Recently, I had a very intense conversation with my Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor about the use of anti-depressants. It arose because I’ve been feeling very sorrowful in life, notably due to my long bout of chronic pain and how far away God has felt because of that. While she advocated for the use of anti-depressants to deal with this, I felt just the opposite. Let me explain.
I’ve been physically depressed before in my life and have been medicated on anti-depressants three separate times because of it. During those periods, I barely found any energy to get out of bed. All I could see on a daily basis was a black hole all around me. It was as if there was no light at all shining upon me, like I was consumed in darkness with no hope to go on. Each time I got to feeling that way, it was always tied to some trauma or some part of my life that I needed to face but wasn’t. The first was when I became sober from alcohol and drugs and needed to accept the fact that I was gay but constantly ran away from doing so. The second was due to my father’s suicide, something I needed to grieve and come to terms with, but refused to for three years. And the third was after I lost a seven-year relationship, my financial stability, and my health itself, where instead of working through those things, I delved into addictive behaviors to numb myself from feeling any of it. In each of these cases, avoiding what I needed to work on, which was essentially feeling the pain and emotions from the traumas themselves, led me straight into a bout of severe physical depression that required an anti-depressant to stabilize. Once I faced each of them though and came to a healing place with it, I developed enough strength that didn’t require the use of an anti-depressant anymore.
Presently, the sorrow I’m feeling, that I spoke to my AA sponsor about, is not related to something I’m avoiding facing. Ironically, it’s the exact opposite. The path to healing for my present sorrow is one where I absolutely need to sit in my sorrow and feel all of it in its entirety, rather than take something that might prevent myself from achieving that. Taking an anti-depressant would just numb me from getting to the source of what this sorrow is about. Sitting through it though, without getting into addictive behaviors and without taking an anti-depressant, has been extremely challenging, especially due to the addictive brain I have, one that I’ve trained for years to constantly seek highs and avoid lows. Sadly, I spent the better part of the past three years not sitting with this sorrow and instead falling slowly back into old addictive patterns to cope. I think it was only a matter of time before I would have spiraled out of control into another bout of severe physical depression, one that would have required the use of anti-depressants again. Thankfully, I’ve taken immediate steps to prevent that from happening by eliminating the unhealthy behaviors I was doing to numb myself from feeling what I need to feel.
While my sponsor totally advocates the use of anti-depressants for any type of depression a person may be feeling, including the deep sorrow I spoke of to her, I’ve come to accept there is a time and place for the usage of these type of medications, but this not being one of them. I’m not in a place of total darkness where I’m completely shut down and immobile. Rather, I’m in a place of sorrow over the actions I’ve lived. My sorrow is about how much of my life I threw away to things that were never going to fill my soul and it’s about the painful healing my body continues to go through because of those actions. I believe my sorrow will eventually pass though by continuing to sit with it, by facing it head on, and by talking about it, but not by living in addictive behaviors or by taking an anti-depressant, as either will lead me to simply not care about it at all, which is of course is the opposite of what needs to happen.
This path of healing isn’t easy. It means facing oneself in all one’s feelings and sitting uncomfortably in them for however long it takes, something a trained addict brain like mine despises. But as they say in recovery, to heal from anything, one must feel and deal with it first. While indeed anti-depressants may be important to use when going through the healing of deep-seated traumas, especially when one has run from them for a long period of time like I did, facing my present sorrow without them and without any addictive behaviors to cope is precisely what I need to do to heal and draw closer to God.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve come to learn in life is that the very path to feeling closer to God, is not one where I’ve numbed myself from feeling the pain and sorrows of life. Rather, it’s one where I felt them in their entirety and sought God through each of those difficult moments, because in doing so, it’s always eventually led me to the place of healing and peace I sought.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson
(NOTE: This is only my personal experience and opinion on the subject. Please always consult the appropriate professionals before making any decisions surrounding your medication.)