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Conquering Alcoholism and Hopelessness And Helping Others Do the Same

“I used alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, boredom–essentially any negative feeling that I didn’t want to experience. I was also using it to try to generate positive feelings–to celebrate, to have fun, to socialize. Turning to alcohol for so many different reasons made it hard to control. I started by setting rules for myself, like only drinking on the weekends and only after a certain hour. But I consistently broke those rules, so they kept getting looser and looser.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Marci Rossi and I am a certified Success Coach who helps people change their relationship with alcohol. I’m back in the States after spending 5 years abroad in Switzerland (which was incredible!), and now living back in the Dallas area.

Because my business allows me to work remotely, I get to spend my days with my 2 fur babies, Moose and Pepper, as well as my incredible husband who also works from home. When I’m not working, you can usually find me on the couch with a book.

Before I switched careers to what I am doing now, I had been working in public libraries for the previous 5 years, so I always have a large stack of library books on my nightstand.

I also love to travel, especially to places with incredible food. In fact, I am currently planning a trip to celebrate our ten-year anniversary coming up in April 🙂

Marci Rossi 1

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

The first time I ever experienced depression, I was 19 years old and studying abroad in Australia. Perhaps it was being so far away from my family and friends, or perhaps just a bit of culture shock, but soon into my semester there, I found myself miserable and struggling to get out of bed.

To cope with this sadness, I drank. A lot. In fact, I had a box of wine under the desk in my room at all times, and if I wasn’t in class or putting on a happy face and going out with my roommates, I was in my room drinking and binging Netflix.

Once I was back in the States, I was able to visit my regular doctor and get on antidepressants. There was a lot of trial and error involved here; it took me about a decade to find one that didn’t cause physical side effects that were almost as bad as the depression symptoms.

Some tore up my stomach, one caused such bad and incurable heartburn that I couldn’t sleep, and another had me bursting out in tears in the middle of the work day for no reason.

Because the side effects were so strong, I cycled on and off antidepressants over the years. Eventually, my depression would start to subside and I would quit taking them, and then a few years later it would return, typically alongside a major life change.

Since that first bout of depression, I have had 3 more major episodes over the last decade, one of which landed me in a hospital for a month. Each time, I turned to alcohol to handle the feelings of hopelessness and found myself ultimately drinking every day just to cope.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I don’t think everyone experiences depression in exactly the same way, but for me, essentially I felt like life was pointless. I wasn’t happy and couldn’t think of anything that would actually make me feel joy.

I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t really see the point of going on, but just kept going through the motions anyway. I certainly wasn’t living for myself, I just didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to die, but just didn’t want to exist.

Alongside my depression also came terrible anxiety. At times it would get so bad that I couldn’t check emails or answer the phone–I’d have to get my husband to read the emails or listen to the voicemails first to make sure it wasn’t anything bad (and of course it almost never was, but that didn’t stop me from feeling overwhelmed at the thought of them). Everything in life just felt unmanageable, but besides my husband, I don’t think anyone noticed.

Aside from my hospitalization, I never let my depression symptoms interfere with doing what I “should” do. I kept going to class or work, finished all of my assignments, and pasted on a smile, waiting until I got home to climb into bed or onto the couch with a drink.

Even though I had gone through this several times before and come out the other side, it always felt like these feelings would never end. I think that’s the hardest part of depression–the voice in our heads lying to us that nothing will help or that it’ll never get better prevents us from actually getting help.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I had read the studies that said alcohol can worsen depression symptoms, but I still couldn’t stop turning to it to numb the pain. Alcohol helped make the time go by faster, which was all I wanted–to get through that day, and then through the next, etc.

Eventually, I found an antidepressant that I found tolerable, and very slowly my symptoms started to improve and I would return to drinking like “normal”, which meant mainly on weekends rather than every day.

But I think turning to alcohol so frequently to self-medicate started to create a dependence. Even when I wasn’t depressed, I started drinking more and more.

I used alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, boredom–essentially any negative feeling that I didn’t want to experience. I was also using it to try to generate positive feelings–to celebrate, to have fun, to socialize.

Turning to alcohol for so many different reasons made it hard to control. I started by setting rules for myself, like only drinking on the weekends and only after a certain hour. But I consistently broke those rules, so they kept getting looser and looser.

