem with most (if not all) alcholics.

Another e-mail to Ellie clarified a few things. I am certainly no expert on alcoholism - Ellie has much more experience than I. She concurred that, in her opinion, a lot of alcoholism is triggered by depression - although I don't think anyone can safely state that ALL of it is. And she added: "Women face societal pressures that (I think) tend to revolve more around shame/guilt/fear, which are contributors to depression/anxiety (along with the biological roots of the disease, which I believe are very real)."

That got my mind to reeling. What about other addictions? Drugs, shopping, food, sex? Where does all of this come from? And is it all connected? And how do we damage ourselves so much that we create these dependencies? How does our frenetic lifestyle contribute to these issues? Why is there such a culture of shame, guilt and fear? What creates these problems? And how can we mend it? Or can we? And what is the frikin' point of any of it?

It all comes down to this for me - we need to be kinder to each other. As a society ... and as individuals. And, individually, we need to be kinder to ourselves: I need to be kinder to me; you need to be kinder to you. We push ourselves so hard to "succeed" - but is chemical dependency success? Living a lifestyle where you have to rely on legal drugs to function ... is that success? What is broken? And how do we fix it?

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