My Black Dog is on a leash. However, the leash has a long lead, and I am eternally getting tangled in it.
Lately I have been contemplating becoming an alcoholic. I know that sounds strange. After all, no one wants to be an alcoholic. And while I am not making light of alcoholism, I feel my life would be considerably better if I was not a depressive but instead an alcoholic.
As I said, I do not wish to minimize the serious damage that alcoholism can do to people and to their families, but hear me out on this. First, if I was an alcoholic, I could spend most of my time alone in a small room with a bottle of whiskey. The only lifestyle change required would be the addition of the whiskey. As an alcoholic, I would see more “positive” representations of “me” in popular culture. On TV and in movies, alcoholics do terrible things: they hurt and sometimes kill people. However, while the alcohol may have fueled their actions, at no time did they commit crimes because they were an alcoholic. On the other hand, how many perps, unsubs, and criminals committed horrible, heinous acts precisely because they were mentally ill?
If I was an alcoholic I would not be entirely to blame for my disease. Yes, there still is a certain degree of victim blaming in alcoholism, but we understand that genetics and brain chemistry play a role in addiction. While not blameless, the alcoholic is neither totally responsible for their addiction; whereas, I am the only one to blame for my being depressed. I just need to snap out of it or pray more or think happy thoughts. My chronic-severe depression cannot be a result of a genetic predisposition or brain chemistry. I am totally in charge of my emotions and feelings, and if I let someone or something affect me negatively, well, that’s on me.
If I was an alcoholic there are places I could go for treatment. Many of these facilities have amenities such as workout rooms, massage therapy, and gourmet kitchens. I would be able to stroll the grounds or sit out in the sun. Most importantly, I could leave any time I wanted.
Behavioral Health Units, on the other hand, are made of concrete walls of institutional beige and have bars on the windows. There may be integrated health services somewhere else in the hospital, but I cannot leave the BHU. No strolling the grounds or sitting outside. And, no going home until the doctors say so.
If I was an alcoholic, there is the possibility I could drink myself to death. My family would be devastated, my friends would miss me, but there would be no moral outrage over my death. No one would question if allowing my disease to make the decision to end my life was the right or ethical thing to do or if I can be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
If I was an alcoholic I could attain sobriety. I would always be an alcoholic, but I could not only achieve a state of sobriety but also celebrate my continued sobriety daily, monthly, and annually. With my sponsor, support group, family, and friends cheering me on, I would even receive tokens for each sober milestone reached.
For a depressive, there is no analogous, alternative state such as sobriety for the depressive as there is for the alcoholic. Happy is not the opposite of depression. I can never be “depression free.” There is no Depressives Anonymous to help me, and there is no long-term recovery. I can only count the time I am not depressed a few hours each day.
Alcoholism is a horrible, devastating disease. It ruins careers, destroys families, and takes lives. However, in the social hierarchy of victimhood, there is much more compassion and support for the alcoholic than for the depressive. Trading my depression for alcoholism is not based on a desire to trade one set of symptoms for another, but rather a desire to not have to explain to people that I cannot simply think my way out of depression. I would like to trade one large stigma for a slightly smaller one. I would like to trade brief respites of lucidity for recovery. If society dealt with depression as it does with alcoholism, I’d drink to that!