It is very common to experience depression in recovery. “Psychiatric disorders often co-occur with alcohol and drug abuse. This is referred to as co-morbidity. Over the past 30 years, several studies have found that those with a history of alcohol dependence (even former drinkers), had a more than fourfold-increased risk for a major depressive episode than those without a history of alcohol dependence.” You will eventually sort out whether your depression is temporary and a result of withdrawal or something which you have had for a long time but it was masked as you self-medicated with alcohol or drugs. “It isn’t always clear which comes first: alcohol abuse or another mental health disorder, and how each affects the other.”
Learning about depression and finding the right treatment is very important for your long term recovery. You will be comforted to know that many of the people sitting around you at 12-step meetings have known depression and understand how you feel. It’s particularly important to avoid isolation. Let others know what you are experiencing. Go to a meeting, reach out and help another addict and you will forget about yourself for a while.
You can get better. Your depression requires a program and action steps. Apart from your sessions with a counselor and taking medications exactly as prescribed, what else can you do if you are feeling particularly down? Sometimes you just have to make yourself dress and get outdoors. Take a walk, find an aerobic activity you enjoy and do it regularly. Prevent overwhelm by dividing up your “to do” list into small tasks. It is helpful to practice H.A.L.T. (stop when you are hungry, lonely, angry, or tired and take care of yourself!). Be gentle with yourself as you recover from depression just as you have done with your substance abuse program. You can succeed.
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