Cheerful holiday spirit can sometimes seem more like a dreadful ghost.
Depression can often settle in around the end of the year, while, simultaneously, the images of warmth and happiness constantly berate the senses.
It might seem easy or convenient to numb these feelings by self-medicating, but avoiding a downward spiral of dependence can yield a more positive outcome
Sobriety can seem like a far off option for people who self-medicate to cope with loneliness and depression, but we must consider it a possibility.
I set my foundation at an early age.
Middle school and high school are usually years of experimentation and growth for young people, but I wielded a persistent aversion to drugs and alcohol.
I didn’t want to conform to what the people around me were doing, and at that age, those people were trying drugs and testing their limits with them. I saw this as a trend, and I wanted to stand outside of what I viewed as conventional.
The music scene I was involved in as an teenager occupied a great deal of my time, and the individuals within it fostered outlooks like mine.
Because of this, most of my friends were either supportive of my stance, in line with it, or more or less unaffected. No one pressured me to do anything I didn’t want to do.
To this, I attribute much of my willingness to stay on track.
Initially, my sobriety was solely a way to validate my individuality, and little more than that.
My family has a history with addiction, and it certainly affected my view of drugs and alcohol, but moreso, my aversion was a way to stand out from the ones surrounding me.
What might set my experience aside from most other people at that age is that my lifestyle was not an exchange for academic success.
Looking back, I am astonished at my blatant lack of concern for academia and my future.
Failing grades every semester, disrupting class almost every day — these factors contributed to my departure from my regular high school to a continuation school.*
The new school was smaller, the kids were different and the conversation that seemed to be in a state of perpetuity among students was one centered around drugs. Who had them, where to get them, what they did to a person, etc.
Feelings of isolation and disconnect set in quickly, but these feelings catalyzed a fiery sense of commitment to the contrarian lifestyle I had been somewhat passively adhering to for years prior.
Sobriety soon became an identity for me. It became a culture I took part in celebrating. It became a conscious act of resistance against forces which would might have otherwise destroyed me.
Through my late teens and early twenties, sobriety had been something that fluctuated in importance.
But more recent years have brought a consistent flow of mental, emotional and financial turmoil.
Depression was the result of insecurity from an upbringing obstructed by constant failure. It all caught up to me within the last couple of years.
Through my struggle with mental health, I still never resorted to numbing my pain by abusing substances. The fact that I never picked up a bottle or used drugs to cope became something that resonated within me more than anything else regarding my emotional and mental growth.
Around the holidays, people like to take part in festivities by drinking alcohol with family and friends. This is time for people to relax and enjoy their lives.
Understanding autonomy from person to person is equally as important as knowing the benefits of sobriety for some, and it would be foolish to expect all people to be sober through times of trouble.
At the end of the day, we all want what is best for ourselves. Sometimes that means enjoying drinks and celebrating with loved ones, and sometimes it means finding ways around that to avoid long-term problems.
I resisted this particular tradition of celebration throughout my entire life, and I believe that, because of this, I am here to share my story.
Depression always finds a way to creep back up from time to time. But now I have been learning to own it and grow through it.
This time of year is difficult for people dealing with depression, but active sobriety could be the lifestyle that helps a person heal from it.