We all have bad days. It may be because of problems at home, at work or in our relationships, we all experience downtimes in our lives. For most people, the downtimes come and go in a normal, ordinary fashion and can be fixed by things that make us happy such as being around friends or family, reading a good book or watching a funny movie or even taking a walk.
But for us who suffer from depression, the emotional low periods don’t go away so easily. Clinical depression is a serious mental illness with severe consequences for any individual and his or her loved ones, especially if you’re in recovery from substance abuse.
What is Depression? How Does it Relate to Recovery?
Depression affects millions of people – According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), it is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities.
Drug and alcohol abuse is common among people who are battling a depressive disorder. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, the use of this drug tends to trigger depression symptoms like lethargy, sadness, and hopelessness. However, many individuals that are depressed use drugs or alcohol as a way to lift their spirits or to numb painful thoughts. This being said, depression and substance abuse feed into each other, and one condition will often make the other worse.
As addicts, the majority of us have been to some sort of substance abuse treatment facility, undergone some therapy and may have entered into the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous or another fellowship. While going through these steps of recovery, we learn to cope with these triggers in healthy and productive ways. We have people in our sober community that we turn to when we feel these triggers coming on so we can prevent a relapse.
Sobriety is Important for Alleviating Depression
As we gain years in sobriety, we may sometimes lose touch with our sponsor, sober community or support, whether from the result of a move, job change, lack of time, etc. We have many excuses that can keep us from keeping in touch with our sober supports. And dealing with emotions is an everyday battle, especially for addicts. Emotions arise multiple times a day for everyone and we all have a different way of dealing with them. If we lose our connection with our sober supports; those who keep us accountable and help us through these emotionally rollercoaster called life, it can become difficult again to deal in healthy sober ways and could lead to a relapse.
While we are active in our recovery, besides calling for support, we also learn skills to deal with our underlying emotional or mental illnesses, such as depression. If and when we stray from being active in our recovery we may forget the skills we have learned and not be prepared for a surge of depression.
Depending on the person, depression can look different. Though some may exhibit more recognizable signs like fatigue and low mood, others may appear more irritable or angry. Other signs of depression can include:
- Lack of interest in activities
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of guilt or despair
- Lack of energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
These are the earliest signs of depression, which you need to look out for, which could lead to physical relapse. Have a plan in place when these signs of depression come up because they will. Also, you need to realize we don’t need to feel guilty about having these feelings, it happens to us all. A lot of addicts are ashamed after having a few months, even a few years sober, that they have these emotions that trigger them. It is completely normal to have ALL these feelings, we are human, the real test is what you do with those emotions. What you never want to do is ignore them.
Being aware of what you are feeling is the best way of getting ahead of the game and being on top of your sobriety. Awareness can bring you many benefits such as gaining an understanding of WHY you are feeling a particular way, you can PROCESS your feelings better and you have an opportunity to LEARN from your feelings.
We Treat Co-Occurring Disorders
We at Garden State Treatment Center understand that everyday life can be a struggle and triggers can come up. Our relapse prevention therapy in New Jersey helps you gain the needed knowledge and coping skills to avoid a relapse. Once you’re out in the real world, having the tools and knowledge to overcome your triggers is crucial. If you’re suffering from depression and addiction, our dual diagnosis program is able to effectively treat co-occurring disorders.