Treating Depression in Recovery

Table of Contents

Among alcoholics and addicts both in and out of recovery, issues of mental and emotional health are highly prevalent. All of these issues — from substance abuse and recovery to mental and emotional health problems — often have correlating causes and sources. Just as often, they have related treatments and solutions as well.

Some studies claim that as many as 30% to 40% of alcoholics also suffer from depression. Likewise, one of every four 4 adults with a mental health issue also experiences a substance abuse disorder. Two-thirds of people with depression do not actively seek help.

In this regard, alcoholics and addicts may be lucky, as our primary disease requires us to seek treatment and recovery in order to live. Even more luckily, the 12-Step program of recovery can help us grow and heal in ways that may make us more likely to seek treatment and help for the other issues that plague us.

Depression and the 12-Steps

For alcoholics and addicts who also experience depression, there are many things we can do to seek and receive help for our depression while we are in recovery. Everything in the 12-Step program encourages us to grow and heal in every area of our life, and to share and earnestly address any and all of the issues we suffer from. Going to therapy, receiving treatments, and if necessary, taking doctor-prescribed medications are by no means discouraged along the road of recovery. The entire purpose of recovery is to heal and grow as much as we can so that we may experience the happiness, meaning, and joy of life.

There is an interesting and often murky crossover, particularly between alcoholism, addiction, and depression, that can be potentially misleading. Alcohol and many other drugs are considered depressants. These substances can mimic, exacerbate, or sometimes even relieve symptoms of depression. When we enter recovery and are separated from these substances — hopefully permanently — we may see either a decrease or increase in our depression symptoms.

Prolonged substance abuse and our personal history with mental health treatment can affect each person’s brain chemistry differently. So for some, depression may seem to vanish in early sobriety. For others, it may worsen. Still others may experience some other pattern entirely. It is imperative that we be honest with ourselves and others, open about the things we are feeling and experiencing, and pay close attention to our mental condition as we continue in our recovery. Failure to address and treat mental and emotional health issues properly can put not just our recovery, but our health and lives in jeopardy.

Professional Help

It’s a beautiful thing, how much working and engaging in the 12-Step program of recovery improves our lives physically, spiritually, and mentally. It can work real wonders, and it goes a long way in helping us deal with most of the issues we experience.

But the 12-Step program itself will be the first to admit it’s not a substitute for the care of medical professionals. If we broke our arm, we would not call our sponsor and work the 12-Steps first. We would do that after we went to the hospital and saw a doctor. Our mental and emotional health is no different than our physical health in this regard.

If we suffer from depression or any other mental or emotional issue, it is in our best interest — and indeed, likely best for our recovery — if we also seek out professional help. Doing regular therapy or taking medications for depression are not uncommon in the recovery community. We won’t know what help we need until we are open and honest about our conditions, and thoroughly seek help for our troubles.

There is no shame in receiving treatment for any of the issues we have in recovery. After all, one of the purposes of recovery is to become as fit as we can mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, so that we may better help and love ourselves and the people around us.

One Benefits the Other

Many people in recovery who also experience depression find that working the 12-Step program while actively engaging in treatment for their depression as well creates a sort of positive feedback loop. The treatment and recovery processes for alcoholism or addiction often go hand-in-hand with the treatments and recovery process for depression. This creates a holistic lifestyle of healing and growth, with the positive things in one area crossing over to bring future advantages to the other area.

Alcoholism and addiction are not simple issues, but the most effective solution is the 12-Step program of recovery. Likewise, depression is not a simple issue either. Unfortunately, the best solutions for depression can be vastly different from one person to another. We have to give ourselves time — patience is often necessary for getting healthy emotionally and mentally. We have to earnestly seek and honestly try to discover what works best for us. Maintaining a baseline of active engagement in the 12-Step process will often be our best bet of staying open, honest, and aware of our depression symptoms as we seek proper treatment.

Depression is very common among men who suffer from alcoholism and addiction. If you are experiencing depression or depression-like symptoms and are also struggling to achieve or maintain long-term recovery, there is help available now. At Jaywalker Lodge, we offer knowledgeable, individualized, and personalized treatments for mental and emotional health simultaneously with our 12-Step based recovery process. We treat the man as a whole, so he can find lasting sobriety and happiness. To learn more, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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