How I Survived the Bluest Monday of All
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How I Survived the Bluest Monday of All


The first Monday after the holidays is, statistically speaking, the most depressing day of the year. There are so many reasons to feel blue. The holidays are over. Back to work. Maybe you’ve had a regrettable New Year’s Eve. The days are short and dark and that plays with the mind.

Last year at this time, my dog had hives from something he’d eaten over Christmas. And maybe I knew that things weren’t getting on with the guy I was seeing then. He was depressed. Our contact had been growing less and less frequent. He’d said he needed space, and so I was giving him that. I wrote an essay about all this but the place I sent it to didn’t publish it. They didn’t even respond, and that was frustrating. On top of all this, the Polar Vortex was just becoming a thing. It felt punishingly cold. At night, I’d walk home from work in the cold, worried about my dog, concerned and confused about my relationship. The guy I was seeing was confused, too, apparently, because that February I’d come to find out that he’d signed himself back up at the online dating site where he and I had first met. I’d spend that spring suffering through my first sober heartbreak, but I couldn’t have predicted this then. Back in January, the dominant feeling was that I was sitting and waiting something out, something I couldn’t name and that, still unnamable, seemed to have no end.

This year feels much different. The Sunday before what everyone calls the most depressing day of the year, my boyfriend and I woke up in Southport, Connecticut on the last day of a weekend getaway he’d gotten me for my birthday. The day was warm and wet. We walked down from our hotel to the harbor through a town lined with white picket fences, everywhere a soft focused landscape of blues, grays and greens punctuated by orange flashes of wetland and the sound of the water lapping the shore.

We were alternately quiet and generous in conversation, sharing dreams of getting old and feeling unafraid. Happiness, I may have said, has a lot to do with intention, and effort. Yes, it has to do with circumstances outside our control—the weather that morning was perfect, mist rising romantically off the puddles from the rainfall the afternoon before, which we’d tried to walk in after lunch before relenting and retreating back to the hotel room to take a bath and watch movies. But—and here’s my point—that cold and rainy afternoon was lovely, too. My boyfriend is wonderful, emotionally available in a way I’m not used to and although at times I find our relationship exhausting, it is a much different kind of exhaustion that what I’ve experienced in the past. 

In that moment, walking hand in hand with this awesome human being through probably one of the wealthiest counties in the country, I felt at ease. I felt safe, and satisfied. I know that bad things happen to good people, obviously, and a lot of life has to do with luck. Looking at those multi-million dollar houses, that was plain to see. I recognize that I’ve had some unfortunate shit happen in my life and I’ve been dealt some bad hands. I also know that I caused the majority of my own suffering, and that—with the wrong attitude—I could continue to suffer. I have a lot to be grateful for. I am so fortunate, most of all for finding recovery, and I’m proud of myself for doing the work necessary to keep it. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t trust myself or the decisions I made. And that time has passed.

“Doing the work” is not always easy. Blue Monday looked colder than the day before. Back in my apartment and surrounded by things to do, the risk of scarcity returned. Laundry, grocery shopping, bills to pay and only one, two meager freelance checks to do it all in. A tender spot on my breast and no health insurance (this having to do with the fact that I didn’t do what I was supposed to do). An editor emailing for this, a student needing that. My boyfriend had been there in the morning but by midday he was gone, along with continental breakfasts, unlimited towels and steak frites for lunch. The ringing of a silent apartment had replaced the singing of birds and I was remembering this time last year, and how I tried to normalize my sadness then. And yes, sadness is normal. Fear is normal. I often feel insecure. But the way I felt last year wasn’t normal, I realize now. The pain I felt last January was an indicator that something was wrong.

I think I heard once in a meeting that recovery is like the tide coming in: everything is lifted up, so that even the lows aren’t as low as they used to be. For me, this is starting to feel true. I don’t have emotional bottoms like I used to. Even that difficult breakup felt different than any of the terrible feelings that had come before. Something else I once heard in a meeting: getting sober is not a promise that there won’t be pain or hardship in life; instead, it’s a promise that we no longer have to go through it alone.

I don’t live in a place where I’m free of responsibility, but thanks to recovery I do feel more at ease. Even in times of stress. Even on the most depressing day of the year. Even when money is tight or my partner and I are disagreeing over something, I don’t ever feel alone. I feel safe and supported. I know I’m being carried. I have friends who love and support me. Colleagues who respect me. I respect myself. Even when I’m struggling, I know I’m going to be okay. And this is all a consequence of my getting sober. This is what they mean when they say “beyond your wildest dreams.” They mean weekend getaways with awesome boyfriends, sure. They also mean an abiding feeling of contentment come blue Monday, when it’s time to answer the emails, do the laundry and pay the bills.

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About Author

Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and writing instructor living in New York City. She has written for NY Magazine, The Guardian, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, xoJane, The Fix and elsewhere. She is the founder of Becoming Writers, a community organization that provides free and low cost memoir-writing workshops to new writers of all backgrounds and experiences.