Melanie Stritch

#PowerTo Fight The Stigma

2 years sober 

I am not just a recovering alcoholic – I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a soccer coach, a first-time college student. I am also living proof that there is a solution to addiction and mental health issues and this measure will mean more solutions for more people in our community.

Addiction in my family goes back as far as mental illness. You would have thought I would have been more cautious about drinking considering my Mom was a addictions counselor and my Dad a long term member of AA. My Mom joined Al Anon for support and I was involved in Alateen because my Dad was active in AA. The knowledge I had about this disease came at a very early age but that didn’t stop me.

I was born into an alcoholic family – alcoholism went back to great-grandparents on dad’s side. Mental illness likely did too. But when you are self-medicating, the mental health issues are harder to diagnose. For me, that first drink felt like heaven. My blood got warm, my body got warm and I felt less stress.

Since my dad’s behavior was different than mine it was easy to not recognize my own behavior as problematic, even though I started using in 8th grade. Once I felt the relief that drugs and alcohol provided, I went down a winding path that was wrought with pitfalls – and I succumbed to those repeatedly.

I had some bouts of sobriety, including while I was pregnant with my son. But I would go back to drinking when my son was with his father or I otherwise did not have parenting responsibilities. My dad got sober and has been sober throughout my son’s life and yet I would still drink when he was visiting and caring for my son.

Eventually it was too much. I knew I needed help. Because I needed to care for my son, the only option for me was Alcoholics Anonymous and I have been sober for two years. But it is more than just being sober. I have always had anxiety and depression and I am now addressing those issues too.

Mental illness and substance abuse goes hand-in-hand – it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. I never wanted to take medication while I was drinking because it was a waste of money. My medication was alcohol.

Even now that I am sober, the stigma of being an addict is hard to overcome. But  I am sober for me – not for others.

Caring 4 Denver will open the doors to people in our community. With mental health and substance abuse you need to act fast when someone is seeking help or is in crisis. This measure will open doors and reduce the stress on emergency rooms. It will also help all of us have a more open and honest conversation about mental illness and substance abuse.

When someone has a substance abuse issue or mental health issue and is ready to deal with it, we have to be ready to help. There IS a solution. Caring 4 Denver measure will mean more solutions for more people.

Photo credit; Ryan Landell

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