Depression and Alcohol Abuse
By Anonymous

I am a 50 year old woman who has had recurrent bouts of depression ever since experiencing a postpartum depression following the birth of my wonderful daughter in 1987.

I tried several antidepressants, but they were not particularly effective and I did not like the side effects.  I also tried “talk therapy,” which I found to be worse than useless, as it seemed to encourage ruminating on my problems - which was one of the faulty cognitive habits that created my depressive thoughts in the first place.

I began self-medicating with alcohol, which no doubt exacerbated my depression. Although I loathed my abuse of alcohol, and recognized that it was in fact worsening my depression, it was the only thing that seemed capable of numbing my almost constant emotional pain.

Three years ago, after going through a divorce and a series of other major life changes, my episodes of depression became more severe and frequent and my use of alcohol increased as well. Although I tried many times to stop drinking, I always returned to my old habits within weeks. I felt trapped in a vicious cycle of depression and alcohol dependence. I was desperate to stop drinking, but was terrified that without it my depression would reach the point of no return. At the time, I was completely caught up in suicidal thoughts - and in fact spent the majority of my work days surfing the Web in search of a painless, fast and effective method of committing suicide.

Finally, at the urging of my brother, I began smoking marijuana instead of drinking. I viewed it as a program of "harm reduction" - a way to continue self-medicating against my depressive and suicidal thoughts while avoiding the horrible effects alcohol was having on my body and mind.

Within about two weeks of taking up marijuana, I was able to reduce my drinking to a "normal" level - having perhaps one to three drinks per week, always in social settings (instead of drinking alone and excessively).  Once I had my drinking under control, I was able to begin aggressively addressing my depression.

One or two hits of marijuana per day relaxed my anxiety and put me in a somewhat "detached" state in which I was able to observe my thoughts without becoming caught up in them. From this perspective, I was able to recognize that many lifelong habitual thought patterns were neither healthy nor rational and I began to work on changing them. I undertook an intensive program of self-directed therapy that included cognitive/behavioural changes, meditation, yoga, exercise and reading on a wide variety of spiritual and philosophical practices including Buddhist and Gnostic teachings.

Now, just eight months after I first began self-medicating with marijuana, I feel as though I have my life back. I am no longer depressed, I am able to immerse myself in my work as a visual artist, my relationships are much happier, and I am - for the first time in my adult life- at peace with myself and the world.

I strongly believe that had I not discovered the healing properties of this natural, relatively side-effect-free plant when I did, I would not be alive today.

I do not know if anyone is doing studies on using marijuana to wean people off alcohol, but I hope it is something medical researchers will investigate. Alcohol abuse and depression seem to go hand in hand, and marijuana has provided me with an effective means to treat both.

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