People like to judge those of us with addictions and/or mental illnesses. They love to question if what we claim to have is even real. These people act as if they are somehow immune or superior because they simply don’t accept that these illnesses exist. Some choose to blame it on sin or some spiritual depravity. Others blame it on a lack of self-discipline and self-reliance.

Then there are the ones who act as if working hard and being a stone hearted human is how you avoid this. People will call us weak, self victimizes, whiners, complainers and pussies. We lose friends because we often hide, go silent, have negative thoughts or opinions and lose interest in doing things. We are often ridiculed for being pessimistic, downward, contrarian, hopeless and most all, not fun.

I can honestly say, I’ve lost friends because of my depression, they just don’t want to be around it. It’s just reality. People say “get help!” which I have, I was on meds for years, in therapy, I go 12 step programs and have sought out drug treatment. The mental health care available is limited and without insurance it’s very hard and expensive to receive quality or consistent care.

For me life is very difficult. I’ve been battling depression, anxiety and addiction for over 20 years. Much of my addiction was hidden during this time because, that’s what addicts do and when your doing illegal drugs and abusing medications, you don’t advertise, especially to loved ones. So I suffered a lot on my own and in shadows cuz I couldn’t figure a way out. I was functioning and around people, I told lies and made excuses but I was sinking, I knew that, I wanted to die.

With alcohol it was easier because it’s acceptable to be an alcoholic and joke about it. You can drink like an asshole, act like an asshole and no one cares. You’ll have friends to laugh with you and do the same or worse. So amidst the crowds of bar flys I could blend in. Drinking was never fun for me, I hate the taste of alcohol, I drank to function socially and to numb the pain in my body and my head. Then I realized I had that thing, that dreaded disease, the fucking big A. I was an alcoholic. My thinking for a longtime was “I am not doing drugs, I’m okay with drinking” which was an addict mentality.

Add to this my ongoing mental illness. Having been diagnosed Bi-Polar in my early 20s and again in my 30s by different doctors I was always on some medication or just self medications, or both. Then in my late 30s I was finally told by a therapist I wasn’t bi-polar, I had PTSD, related to a lot of trauma I experienced as a kid and adolescent, and on into my adulthood.

I sought for many years spiritual help. I studied texts and prayed and became a minister who spoke all over the country to thousands of people. I had opportunities to work in music with some of the best up and coming acts, as well as write reviews, interviews and articles with major artists. None of this really made me feel better or worthwhile, I was foggy and numb. The god thing was an escape at times but ultimately just a obsessive curiosity in the end, I never could fully believe it, I just had hope for awhile that it was real.

I got married to a great human being and she tried to support me through my struggles. She knew little about my addictions but was fully aware of my mental illness, in the end it was so much to handle and her own struggles in the dark eventually broke our bond and we parted.

Over the past 20-25 years I’ve been suicidal, most definitely. It’s almost a common thought for me, in the back of my mind since about the 8th grade. From the bullying I received, to just the despair I felt. Drugs and booze were the only things that helped ease the pain but my primary focus was not loving too long. I would think about ways to die but mostly just hoped for the end. I’d often say “I’m not suicidal, I just don’t want to live anymore” I tried a few times but I never went through with any plans to end my life. I just would stand at an intersection and think “I could just step off into traffic” or cross a bridge and think. “I could jump?” and the reason I don’t own firearms? Well unless your an idiot, you’ll know that answer?

So anyway, as I ramble through this piece. I’m a person suffering from an illness or maybe illnesses of my mind. I’m mentally ill. I’m also an addict/alcoholic who up until June 6th, 2012, was using drugs and alcohol to numb and slowly kill myself.

I’m not happy, I’ve rarely been happy, I’m not happy now. As a matter of fact, getting sober opened a ton of old wounds that I had blocked out. Also once I was sober I lost my faith in God, and I am now agnostic. My marriage ended in 2015 and with it my time in Harrisburg PA where I built most of my adult relationships. Most of those now are just limited to social media now. I’m back in Cleveland where I began, full circle but this town holds a lot of bad memories and fueled my desire to travel.

I have a new relationship, with a woman who is a recovering addict/alcoholic and dealing with her own mental health issues. Recently we went through a very hard patch after we moved in together, as she had a very scary depression, hospitalization, plus surgery and then ECT treatments. She has been recovering and returning to herself more and more but I was very weighed down carrying the bulk of our home, bills, and everything on a $9 an hour part time salary at a job that exhausts me mentally and physically.

During this time of great stress I was flailing and spinning downward. Having no real friendships in the area with people who really know me, I felt lost. I reached out to some and some reached out back, but my loneliness was crushing me. Luckily my girlfriends family and friends helped me stay afloat and my family came to my rescue in a few occasions.

So here I am writing this long blog that likely no one will read. This is not my finest piece or even that well written but it’s honest. I’m honestly not doing well, I’m lonely, I’m miserable and due to my job status, I feel like a failure a lot. I’m creating a lot of art and writing but that’s how I breathe, it is my primary function. The pain and anguish are still there, the hurt remains but the therapy of art and of poetry help quiet the voices in my mind. My girlfriend is helpful too and our cat has warmed to me. They are my social life. I truly lack strong relationships and as I look at my life I always have due to moving a lot and not trusting people, anxiety and just being depressed. I tend to disappear and resurface, so unless you check in or seek me out when I’m in that dark, I’m gone. I don’t know how to communicate like a normal friend. I don’t even understand the friendship thing most of the time. It’s hard for me but I love those who care enough to try and keep getting inside my heart.

So, yes the Bourdain suicide triggered me to share that it’s been very dark, for decades. I’m still processing the years of abuse to myself and still remembering things I had blocked out. My days are mostly grey with tinny moments of sun but it’s better than darkness. I know I sound like a victim and my poor social media followers probably think I’m just an attention seeking cry baby but I promise you my fucked up head just keeps me always on edge, feeling like I’m drowning.

I need a job, with benefits that uses my skills but also engages me with others. I need to regularly get back into therapy and maybe try medication again though it’s never really been a huge help which is why my Drs took me off the meds. I need to build and rebuild friendships with people who aren’t toxic or harmful. I need to avoid relationships with those who are addicts and alcoholics but refuse to admit it, so basically I’m learning to not go out to bars and make friends there anymore. The drinking scene is over, I have no love or respect for it at all. I left my bar days in Harrisburg PA and since moving I’ve not gone into one accept for food or to see a show. No desire for that stuff. I need to keep going to meetings and find my sober community, and I need to keep working through my ongoing sobriety. Most of all I need to hold onto relationship with my girlfriend and accept her love for me, as well as her families and her friends. I need to build and rebuild relationships with my own family and continue to strengthen the ones o already have. I need to read more, eat better, get outside, listen to music, buy records, sleep in, and just find enjoyment in something again.

Also, I need you, my friends far away, my online community, my fellow writers and artists and my long lost brothers and sisters who have supported me or just watched from a far. I love you, please check in, reach out and understand I am bad at this, I just am.

So if you’re still reading, thank you and may each day be one more crawling, scraping and struggling inch forward!


J.M. Ritch