Tackling Depression After Becoming Sober
“Depression” is a word you may hear often during addiction recovery. Depression and addiction often go hand in hand, in a cycle that can feel impossible to break.
Feelings of depression and sadness are common during drug and alcohol abuse recovery, especially seeming to appear at the six-months sober milestone. If you’re one of many people who relate to feeling depressed in sober life, there are ways to tackle the depression demon without disrupting your progress.
Breaking the Stigma Surrounding Depression in Recovery
Stigmas plague the world of addiction and recovery. There are numerous stigmas surrounding depression after becoming sober. Thanks to public figures like Demi Lovato, Kristen Bell and members of the Royal Family, the stigmas around mental health are slowly starting to dissipate.
Several major roadblocks, however, still exist. It can be difficult for a person in recovery to know how to cope with depression in a healthy, substance-free way. Education about depression in recovery is key.
Depression after becoming sober is completely normal. This may come as a surprise since the assumption is often, “If I get clean, I’ll feel better.” While this is true in many ways, it doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to depression forever.
Some people live with depression their entire lives. There is not something wrong with you if you feel sad after achieving sobriety. Depression and addiction are often a dual diagnosis. You’ve dealt with your addiction, but have you addressed your underlying issues?
The Connection Between Addiction and Depression
Recovering alcoholics and depression will unfortunately always have some kind of relationship. People who develop substance dependencies often already have underlying mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or trauma. People turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of depression – only to end up with addiction.
During recovery, the underlying issues will remain with you and rear their ugly heads every so often…unless you address them properly. This is why it’s so important to work with a professional detox and rehabilitation facility in the first few weeks of sobriety.
Clinical depression is a mental disability. It is not just a feeling, or only in your head. It is a real condition with real treatment needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in 20 Americans report feeling depressed in the past two weeks. These are just the people who willingly admit to feeling depressed; the actual number is likely much greater.
Substance abuse is common among people with depression. Many believe drugs and alcohol will help them escape depression. In reality, nervous system depressants like alcohol often exacerbate feelings of sadness. To tackle your depression after recovery, you may need therapy, medication or a combination of treatments.
Take Action Against Depression
The secret to conquering sadness and depression is to take action. It can be irritating to hear people tell you to “just change your mood.” If you have depression, you know it’s not that easy.
Yet this piece of advice does hold some truth. It is up to you to recognize the signs of depression and to take action against it – before it consumes you. Over time, recognizing triggers and learning healthy coping mechanisms can eventually enable you to prevent depression before it even occurs.
Getting sober does not mean banishing your depression. It simply means that you’re sober. Healing the issues that sparked your addiction in the first place takes rehabilitation, therapy and learning healthy coping techniques. These “answers” will look different to everyone.
Explore different ideas and see what works for you. You may find that a practice such as yoga or meditation provides a peaceful, relaxing solution when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Or perhaps a tough workout is what you need to work through your feelings.
Turn to art, leisure, sports, hobbies, games, exercise, therapy or time with a pet or loved one to actively try to combat depression in recovery. Remember that you are not alone. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, person in recovery to experience depression. Simply accept your feelings for what they are, and take steps to feel better – without substance use.
Do You Struggle with Sadness and Depression in Recovery?
Forums are excellent outlets for people struggling with sadness and depression in recovery. Getting these topics out there, shining a light on depression and talking about our unique experiences all facilitate true healing.
Have you dealt with depression during your recovery journey? You might answer “yes” if you’ve experienced:
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Feelings of low self-worth or self-esteem
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Change in weight or appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Feeling like you have no energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
Feel free to share your ideas on how to tackle depression in sober life. Are you feeling depressed right now? Help is available through hotlines, professional therapy and simply talking about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with depression; a brighter future could be just a conversation away.