When I Hit Rock Bottom, I Quit Drinking

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January 22, 2018

My sister’s wedding was soon approaching, and I was the maid of honor. I helped her plan and celebrate with a bachelorette party that I did not attend because I was in the hospital for a psychotic break. I hosted her bridal shower, but it was a struggle with my continued mental health treatment, and so our mother helped me out. As the month of the wedding came, I noticed my depression associated with my schizoaffective disorder had been progressively worsening. The happiest time of my family’s life became overshadowed by a suicide attempt. And the most unhappy moment for me was waking up in the ICU at the hospital, realizing I was missing my sister’s wedding. Suicidal thoughts are frightening, and my depression mixed with abuse of alcohol led me to act on them. I am choosing to take this failed suicide attempt as a blessing for my life to be fully lived. Not just for my family and loved ones, but for me.

It wasn’t the first time that I had attempted suicide. Several years ago, I had taken a bottle of pills and ended up in the emergency room at the hospital overnight. My second attempt was so dangerous that I lost consciousness for a full day and woke up with a feeding tube down my throat. My mother and family friend were standing over me as the grogginess dissipated and they painfully pulled the tube from my throat. I thought it was Friday. It turned out to be Saturday: the day of my sister’s wedding. I was heartbroken when I realized I was missing it. And even more heartbroken when I realized what I had put my family through. My impulse was easier to act upon because I drank. It was a rock bottom. So I used it to fuel me, to motivate me to prevent myself from acting on a suicidal impulse to the best of my abilities. I quit drinking because I know I abuse alcohol. If I knew I could take preventative measures by cutting out booze, then that was what I had to do. And life began looking more positive.

Over two months into abstinence from alcohol, I have noticed a significant change in my mood for the better. My depressive moods come and go, but they do not last as long and I remind myself that they pass. I wake up feeling healthier, no longer hungover or guilty and shameful for abusing the booze. My medications continue to work better now that I am not mixing them with my drug of choice – alcohol. I have the energy to regularly exercise, and run several times a week. I’m losing weight in a healthy way, simply by cutting out alcohol. The best benefit of getting sober? I know that in my case, I can fight the impulse to hurt myself. I have more control knowing that I can wait out the depressive states. I take away some of the risk that I will act on a suicidal thought. And I’m happier in knowing that.

What I realize is that due to the seriousness of suicidal thoughts, I cannot say that quitting drugs and alcohol can magically “poof” away those awful feelings. But now I know that my antidepressant can work to its full therapeutic level, and I can remove some of the risks that it will not work as well in combating a depression. If there is a means to fighting it by putting a blocker on acting on those impulses, then I have to take it. Quitting drinking does not fix everything associated with my suicidal thoughts, but it does significantly reduce the risk of acting on those thoughts.

From the photos, I could see that my sister’s wedding was wonderful. I still wish that I could have been there. I am lucky that I am alive. I am taking my absence to fuel me in taking better care of myself. Now I can be there for her, and my family and loved ones. I often hear the analogy in therapy that we must put our oxygen masks on before putting them on our loved ones, meaning we cannot take care of our loved ones if we do not take care of ourselves first and foremost. Now I have put on my oxygen mask, and I can show up for my family and friends next time. It is not selfish to love yourself and take care of you. I have more capability to love others in doing so. And from a rock bottom, the only way out is up.

Joanna Fanuko

Joanna Fanuko

Joanna advocates for mental health and wellness through her writing and charitable work. She has a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing from Carnegie Mellon University. She lives with her energetic poodle who provides her with “pet therapy” in the form of unconditional love.

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