The famous AA acronym, H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you’re an alcoholic and you’re feeling down, you should ask yourself if you are feeling any of those things. I’ve been feeling pissed off and depressed again today, and so I’ve been asking myself constantly whether I’m H, A, L or T. For the past couple of hours I think I’ve definitely been A, L and T. Why am I angry, lonely and tired today? The worst thing is, I don’t even know. There’s no reason for me to be depressed about anything today.
The truth is, there hardly ever is a reason. Life isn’t bad at all. I’ve successfully completed my degree, I’m set for a good mark, and after ten months I’m still sober, so it looks like I’m set for a good life over all. Yet this boring, draining self-pity and self-flagellation continues to weigh on me tonight. Before I went to my home group earlier on I was very angry, very lonely and very tired, more than I had been in weeks. I’m sick of being controlled by my emotions in this way, I’m absolutely sick of feeling miserable when things in my life are going so comparably well. From psychology I’ve learnt that depression and anxiety are partly physical, partly environmental, and since there’s very little in my environment today to bring me down I must conclude that my latest mood swing is due to physical factors.
I’ve been on the anti-depressants for nearly two weeks now. Clearly, they’re still not working. I already know that the effects aren’t meant to kick in until after about a month, so I just have to sit here and wait for this depression to go away. I really hope it goes soon. When I was younger, I used to call these episodes ‘attacks of loneliness’. I think the word ‘attack’ sums it up pretty well. It still amazes me that no one in my young life ever spotted that I was going through serious depression. Even when I tried to commit suicide twice at the age of sixteen, no one thought to try and help me. I was seeing a counsellor at the time, but that was for my sexuality issues – nothing to do with the depression, and I never even told my counsellor about the suicide attempts. I just kept it to myself, along with everything else that had ever happened in my life.
The worst thing about today’s attack, apart from the fact that there’s no rhyme or reason for it, is that it’s exactly like the attacks I experienced regularly in my teenage years. Today was just like one of those long, boring solitary days I used to spend here at home, with nothing interesting to do and nothing to look forward to. I really felt hopeless at one point today. The difference in my life now is that I have AA to go to, and thank God for my home group, because amidst all the horrid, sticky emotions this afternoon I knew I’d be able to go along to West London and share about it this evening.
When I got to the meeting I may as well have been a newcomer again. I set the literature out swiftly and quietly, before sitting in a chair and crossing my arms and legs, completely closing myself off to the world. I was determined to give off the impression that I was in a bad mood, and that I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I really wasn’t in the mood for being sociable and nicey-nice at that time. When the meeting started I could barely listen to anything that anyone said. I was desperate for it to get to the second half, when it would be the turn of non-newcomers to share. I knew in my heart that I needed to ‘grass myself up’, to talk about how I felt and let it go.
As soon as the secretary announced that all the newcomers in the room had shared, my hand shot up and I spoke at length about what I was going through. My time went very quickly, and before I knew it the secretary was raising the yellow card to signal that I’d had my three minutes. It didn’t feel like three minutes at all. I almost developed a resentment against him – part of me thought he must want to shut me up because I’m being too negative.
Feeding into my negative emotions was the fear that I must look really bad in front of all these people. Normally when I go there I can be quite cheerful and sociable with everyone – it’s the meeting I know the best, and I consider a lot of the regulars there friends now. Tonight I thought they would all be angry or scared of me because I’m in an unusually foul mood. And then in the end I realised I was making myself feel worse, so I stopped caring about what other people were thinking about me. I kind of knew that no one would be annoyed – they’d simply be concerned.
The point is that when I’m feeling that way, I have to share about it. I have to talk about it and let people know. I can’t possibly keep that anger and sadness in any more. Tonight I absolutely did the right thing by sharing, and I did feel better afterwards for it. People were made aware of my state, and they were very comforting and supportive to me. I went for coffee with the gang and spent an hour or so chatting, during which time we established that I was probably suffering from an emotional hangover, due to the fact that I’d just finished University. These people really care about me, and that’s wonderful. My sick head tells me that they don’t really care, they’re just pretending and laughing at me behind my back – but to be honest that nasty sick voice is so small now compared to a few months ago, it didn’t really bother me in the end.
I didn’t tell anyone about the anti-depressants; I don’t know if it’s relevant or not. I don’t know what I’m going to be like, if and when they start working. The first couple of days of taking them were great, and if it’s anything like that again, then I’ll be relieved. Right now, I’m feeling as bad as I’ve ever felt in my life, probably because my body is struggling to adjust to this new chemical. I’ve not heard anything from the consultant psychologist that my doctor referred me to yet. I’m absolutely 100% positive that I need to go back into therapy. I am still so grateful for the AA program, but for my current problems it’s just not enough. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow as my mood swings back the other way, but this is such a familiar pattern to me, and it’s not going away. I need to sort my head out properly, once and for all.