Introduction: The death by suicide of beloved comedian and film star, Robin Williams, prompted me to ask my dear friend “Bev” if she would consider guest-posting her own experience with depression and addiction that has come to a very different conclusion than Williams’. I believe her message of hope and recovery will encourage some who might find their way here, perhaps one or more even contemplating crucial decisions in their own lives just now.
Bev does not mention, in her summary below, two situations in her life that contributed greatly to her diagnosis (some time ago) of Clinical Depression and her relatively recent diagnosis of Complex PTSD, but she has given me permission to do so. She is a survivor of childhood sexual molestation (from age 4 to age 9) which triggered the beginning of her struggle with severe depressive episodes. Much more recently, she was a victim of work place violence resulting in Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder exacerbated by self-medication with alcohol.
There are other facets to her story that contributed to her diagnoses, but it has been her continual quest for honesty, truth, and recovery all these years that has had such a tremendous impact on me and on others who know about her experiences. While extending compassion and empathy for others dealing with the aftermath of their own traumas, each victim unique, Bev has decided that, for herself, she will not be a victim. As she puts it, “I decided that each day I will show up, suit up, and do the work (of recovery).”
Bev’s story involves the courage of the struggle and the overcoming—and another key element that brought the process for her to a level of hope and healing she never thought possible.
SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS
I too, like the late Robin Williams, have been diagnosed with serious mental illness, notably, Clinical Depression and Complex PTSD. I am also an alcoholic.
One and one-half years ago my psychiatrist asked me if I ever contemplated suicide and my answer was “Of course I do, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every effing second of every day.” He upped my meds. He also pleaded with me to stop drinking as I was still in active alcoholism at the time.
I had no idea how to stop; I was completely unable to do so. My drinking had escalated to a point where I was drinking to blackout almost daily and I could not control it at all. I was going to 12 Step meetings, seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, primary care doctor, and attending outpatient addiction recovery.
Nothing, however, broke the cycle for me until August 14th, 2013.
That morning, I woke up, hung over, and prayed. Perhaps the first honest prayer I have ever prayed. It went like this: “God, help me.”
The answer was this: a feeling of infinite love washed over me, a sense that God loved me in my diseased, broken, angry, and terrified state. He wasn’t waiting for me to be better, prettier, healthier, more honest or upright to love me. He was taking me now, like this.
A spark of hope lit inside me; something opened, a place of safety and light. I have not had a drink since, nor have I had a desire to kill myself.
A “TOOLBOX” OF RECOVERY STRATEGIES
These days, exactly one year later, I am still attending 12 Step meetings. I still see a psychiatrist, psychologist and a doctor. And, on a daily basis, I have what I call a “toolbox of skills and treatment options” that I employ to maintain and enhance my recovery. They include prayer, literature, meetings, relationships, exercise, and good food. I fill my mind, body, and spirit with good things to help me maintain my sobriety.
And I still marvel daily at God’s love for me…
My psychiatrist said to me last week, “Bev, you will never be ‘recovered’ from PTSD or alcoholism but you will adapt and you have done so beautifully so far in this last year. You look healthy and you are so much stronger.”
I think that for many who suffer from mental illness to the point of considering suicide there may be no such spark of hope. Perhaps this was the case with Robin Williams. Then again, he, like everyone else dealing with the disease, fought a unique battle of his own one no one else could see. His suffering was, like every human’s, personal and private and seen only in its full pain by the God who loves him, too.
But my hope today is that others may realize and experience the strength and power of God’s love as I did, and in that they may be able to step back from the tragedy of suicide and realize there are effective recovery tools available to them, too.
I do not take my recovery journey for granted. I know that alcoholism IS a disease of recovery and relapse for the majority of sufferers and I never forget that.
And I will never forget God’s intervention when I cried out to Him.
For today, I am sober, healthy, joyful, and free.
To Bev’s powerful story of trauma, recovery, and hope I would add this:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
–The 12 Step Program referenced above is sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/
–There is also a Christian 12 Step Program/AA-type organization:
–Here is a national suicide prevention help line:
1-800-273-TALK and the website affiliated with this service: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/about.aspx
–Here is a Christian organization that provides similar assistance:
Hope a lot of people “accidentally” click onto this post as well as those who are looking for something real.
After listening and reading so much commentary that has come out since Williams’ suicide, some of it with an underlying tone of fear, I realized Bev’s testimony might provide some real hope for some one or two or three who might come across this post.
After having done what she could in “the natural,” so to speak, going to the doctors and the recovery groups and taking medications, she was still at wit’s end. And then, she turned to God, and look what He did for her.
As you know her, too, I think we can testify, along with her psychiatrist and the members of her recovery group, of the incredible change that took place when she yielded to the power of God’s love, and how He graced her with an experience so powerful it trumped all of that pain and trauma in her life.
Indeed, “greater is He in us than he who is in the world.”
Hers is (yet another) story of deliverance by calling out to the Lord, in a world where there is so much pain and fear.
Yes! What a life-changing event it was when Bev turned to God! And she has often used the expression “hit bottom” as that place many people struggling with addiction need to come to before they take action.
Good list of “formulas,” also, and think of how some of them have been turned into admirable things, not the possible addictions they may in fact be…and who has not struggled with one or more?
“Sin-worn”–nice way to put it. So true.
Thank you for the post, Bev and Phyllis. And, happy anniversary, Bev!
Every one of us deals daily with addiction. For some, like Bev, it is displayed more dramatically and outwardly, and is exacerbated by severe childhood trauma. The primary addiction for all human beings is: control. Until one hits bottom in this area, there is no freedom.
The other comment I would like to make relates to our coping mechanisms and how they tie in to our control addiction. In my pre-Christian days I attended a seminar entitled “Beyond the Winning Formula.” We all formulate a plan to get us through the difficulties of life from our childhood on. Some fight; some flee; some medicate; some seek fame; some seek love; some money; some leisure; some accomplishments; some self-destruction. We all find the “winning formula” that allows us to “succeed” in daily living. The problem is that all our winning formulas have one thing in common: they proceed from a narcissistic love of self. Only, by God’s grace, when we are permitted to come to the end of our control addiction, are we truly healed. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Praise God that He grants new birth to His sin-worn children; to those who repent and believe the Gospel of the amazing grace of our ultimate Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Praise God that He is in control!