Experiencing depression in recovery, especially during the early stages, is very common. For many who are new to recovery, the symptoms of depression they experience are part of a grieving process for not being able to drink anymore. For someone with co-occurring depression or other disorders, these symptoms may be especially intense. Often, all the symptoms they’ve been numbing for years with alcohol begin to surface and the result can be overwhelming.
Dealing with depression in recovery is especially agonizing. A person may feel that they don’t quite fit in at a 12 step meeting. In these cases, it’s important to find meetings that address co-occurring depression or be sure to get counseling for depression while continuing recovery. Understanding what your triggers are is also essential, for those who suffer from depression are more likely to feel sad, alienated, and vulnerable during social occasions or other celebratory events that call for drinking.
Overall, dealing with depression during the recovery process is a challenge, one that requires a certain level of awareness, self-care, and effort to stay motivated. The following are a few things you can do to manage your depression during recovery. These tips can help you effectively handle overwhelming feelings in a healthy, more balanced way.
1. Build a sober support network.
This is an important step for anyone in recovery. Reach out to others in recovery through rehab, support groups, and 12 step meetings who are going through the same struggles. These can be people who also suffer from depression. Having a sober support network can be a godsend when you’re going through an especially difficult time and need someone to talk to, hang out with, or just accompany you to a social outing that you know will be challenging. The people in your network should be trustworthy and dependable, and of course, you should be willing to provide your own support to anyone who needs it.
2. Identify triggers and know how to handle them.
Because triggers are an especially vulnerable area for people with depression, it’s a good idea to identify your particular weak spots early on. These could be certain situations, people, places, or emotional states. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to form a plan for when you have to face those triggers. Some triggers can simply be eliminated from your life, but others, such as family members, co-workers, or holiday gatherings, must be faced. You can limit the time you spend with these triggers or bring someone from your sober support network to help you get through it.
3. Learn how to take care of yourself.
Because recovery is completely up to you, it’s a good idea to learn some skills in taking care of your own health and well-being. This means getting enough exercise, eating well, and taking care of your emotional health. Learn how to listen to your body, as well as your emotions, to clue into what’s going on with you. Because others won’t change their attitude towards drinking and even your recovery, it’s important to know where your boundaries are and when it’s time to say no or walk away. This is what it means to take care of ourselves and put our recovery first.
4. Stay connected.
For those of us with depression, it’s common to want to withdraw from others when we’re in recovery or otherwise having a hard time. Stay connected by reaching out to others in the recovery community.
5. Take care of your health.
It’s especially important to be aware of our physical symptoms when taking medication for depression or otherwise dealing with the disorder. Check-in with your doctor regularly to make sure that your response to any medication is normal.