Take heart. You’ve earned your sobriety. Your thinking has cleared. Now you can begin implementing tips for dealing with depression. Depression causes suffering. When coupled with a substance use disorder, that suffering becomes worse.
In this article, you will learn:
● What is depression?
● How does depression affect a substance use disorder (SUD)?
● What are some tips for dealing with depression during sobriety?
What Is Depression?
Depression feels different than sadness or grief. It’s normal and healthy to feel sad. Life involves losing things. Jobs, relationships, pets, material things. Nothing lasts forever. If you need to mourn, please do. Grieving happens naturally in life.
But depression feels different than sadness. It’s not the same as grief. Depression usually brings other symptoms. If you’re experiencing depression during sobriety, you might notice:
● Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
● Losing interest in things that used to make you feel good
● Sleep disturbances
● Getting angry easily
● A lack of energy
How Does Depression Affect A Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?
Some people suffer from depression. Others suffer from substance use disorder (SUD). But depression and SUD can occur at the same time. Science calls this comorbidity. When someone struggles with a mental illness and an SUD, the disorders occur comorbidly.
A person experiencing depression might want to feel better. To that end, they might drink. Or smoke marijuana or cocaine. They might even inject heroin. While depression doesn’t cause an SUD, it’s easy to see how it contributes.
Doctors may prescribe a benzodiazepine for depression. And benzodiazepines can help with depression. But they have highly addictive properties. The FDA even requires a warning label to address this problem. So, depression can even drive a person to abuse the very drug intended to help them.
5 Tips For Dealing With Depression
Since you’ve become sober, you can make a plan. Work with your counselor or therapist. With their help, you can implement tips for dealing with depression during sobriety. Always consult with your treatment specialist before trying any of the listed techniques.
Tip 1: Stick To Your Medication Regimen
No medication is magic. Your doctor can’t cast a spell and make your depression go away. And, medications come with side effects. Those effects might complicate your wellbeing. But remember, you’re in recovery. And recovery is hard. Antidepressants affect people differently. Even doctors don’t all agree on how antidepressants perform.
Nevertheless, think of your medication as one tool. Take it as prescribed. On time, with the appropriate dosage. No more, no less. If it doesn’t work at first, give it time. Observe how your medication makes you feel. If you detect unpleasant symptoms, tell your treatment provider. Unless your treatment provider says otherwise, NEVER stop taking your medication cold turkey. Remember, medications aren’t perfect. But they can provide a helpful resource.
Tip 2: Think About What You’re Thinking About
Thoughts can feel terrifying sometimes. Thinking might paralyze you with shame. But our thoughts have power when we believe them. Our trust in them gives them power. It doesn’t appear possible to not think about anything. But we do not have to believe our thoughts. We have no obligation to trust them.
Watch your thoughts. Ask them questions. Demand proof from them. Analyze what’s really happening in your mind. We call this practice metacognition. It means to think about what you’re thinking about.
Here are a few questions to guide you:
● How do I know this thought is (or isn’t) true?
● What evidence exists in favor of (or against) this thought?
● If this thought is true, then what?
● What other possibilities exist?
● What can I do to change the outcome?
Tip 3: Care For Your Body
Depression taxes the body. Some physical symptoms include chronic pain in the joints, limbs, and back. At times, you might experience fatigue. Or, you might not sleep. No matter how tired you feel. You just can’t sleep.
To help combat these symptoms, care for your body. Bathe regularly. Even if you don’t feel like it. Or think you deserve it. Do something good for your hygiene. Enjoy a shave. Try out a new hairstyle. Wash your clothing regularly. Change clothes as needed. Set a regular bedtime and wake time.
Examine your diet as well. Several different kinds of nutrient-dense foods may help offset depression. Even the act of cooking can ease symptoms of depression. Resistance training, like lifting weights, provides relief. Yoga also shows promise in combating depression. Find a form of physical training that you enjoy. Try it once or twice a week. As you become stronger, try it more often.
Tip 4: Care For Your Mind
We refer to depression as a “mental” illness for a reason. The mind can break. Just like the body. It can become sick. When recovering from a severe physical injury, we might need physical therapy. Why wouldn’t we care for our mind in the same way?
Meditation and mindfulness-based treatments help care for the mind. If that sounds a little out-there to you, try Ronald Siegel’s course The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path To Well-Being. Also, use behavioral activation to your advantage. Doing something you like doing generates positive feelings. These feelings reinforce your desire to keep doing. Behavioral activation also helps keep negative emotions at bay.
Tip 5: Nurture Positive Relationships
You need people around you. People who will support your recovery. And that goes beyond your treatment provider. And even the others you meet in recovery. You need to nurture positive relationships in your personal life.
Spend time with people you enjoy being around. Open up. Express yourself with transparency. If possible, work to mend damaged relationships. Parts of recovery happen in solitude. But continued recovery requires relationships to help nurture it.
What If I Still Have Questions?
Major depressive disorder affects about 17.3 million Americans. Many of these people also struggle with SUD. Harmony Treatment and Wellness hopes that these 5 tips for dealing with depression have helped you. But if you’ve still got questions about depression during sobriety, call us now.