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Hiding Depression Behind A Smile

“I hide my depression through a smile,” said Al Bettis.  

For 12 years, Al Bettis quietly suffered with depression.

“I had trouble sleeping so I would take anything that could help me sleep.  Nyquil, sleeping pills, allergy pills, and I would just take tons of pills.  Then I’d start drinking alcohol.”

As a young child Al lived with his single mother in the inner city of Detroit.  She was a heroine addict and often went without electricity and food.

Al said, “I have images that I see of needles in arms, needles in other places in the body.  Not just with her, but with other people who came over. My earliest childhood memories are of pain.”  

But life would get much better for Al.  He was six when child protective services took him to live with his grandparents.

“I loved them.  I felt secure.  I felt very loved.”

Al was especially fond of his grandfather.

“He was the only male figure in my life, my father wasn’t around. He was teaching me how to be a man.  And I had just hit that age where he was really going to kick that into overdrive to tell me what it meant to be a man, and then he was taken away.”

Al was 12 when his grandfather died from a stroke.

“It crushed me.  I remember just crying and I really think that was kind of the beginning of depression. Because I didn't understand how God could do that,  I had already had such a hard start and then to take him.”

He continued living with his grandmother, a no nonsense woman who had a different way of showing Al love.

“So it wasn't a lot of hugs, wasn't a lot of kisses and pats on the back, it was go out there and get it done."  

So Al put on a smile, worked hard in school and sports,  and buried his grief and hurt. Five years later, his grandmother died, and now his mother was dying of aids.  The pain was too intense to ignore.

“I couldn't believe just everything that was happening and that this is me looking at God again, just saying, 'Where are you, you know?  You’re allowing all this stuff to happen, where are you?' I began to drink.”

“And that started the whole numbness, you know, a way to numb the pain.”

Al worked his way into college, but was now also using pills to cope with his depression.  Then while he was in school, he learned his mother died.  His use of pills and alcohol got to the point of addiction.

“I was hurting so bad and I was just like ‘God, if you could just make it stop and just take my life, I just don't want to feel this anymore.’"

After college Al held down a job but kept a bottle in his desk drawer to keep numb.

“The bottom for me around 2007.  I was so stressed and so depressed.”

A year later, Al met up with a friend whom had overcome depression. He told Al he found healing through Christ and invited him to church.  Al went, hoping to find an answer.

“I was very much desiring God to show up.  I always knew he existed, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. He was a faraway God.”

“I wanted so bad to receive a lifeline, something.  A sign, anything that just says, ‘I'm here for you, that things are going to change.  You've done it, you've gone this far by yourself – at least I thought I did, and now take my hand.’”  

After the service, Al went to the pastor, who asked him one question.

“He said do you want to be saved? And just those words coming out of his mouth I just crumbled I began to cry.  And I just knew that was my lifeline then.”

“So I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart, I was baptized in Jesus' name.”

He immediately knew what was missing.

“I think it boils down to love and acceptance.  I think it was something I’ve been searching for my whole life.  And He’s done that.  The bottom line is Christ loves me and I believe that now.”  

Al hasn’t used alcohol or pills since.

“It just didn't have a hold on me anymore.  It was something that I feel like certain things the shackles fell off right away, and that was one of them.”  

Al married and is raising a daughter.  Filled with God’s love, he started writing lyrics.  Today Al is sharing his life through his music.

“The more I come closer to His love for me the more the depression isn’t a factor.  Christ is in me so I can do all things through Him.”

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