I was 13 years old when the depression that ultimately drove me into the program began. It wasn’t something that slowly crept up on me either. At least it didn’t appear that way. It was as if a tractor had run over me one day. I started asking myself what I call the “deep questions of life”, like “does God exist” and “why am I here.” For whatever reason, this triggered an incredible amount of fear and insecurity. Everything I’d been raised with up to that point, a strong Catholic upbringing and parents that loved me, no longer made me feel secure. It was as if a blanket had been ripped out from under me and I found myself floundering emotionally for many years from that point on.
I ultimately came into the program at the age of 25. By that time, I had tried numerous methods to try to get rid of this thing that was in control of my life. Good days for me were low key melancholy. Bad days (or weeks or months) were when I had bouts of severe depression. I had tried thinking my way out of it, then tried to forget about it. I purchased self-help books by the dozens, used meditation techniques, health treatments of various kinds, got involved in social causes, relationships, alcohol, drugs, encounter groups and sensitivity groups. Everything I tried worked for a while, but when the enthusiasm for whatever method disappeared or for whatever reason no longer carried me, or the people in my life went their own way, I was left once again with myself, feeling lonely, aimless, purposeless and ultimately despairing. In other words, I tried lots of things that gave me short term relief but none provided the long term solution to my living problems. I couldn’t relate to people well, disliked authority, was forever moody and full of self pity. There were times when I would have an urge to grab a knife and stab myself, not knowing where these feelings were coming from. I lived in fear for years of my own feelings, fearful that someday I may be driven to do something harmful to myself. By the time I reached the program, I was in a tremendous amount of pain and despair. The pain was unrelenting. I knew something had to change. Symptoms had become physical. My head and heart were racing constantly. I had diarrhea, sleeplessness, lack of concentration and intense mental pain. I could not see myself going on. My life had come to a grinding halt. This was the state I was in when I called the central office of Emotional Health Anonymous.
The greatest gift for me in the beginning was the identification with the other people. I couldn’t believe that there were so many others who had thought and felt the same things I had and who were able to say to me, “It’s going to be alright. Just keep coming back!” I did just that. Much has happened since that time. I got a tremendous amount of relief from those unrelenting emotions the first year. But my pride, being what it is, led me right out the door of the program at that time. I thought I could find something that would get me well quicker, but after being gone for about three years and experimenting with a litany of other methods, I returned to E.H.A. That was 19 years ago. I have been here ever since then.
Much has happened in the last 19 years. For one thing, I am no longer struggling with those deep questions and I have found their answers here in this program. When you get down to basics, it’s about growing up emotionally and spiritually. I am no longer “surviving” from crisis to crisis, which was so much what my life was about for so many years. Today, I’m living. The program has forced me to let go of the fantasy that somehow I’m supposed to get blissed out in life and float above life’s problems, with nothing affecting me or that I’m not supposed to have problems at all. That’s total nonsense. Today, with the people in my group and the tools I’ve learned in the program, I face life one day at a time with all of its ups and downs. I no longer have the depressions I struggled with for so many years. Through the 12 steps I was able to get down to the root of what was causing my unhappiness and by continuing to work my program I no longer have to suffer day in and day out with depression. I have wonderful friendships today as a result of coming back one day at a time. I have people in my life that know me very well and vice versa-all the flaws, weaknesses and strengths. Because of this program, I’ve come to realize and experience that genuine love and fellowship really is both the giving of it and the receiving of it.
I truly believe today that without this program I would have bounced in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life. With it, God has given me a second chance and in so doing, blessed me with the very things I tried so hard to create for myself and at which I never succeeded through my own unaided efforts. He has given me love, friendship, interests and the opportunity to participate in society as part of a solution and not part of its problems.