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Hiding Depression Behind A Smile

Al Bettis struggled with his mother's drug addiction, and then with losing his grandparents. He numbed the pain with alcohol and pills, but eventually came to realize what was really missing. Read Transcript

I hide my depression through a smile.

NARRATOR: 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, whatever.

I would just take tons of pills.

And then I would just start drinking alcohol.

NARRATOR: As a young child, Al lived with his single mom

in the inner city of Detroit.

She was a heroin addict, and often they

went without electricity or food.

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.

(SINGING): Looking through my rear view where I've been,

where I'm from.

NARRATOR: But life would get much better for Al.

He was six when child protective services took him

to live with his grandparents.

I love them.

I felt very secure.

I felt very loved.

NARRATOR: Al was especially close to his grandfather.

He was the male figure in my life

because my dad wasn't there.

He was teaching me everything.

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.

NARRATOR: 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,

you know, because I didn't understand how God could that.

I had already had such a hard start, and then to take him.

NARRATOR: He continued living with his grandmother,

a no-nonsense woman who had a different way of showing

Al she loved him.

There 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.

NARRATOR: So Al put on a smile, worked hard

in school and at sports, and buried his grief and hurt.

(SINGING): The past will not define me.

All it did was help me grow.

NARRATOR: Then 5 years later, his grandmother died.

And now his mother was dying of AIDS.

The pain was becoming too intense to ignore.

I couldn't believe just everything that was happening.

And this is me looking at God again, just

saying, where are you?

I began to drink.

That started the whole numbness-- a way

to numb the pain.

NARRATOR: 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.

He says his use of pills and alcohol

got to the point of addiction.

I was hurting so bad.

I was just like, God, if you could just make it stop,

and you could just take my life--

I just don't want to feel this anymore.

NARRATOR: After college, Al landed a good job,

but he kept a bottle in his desk to keep himself numb.

(SINGING): Lord, I've seen some good days, I seen some bad.

The bottom for me came, I think, around 2007.

I was so stressed and so depressed.

NARRATOR: A year later, Al met up

with a friend who had overcome depression.

He told Al that he found healing through Jesus Christ,

and invited him to church.

Al went, hoping to find an answer.

I was very much desiring God to show up.

And I've always known he existed,

but I just did not 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 that 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.

NARRATOR: After the service, Al went to the pastor, who

asked him just one question.

He said, do you want to be saved?

And just those words coming out of his mouth, I just crumbled.

I just began to cry.

And I just knew that was my lifeline then.

I accepted to the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart.

I was baptized in Jesus' name.

NARRATOR: He knew immediately what had been missing.

I think it boils down to love and acceptance, you know?

I think it was something that I've been

searching for my whole life.

The bottom line is just to know that Christ loves me,

and I really believe that now.

NARRATOR: Al says instantly his need for alcohol or pills

went away.

It just didn't have a hold on me anymore.

It was something that just-- I feel like certain things,

the shackles just fell off right away.

And that was one of them.

NARRATOR: Al has since married and is raising a daughter.

He's also writing songs and sharing his life through music.

(SINGING): Lord, you've been so good to me.

Opened my eyes and now I see.

And the more that I come closer to his love for me,

the more the depression is just, like, not even a factor.

Christ is in me in that I can do all things through him.


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