Depression – The Final Addiction
By Jonathan Starr
Written May, 2008
Authors note: This article will be more meaningful if you’ve read Suicide Is Not an Option first.
When I began writing the article, Suicide Is Not an Option, I was surprised that what manifested in front of me on paper went back to 1979 and was the story of my creation of sobriety from a severe addiction to alcohol and cocaine in this lifetime. After writing that, which became Part 1 of the article, the rest of my story as I was experiencing it in 2005, unfolded into Parts 2 and 3, and by then I understood why Part 1 appeared when it did. The suicidal ideation that had plagued me most of my life was similar to an addiction. It was a family pattern that had been passed on from my grandfather (who committed suicide) to my father (who attempted suicide) to me (who also attempted suicide), and probably existed in the family lineage before that. The suicide trigger in that lineage is loss of honor, loss of job/business, loss of manhood…triggering the belief that I no longer have a right to be. Now I’m confronting my final addiction: Depression… and it’s a good thing I cleared suicide first or I would not have made it through this experience at all!
This journey started July 30, 2007 which was precisely 28 years and one day from my original sobriety date, although I don’t remember noticing that then. I was so full of anxiety verging on panic at the time that it was all I could do to handle what was in front of me at the moment. I had realized at the end of nine years together, that the work I had been doing with my wife, Jelaila, was coming to an end. Our final task was to publish The Mission Remembered and we had accomplished that. We were complete. I could really feel that awareness of completion at the final workshop we did together at the end of 2006. It was very difficult for me to be in the workshop and it was very difficult to contribute. The sadness and depression was at times overwhelming. This was not at all the way I had imagined things would work out if we did our job well, and I did believe that we had done our job well. But I also felt that probably, while I was confident in what we had done together, I had failed in some deep and serious way on a personal level and now I was stuck in a deep spiral of failure/depression… that I had gone too far down and now I couldn’t get out. In addition, the idea that a new phase was beginning didn’t really occur to either one of us. It seemed much more negative at the time.
When did I know what to do? When the next workshop was scheduled, having had such a difficult time at the last workshop, I decided to go visit my friends in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mark and Nancy Joy Heffron have a large beautiful home on 40 wooded acres with a stream. I’ve always loved visiting there, but this time it was different. The beauty of everything seemed accelerated, almost surrealistic… it felt like I was in heaven! I knew at the time that this had meaning for me, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant then. When I returned to my home from my vacation with Mark and Nancy, I returned to a very angry wife who felt she was tired of doing it all and being married to someone in so much pain. She actually, I’m embarrassed to say, asked for a divorce! I couldn’t believe things could get worse, but they had. It was either at that moment or shortly thereafter that I knew what the meaning of my “heaven” experience in Cedar Rapids was. My wife was quick to agree… a door was opening, would I have the courage to walk through it? Did I have a choice?
Once I decided that, yes, I would take this next step, the two of us formed a team committed to helping each other through the transition. Since we were splitting a single household up, some shopping was necessary. The very first day we went out I found just the bed I wanted. That afternoon we stopped by a car dealer (we only had one car since we worked from home and didn’t need two) and I ended up buying the very first car I looked at… usually a no no, of course. The car was perfect and Jelaila was there to encourage buying a newer model than I had originally planned to give to myself. This is something we tend to do for each other – encourage the other to stretch that little extra bit and get what you really want. So there I had it… my two biggest purchases handled the first day out; talk about a flow! I next began the overwhelming task of packing… something I’ve always hated doing. But, fortunately for me, my wife is a master packer having moved many times as a child. As I packed, I made notes of items I needed that she was keeping and that I would need, as we would make several shopping trips together helping each other find and purchase what we needed to live separately.
Physically, things were more challenging. My body felt exhausted with chronic fatigue, and my left side struggled to function through the minor paralysis symptoms from what was apparently a small stroke. I didn’t really believe I would be able to physically make this move. I had even stopped believing that I could make it on my own. While I was struggling with quite a bit of depression when I met Jelaila, I was physically strong and healthy and felt I could do anything that I really wanted to do. What a change! I had deteriorated into what felt like a withered, shaky, weak old man. This state of mind required that I stay very much in the moment, focusing only on what was in front of me, one day at a time. This was a difficult transition for Jelaila as well, as she needed to relearn and remember all the details of the business for which I was responsible, so working as a team really worked out well. Good thing we had the Keys of Compassion embedded in our consciousness, because we used these principles along with our love for one another on a daily basis. For indeed , love is not enough when going through painful transitions/situations. We had become adept at constantly looking at our projections as mirrors, looking for the lesson, and taking responsibility. This allowed us to nurture ourselves with the love that we have for each other while, at the same time, supporting each other through this difficult time. I remember joking with Jelaila while walking through a furniture store looking for her new sofa. “I wonder how many couples who are getting divorced shop for new furniture together?!” We both laughed merrily as I helped her to pick out a color and style from the selections before us.
In the meantime, I needed to find a place to live in Cedar Rapids. I knew what I wanted: a cozy two bedroom house on a quiet street with a fenced backyard so our Beagels, Gracie and Lucy, could visit. Nancy had given me a friend’s daughter’s name who worked for a property management company. I called her up and she asked, “What are you looking for?” I told her about the house I had in mind. “I really don’t have many houses, we have mostly apartments and condominiums… oh, look,” she exclaimed. “Here’s a house we just got yesterday; it’s near the college in a quiet neighborhood. I think it’s just what you want.” I knew at that very moment that it was, and I had only to go through the procedure of going to look at it for it to be so. I drove to Cedar Rapids the next week, and, surprise, it was perfect. It’s the only place I even looked at… just like the car! Everything was falling together beautifully, and yet terror still gripped my heart. I knew from past experience that the only thing to do with fear was to lean into it, move toward it and experience it. I was very clear that that was what I was doing, even as I felt the unreasonable terror that I could not possibly actually do this.
Next, I interviewed movers and, of course, the first one I was drawn to turned out to be the best choi