If not for the therapy and anti-depressants I took for the first year of my sobriety, I would not be alive today.
The early morning sunlight slipped in through the closed blinds, illuminating the dust in the air and landing on the armchair right across from me. My therapist, a short, amiable woman, sat casually in the armchair, clipboard resting on her lap. She waited patiently for me to say something, her eyes looking at me with concern.
I couldn’t meet her eye. “I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be saying right now.”
She nodded, jotted a few things down on the clipboard, and brushed a stray hair from her face. The lamp sitting on her desk seemed to grow brighter in the silence. I rubbed my eyes and fought the urge to yawn. I hadn’t slept in nearly three days. By then, it was normal for me.
Depression is an odd thing. I had been living with it for so long that I failed to notice the symptoms anymore. The constant fatigue was a part of my make-up, the dark circles around my eyes a regular occurrence. I spent my nights awake, staving off the uncomfortable despair by binge watching documentaries and drinking my thoughts into silence. After spending nearly half of my teens in a fog of untreated suicidal ideations, the discovery of alcohol as a solution to my dangerous melancholy seemed to me to be serendipitously welcome.
When I moved from my Midwestern hometown to Denver, Colorado for college in the fall of 2010, the night-caps were already a part of my routine. It was easy to sneak bottles of cheap whiskey past my RAs and walk to class in the morning with a carefully spiked coffee. The small campus was full of people like me—hyper-intelligent insomniacs who finished their homework before 7 p.m. and left the campus in droves to attend one of the many parties held in the neighborhood each night.
I didn’t stay there very long, though I wished I had. When I left that college after only a year and transferred to a larger campus down the road, I suddenly found myself with far more freedom to do what I wanted. The lack of structure and accountability from my friends created a vacuum that I quickly filled with drugs and alcohol. I often skipped classes and failed out of that second college after a year of avoiding responsibilities and shutting myself up in my room.
After that, the darkness that surrounded me grew. I dropped out for a year and in that time nearly destroyed myself. I chose the right kind of company that wouldn’t look twice at the amount of drugs I was taking. They were a ragtag group of 20-somethings who spent every day under the influence. We talked about nothing and scraped pennies together to get dollar menu burgers from the food joint down the street. None of us had jobs.
I was 19 years old and I hated myself. I spent hours in the shower after each night of hard partying, scrubbing my skin until it was angry and red—trying desperately to scrub away the grime that had attached itself to my being. Many times I sank to the floor of the bathtub, my tears mingling with the water as it rushed down the drain.