Eventually, I tried to do Dry January and ended up drinking 3 times, but I made excuses for each one as to why it was “unavoidable”, such as having a particularly hard day at work.

I did Dry January several more times, and only once was I able to go the entire month without drinking, but I thought about alcohol the entire time and was counting down the days.

This made it quite clear to me that my go-to antidepressant (a stiff drink) had now turned into another mental health issue. I decided then that I needed to get help for my drinking, so I signed up for a group coaching program.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I really hated the thought of being on meds forever; I don’t think there is a medicine out there that doesn’t solve one problem only to create another. So as soon as I was stable enough, I would quit taking them.

What I really wanted was a natural approach. I love to learn and I am an infinitely curious person, so I dove into the research and saw a study that showed that exercise is 1.5x more effective at reducing depression symptoms than medication or therapy.

I am not someone who naturally gravitates toward exercise–when I do, it’s not because I enjoy it, it’s because I know I “should”. And when this is combined with the low energy and motivation that came with depression, it felt nearly impossible to pick myself up and go for a walk.

So I needed something to give me enough energy and motivation to get to the point where I could incorporate regular exercise. This has always meant getting back on antidepressants, and occasionally throwing in some weekly therapy too. However, this last time was different.

I quit drinking on January 1, 2023 with the help of a coaching program, but in early August my depression hit. I spent two days on my living room couch in my pajamas drinking and watching Netflix.

I had learned so much in that group coaching program about the negative effects of alcohol, but this had always been my go-to when depression struck.

The thing is, I knew intellectually that it wouldn’t help, but I needed to really see for myself. By the third day, it was clear that this wasn’t making me feel any better whatsoever.

So I got up, put on my tennis shoes (and put on some real clothes) and went for a walk. I did this day after day and my depression symptoms were practically gone within a week without the need for meds.

I have never been able to turn my depression around that quickly–-my episodes normally lasted at least 3 months if not more, and here I was starting to make positive changes after 3 days! I am certain that this never would have happened if I had still been drinking.

Quitting drinking has had such powerful and positive ripple effects throughout my life, including some unexpected ones like helping me to recover from a depressive episode at record speed, so this is always my first recommendation to someone suffering from depression.

I realize it is easier said than done, and it certainly was for me, which is why I needed support to quit. Fortunately, there are a lot of different options out there to help you, from free “quit lit” books from the library or 12-step groups to paid programs, so there is likely a good fit for you.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

It was quite clear to my husband when I was struggling for those later episodes, but for the first 2 or 3, I was living alone, and doing my best to hide my struggles during the day. This almost made it easier to drink as much as I wanted without judgment (unless of course, my dog had an opinion on the matter).

Once I moved in with my husband, I became aware that someone else would notice how much I was drinking to cope, and I felt so ashamed, so I hid it, or at least tried my best to.

I would top off my sparkling water cans with vodka, or hide empty liquor bottles in my dresser so that my husband wouldn’t see how much I was drinking. It felt like if I could keep it from him, I could avoid having to face this issue myself.

Since becoming a coach, I now speak openly about my struggles. I think it’s important to know that we aren’t alone in this. There is so much shame and stigma around both drinking and mental health issues, and stigma prevents us from seeking the support we need.

I don’t know of anyone who wishes they could be labeled an “alcoholic” (a word I actually don’t use in practice) or “mentally ill”. Words like these open us up to judgment and pity, so many of us avoid taking a hard look at our behaviors in fear of having such labels applied to us.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

My number one piece of advice if you are suffering from depression and using alcohol to self-medicate is to quit drinking or find some support to help you quit. Alcohol causes depressive episodes and worsens the symptoms, so instead of helping us avoid the pain, it’s keeping us trapped in it.

Although I have quit drinking, I don’t believe I am now immune to depression–I saw just last year that even after more than 6 months without a drop of alcohol, depression could rear its ugly head.

However, without alcohol, I am better able to get ahead of the symptoms and start taking proactive steps (or even literal steps in the case of exercise!) to prevent it from worsening. I also take heart that I am not adding fuel to the fire.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

I share daily tips on Instagram and you can visit my website to learn more about what I do and how I might be able to help.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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