My "medicine cabinet" contains prescription meds, cycling, therapy, my wife and family and friends, Go4Graham, pilates/yoga, meditation, reading, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, tea, and continual-continual-continual conversations in my head when my negative self talk gets too loud.
Hi, my name is Jessica and I'm an alcoholic. I'm also multi-diagnosed and a survivor of suicide loss. Some of the mental health struggles I face are depression, anxiety, addiction, ADHD, PTSD, Post-Concussion Syndrome, and a few more. You may be wondering, how does someone with so many diagnoses, who is a sober addict, and lost loved ones to depression by suicide get by in life - and even live to tell their story so freely? My answer is simply this: exercise, a community, therapy, and being open - to anything that came my way.
My official sobriety began on January 22nd, 2018. It was my third or fourth attempt at becoming sober, and far easier than I ever thought it would be. Sobriety for me wasn't like what I saw in movies or TV shows. I never hit rock bottom, and don't really care for that phrase, as I believe it only provides more excuses and stalling for those who need to be sober, to push back their sobriety dedication. You don't have to hit rock bottom to become sober. I had simply just had enough. I had enough with feeling sick all of the time, making embarrassing decisions I'd later regret, feeling depressed all of the time and not having the capacity to understand why, contemplating and almost attempting suicide, feeling anxious and then more anxious when hungover, and mostly I had enough of completely unraveling myself to the point where I didn't know who I was or how I was going to stay alive at the rate I was going.
I woke up that morning, looked at myself in the mirror, and told myself - enough. And then I immediately searched for and found my sobriety community. I prefer a specific sobriety group and am happy to share their practices with anyone who wishes to know more. I went to their weekly meetings, journaled, homeworked, got a therapist, and did the work. What helped me the most through all of this, however, was being vulnerable and open about myself and my journey. Community and therapy can only be as helpful as what you contribute and put into them. I also started taking my coach far more seriously than I had before. I was no longer hungover and was able to fully devote myself to my training. I ended up having the best race seasons I've ever had - and more importantly found my confidence and some new strengths I never knew existed. My cycling community and teammates became my family, and I realized the more I moved my body - the more my heart and mind became stronger.
My journey with mental health reaches back into my junior high years. I started seeing therapists at a young age for various reasons, and have continued to see them ever since. I've also been medicated for quite some time as well. Just like anything new, I tried certain meds and some worked while others did not - the same goes for my therapists. I'm grateful to have found the best therapist for me through Boost Counseling, which was recommended to me by Go4Graham. I also have a wonderful psychiatrist who works with me on finding the best meds for me. Something I recently learned through my therapist and psychiatrist, is that meds help, but therapy and self care complete the process. My "medicine cabinet" contains prescription meds, cycling, therapy, my wife and family and friends, Go4Graham, pilates/yoga, meditation, reading, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, tea, and continual-continual-continual conversations in my head when my negative self talk gets too loud.
My relationship with Go4Graham is deep rooted and something I sometimes can't find words to describe when I look back at how we all met. Last year, I started seeing these really cool looking purple kits every time I rode up Lookout in Golden. At that time, my younger brother Josh was fighting hard against depression and anxiety, and had also attempted suicide. Although we were 6 years apart, our relationship seemed as if we had been best friends since birth. We were connected in the way close siblings are connected, a bond that was never broken, and an unspoken love that reached to the moon and back. So his time of suffering was also my time of suffering, anything he felt, I felt. I thought the name Go4Graham was really neat and wondered if it was about someone who went through a difficult time and thus an organization was built around them. After immediately looking at the G4G website once I got home, I realized I was right - and had so much more to learn about this organization. I remember clicking every tab possible to learn as much as I could about Graham and Will and the entire Stingley family. I knew this was the team for me. I needed a megaphone to make my voice heard, and G4G was it.
I later decided to become an Ambassador and ordered a new kit to wear when I rode. On May 27th, the kit arrived and I was so excited that I put it on and got ready for a ride in between work meetings. That morning was really strange for me for some reason and I couldn't understand why. My heart felt like it was being pulled out of my chest, I couldn't concentrate on anything, I was extremely worried but didn't know what I was worried about. So I figured a ride with my new kit would surely help. I clipped in and was about to take off from my driveway when my mom called me. She usually texts during the day so I answered just in case and told her I was about to ride, if I could call her back. A few seconds of silence and I heard her crying. Her next words I would never forget: "He's gone. Josh is gone. He's dead." I then barely unclipped and fell onto the driveway, weeping and crying at 11am, not even remembering where I was at that point, not wanting to believe what I had just heard. My brother, my best friend, my person, had just died by suicide. Everything after that was a blur.
My wife and I drove back to St. Louis where my family was living, where Josh was living, and I immediately knew I HAD to find a therapist. My mental health and sobriety, my chances for surviving, my ability to be a great wife, and just get through this, were all at risk if I didn't seek professional help. This is where the G4G team and I really built our relationship. While on the drive back to St. Louis, I reached out for any help or advice G4G could offer, and instead was set up with Boost Counseling which has been everything and more than what I thought I could get out of therapy. The G4G team continually checked in on me, helped me set up a donation service in honor of Josh, and took me in with an open arms and have never let go of me since. Because of what G4G believes in and promotes, I am continually reminded, day after day after day, to move my body when I am struggling. I am continually reminded that we all suffer, we are all going through something, and that movement heals. Community heals. My grief process has been ugly, messy, full of laughs that turn into complete breakdowns, and even thoughts on suicide myself. But I am here now, and I promise you that it gets better. I have the tools I need in my toolbox, and will share them with anyone else who needs them in order to be here also.
I am extremely grateful that Go4Graham exists, and exists so powerfully and influentially. I have found my community, my megaphone, my mission, and my reassurance that it's ok to not be ok. I am proud to be a Go4Graham Ambassador and look forward to seeing where my journey continues. Please reach out to me if you'd ever like to connect on anything I shared here. Thank you for reading my story. It always gets better. You are worth it - you are loved - and you matter. #shredthestigma