Staying Sober While Experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder



"What you resist, persists." - Carl Jung


I recently celebrated my six-month soberversary. Some of it has been smooth sailing and other times rough waters. I suppose that is to be expected, as that is an accurate description of life overall. However, these last few days were extra difficult.


Every winter I start to feel down. Years ago, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It usually strikes in late November/early December a few weeks after the time changes weeks and the days become shorter and shorter. I thought that my sobriety would make this year different, but unfortunately that is not the case.


Along with my dampened mood and I believe mostly because of it, I suffer from strong cravings for alcohol. I swear that while out walking my dog yesterday I could actually smell a Bass Ale. Normally I can make my way through a craving, meeting it head on until it passes. However, I am finding it a little more difficult to welcome the craving and sit with the feelings until they pass - because they are not passing.


After countless hours on my therapist’s couch with my eyes closed, focusing on my feelings and waiting for them to tell me what they are and where they are coming from, I have become fairly adept at identifying the source of the feelings and moving on. But what happens when you identify the feelings underneath and the discomfort persists? I know what is wrong with me. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain and I don’t know that any amount of focusing on the impending doom of another SAD winter will cure that.


I feel hopeless, as if no amount of running, eating healthy, getting enough rest, using my light box or taking vitamin D is going to take away my winter blues. Every year I fight it and every year I fail in the fight. All of those other years I doused the depression with an additional depressant – my tried and true friend for most of my life – alcohol.


My addicted brain screams that a drink will help me feel better. After all, don’t I want a little relief from this misery? C’mon, just start with a beer. I seriously laughed out loud when my brain said that – just START with one? That was the reason I quit drinking. I never thought of having just one - one was only the start.


And there we have it. The reasonable side of my brain come out and said no, drinking is not the answer, it never was and therefore it never will be. It was the pure definition of stupidity.


Instead the answer is to remember that everything in life constantly changes, nothing is permanent and this state of being will not last forever. I will do my best to exist with it and I will become stronger as a result. In the spring, I can be proud – and still sober.

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