By Carl Towns
When I entered rehab three years ago, I never realized how much the extent of my challenge with depressive disorder would affect the way I recovered from my addiction.
I was using drugs and alcohol as a way to escape certain aspects of my reality that I wasn’t comfortable facing.
It all eventually just turned into a coping mechanism that had a devastating effect on my behavior; which turned into a never-ending destructive life cycle.
As I went through recovery, I learned a few things about my depression as a separate issue. This really helped me become more aware of my disorders and myself.
Here are 4 things that I learned that I would love to share with the world:
Was I really depressed or was it just temporary sadness?
I would spend periods of time wondering if I was actually depressed or if I was just going through a rough patch that I would eventually get out of. However, these episodes began to happen more often.
Science states that clinical depression lasts for at least two weeks, and interferes with your ability to work, maintain healthy relationships and function socially. Whereas, feeling down for a few days probably doesn’t mean that you are suffering from clinical depression.
How I really began to differ on whether I was truly depressed was to sit back and ask myself, “Are my actions affecting my relationships with those around me?” “Why do I keep avoiding social situations?”
I noticed that I was distancing myself from my family and friends. I kept calling into work sick and wasn’t keeping up with my hobbies. Everything seemed impossible. The only thing that seemed to make me feel good was heavy drinking and drugs, which were my attempts to try to fix the emptiness that I felt inside.
In addition, that ‘solution’ was the beginning of a never-ending destructive cycle. In order to repair my depressive and addictive disorders, I had to learn how to love myself again, accept that I had a problem, forgive those around me and focus on transforming my negative thoughts into positive ones.
Only I could fix myself (Starting from the inside)
When I entered recovery and I slowly began to embrace my sobriety; I had so much love and support from everyone I knew. My family and friends, even from my boss who I had disappointed over and over. It meant so much to me and helped a great deal but there was still something missing.
I needed to learn to love myself before I could learn to love others again. Through rehab and therapy, I learned to tackle depression head-on and in order to do that I had to value that self-worth comes from within.
Although it was hard at the beginning, I took small steps and once I learned to become more positive and enlightened my journey into self-validation helped me manage my feelings and be truthful to myself.
I’m still not perfect, and no one ever is, but this helped a great deal when it came to managing my depression.
Depression can trigger relapse
As I mentioned earlier, I used drugs and alcohol to escape. Feeling high helped me suppress my negative emotions and allowed me to feel good for a short period of time.
Once I entered recovery and became sober, I realized that I was still clinically depressed and without seeking proper therapeutic support, I would tumble back down into relapse. My challenge with depression actually felt worse than it ever had before now that I was able to think straight.
I was fortunate enough to be able to recognize these signs early as I was truly committed to becoming healthy. I received integrated treatment for both depression and substance abuse at the same time.
If I did not treat the depression that drove the addiction, I would have likely ended up returning to addictive behaviors, or worse.
Learn to speak out and let those around you know that those early signs of depression are creeping back up on you. With the right level of therapeutic support, you can rest assured you will live through sobriety peacefully.
How can you treat depression?
Depression is not usually something that can be cured overnight. It often takes time and patience, and the improvements will always be gradual.
Your treatment depends on the level of depression you have. If you are diagnosed with acute depression, you can seek out an individual or group therapy, and if prescribed by a registered psychiatrist you can take anti-depressants.
If you are challenged with mild to moderate depression, you can look for natural alternatives to help improve your depression. I would recommend trying new activities, like joining a gym.
In recent studies, physical activity has been proven to help with depression in a positive way, while also helping you become more social with these new activities.
By learning to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones, you will gradually begin to see the difference in your overall mood and attitude towards life.
One thing that really helped me was to develop a close relationship with my therapist. By doing so, I felt more comfortable opening up (something I have always struggled with), and it encouraged me to be more willing to frequently go see my therapist.
Treating depression during addiction recovery can be challenging but is achievable. Each individual is different and what might have worked for me, might not work for everyone.
But acknowledging that there’s an issue means you are one step closer to embracing your sobriety and mental stability.
Is there something that worked for you that I didn’t mention? Feel free to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear it!
Carl Towns is a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; He is also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. His goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment he lives…Pretty much trying to make up for all that he missed on the years he was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). He is in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.