Sometimes, desperation can be a saving grace
Let me begin by saying that I am not one who has drifted away from Alcoholics Anonymous. I have a loving Higher Power and a sponsor, I have an active service position in my home group, I attend several meetings a week, I sponsor women, and I’ve been working the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous since the beginning to the best of my ability. That is why I was baffled when, at nineteen years sober, I became leveled by depression.
I had experienced bouts of depression since I was a young woman, but marriage, a family, and active drinking took the edge off until I got to AA. Then, from March 2003 to March 2004, my mother died, my two twelve-year-old dogs died, I had an accident with my horse, and I experienced heart problems. By October, I had hit a dark bottom, with all the symptoms of depression: fatigue, anger, acute sadness, sleep problems, and a sense of hopelessness. I was losing interest in the things I loved doing.
I kept thinking, If I just work the Steps deeper, if I do more service, if I talk about it in meetings, pray more, exercise more, eat right, I’ll be okay. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
My sponsor had become very busy in her own life and was pretty much inaccessible at a time I was desperate. Then I remembered that the Big Book says we have to place our dependence on God, not people, and I heard in meetings “in our desperation is God’s opportunity.” Finally, one morning I got on my knees and surrendered to God, simply saying, “God, I am powerless over this illness, please send help.” The next day, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a former sponsor who had moved out of state. I hadn’t intended to resume our relationship, but she knew me better than anyone else, so I wrote back telling her I was having a difficult time.
As she usually did, she asked me to do a Fourth Step, which I e-mailed to her. My depression must have been pretty obvious because she called me at 3:00 A.M. to see if I was okay. She suggested very strongly that I contact a doctor I knew through AA; he in turn directed me to another doctor in AA who was knowledgeable about depression. Within forty-eight hours, I was sitting in her office, pouring out my story.
I’m so grateful to our Big Book and the insights it shares with respect to seeking outside professional help. I was referred to a psychiatrist for proper diagnosis. I would like to say that I was given a magic pill to solve my ills, but God has other ideas. I had adverse reactions to my initial treatment, but meanwhile I reached out to some men and women I had met in an old-timers’ meeting. They were able to share their experience, strength, and hope about how some of them had dealt with depression in long-term sobriety. These men and women lifted me up and helped me see how God is carrying me right now. I have been given hope, love, and acceptance beyond my wildest dreams.
One day, I was having a horrible reaction to medication and I didn’t get a chance to share during the meeting. One of the members took a group conscience vote to extend the meeting so that I could get their help. Not one person left. They practiced what the Big Book says about giving our brother or sister alcoholics first aid. What an example of the power of the AA program. It was an incredible example of love.
The answers aren’t yet clear how I will be treated for my second illness, but my hope today is that I will recover, and what once seemed like a dark hole will be another opportunity to trust in God’s outcome. I ask God, “What do you want me to learn from the depression?” because I know from my journey in sobriety that God always takes what I perceive as a problem and brings some good out of it, especially if it will help another suffering alcoholic. I also know I have to trust that the gifts will be given and the lessons learned on God’s timetable, not mine.
It’s funny how life is lived forward–and understood backward.