When I first got sober from drug and alcohol addiction, I thought that my days of being depressed were over. Many people who suffer from substance use disorder have what is called a “dual diagnosis”, meaning that they have a co-occurring mood disorder (like depression or anxiety) that goes alongside their addiction. Treating both is essential to achieving long-term recovery. However, sometimes symptoms of depression crop up, even in sobriety. Recovering from addiction doesn’t always mean that we will never experience being depressed ever again. So, how do we walk through these difficult times without picking up a drink or a drug? The following is a personal account of how I have handled being depressed in my recovery journey.
“Put the Bat Down”: Being Depressed Does Not Mean That You’re Failing
My twelve-step sponsor commonly tells me to “put the bat down.” What she means by this is that shaming myself for my emotions and feelings is not helpful, does not further my recovery, and is ultimately a pointless and painful exercise.
However, when I have the experience of being depressed, sometimes I take that as a judgment of my recovery progress. For example, I may convince myself that experiencing symptoms of depression means that I am not doing well in my recovery, that my program is lacking, and that I am not doing “enough.” After all, I think, if I was really successful in my recovery, would I really be depressed?
However, this is not the case. Depression, like all mood disorders, comes from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain- it has nothing to do with whether or not I am doing “enough” in my recovery. The first step for me in addressing periods of being depressed in my life is to remember that it is an illness it itself, that there is no shame in it, and that it does not mean that I am a “bad” member of the recovery community. Once I stop shaming myself, I can begin to do the real work of working through my periods of depression in healthy ways.
Sometimes mood disorders and their symptoms can creep up in subtle ways, and before we know it, they can take over. Part of my recovery involves being aware of my own feelings and recognizing symptoms of being depressed. In order to stay healthy, it’s important to be able to identify these issues so that they can be dealt with before the temptation to drink or do drugs arises. Some symptoms of being depressed include:
- Feeling fatigued and drained despite no change in daily routine or schedule
- Sleeping to often, or conversely, having trouble sleeping
- Feeling disinterested in friendships and hobbies
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness, or apathy
- Difficulty completing basic tasks, like attending to personal hygiene or going to work
- Feeling withdrawn from people
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling disconnected from oneself or the world around them
When I begin to experience one or all of these symptoms, it’s a sign that my depression is creeping back up. In order to stay sober and avoid the temptation to drink or drug over those feelings, I have to take some action to combat my feelings of being depressed. And, it’s important for me to remember that sobriety can be a beautiful and fulfilling experience- I don’t have to stay depressed or anxious because sobriety has given me the tools to cope with any difficult periods of life.
Steps for Dealing With Depression
Being depressed can make it hard to take any action to feel better. However, in order to get through a period of depression, it’s important to catch it early and take steps to move through it in a healthy way. Some of the things that help me get through depression include:
- Making an appointment with my doctor to investigate whether I need a change in my anti-depression medication
- Going to therapy and opening up about my experiences
- Calling my sponsor and being vulnerable about my feelings
- Attending more twelve-step meetings and sharing my experiences
- Calling friends who understand what being depressed is like
- Journaling, meditating, and praying
If you struggle with addiction and being depressed, both of these issues must be treated professionally in order for you to live the life you deserve. All About Recovery offers dual diagnosis care for people who suffer from co-occurring disorders so that you can live free of addiction and depression. If you need help, call us today at 888-712-8480.