Are you struggling with both substance abuse and depression? Neither are pleasant diagnoses on their own, but what happens when you’re dealing with both at the same time? Maybe your addiction is in the past, but you still feel that temptation to drink when new hurts arise. Or maybe you’ve been walking the path of recovery for some time, and a sudden loss or an unexpected life change is threatening to knock you off the wagon.
When you’re caught between the struggles of two different diagnoses, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. While substance abuse and depression are different difficulties, the overlap between them can be significant. It may feel foreboding to take on multiple challenges at once when they feel so different but there is hope in those shared spaces. When you are experiencing overlapping struggle, knowledge is imperative in garnering that hope and utilizing it to move toward healing.
Want to learn more about the relationship between substance abuse and depression, and more importantly, what you can do to take back your life?
Where Substance Abuse and Depression Connect
The relationship between substance abuse and depression goes both ways, meaning that having one increases the risk factors for developing the other- and it doesn’t much matter which comes first. Using substances can decrease the acuity of feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and those feelings can attribute to a desire to turn to substances. The cycle is vicious.
Substance abuse and depression often share a root cause. Whether it’s in trauma, repression, or it’s something you’re predisposed to, both are tools used to numb the experience of vividly feeling what’s beneath.
How They’re Different
The most glaring difference between substance abuse and depression is that depression is a struggle with something you feel, while substance abuse is a struggle with something you consume. Depression begins inside of you: an internal force of strife often sparked by something beyond your control. Substance abuse is external: it symbolizes the active engagement with bringing something into your body to change your cognitive or emotional awareness.
Depression is often linked to a reduction in feel-good chemicals, while substance abuse is considered a depressant and can actively contribute to a reduction in those chemicals. While the impact to you is similar, it paints a mirror once more- one is cause, the other is effect.
Everyone moving through this life will experience pain. Each person will feel sad, and have times of struggle. Maybe those things will consume them, briefly.
Most people will consume alcohol or other substances and experience intoxication. They will feel the dizzying highs and changes of a mind-altering substance and it may feel really really good.
While these experiences may be common, they are not the same as substance abuse or depression. Recognizing the difference in having an experience and needing help because those experiences have become an inhibiting part of your life is the key in finding your way out of the depths of substance abuse and depression.
That recognition is your golden ticket toward recovery- beginning with detoxing from your substance of choice and giving voice to the vices that have controlled you. Your healing is in your grasp when you take the first step toward accountability and awareness. If you’re here right now, you’re doing that and we are already so proud of you.
Tools You Can Use to Support Your Recovery
While there are a myriad of things you can ask for or work with alongside qualified experts in rehabilitation and healing, you do not have to wait for anyone to begin with small steps for big impact.
Feel your feelings instead of avoiding them. Burying your emotions is a slippery slope on its own but if you struggle with co-existing substance abuse and depression, avoiding what you’re feeling is akin to hitting turbo charge on an avalanche.
To feel your feelings, you don’t have to talk about them but you do need the space and language to give words to what you’re experiencing when you feel it. Whether you choose to do that through your own self awareness or with a trusted support network, it’s important.
Journaling has been proven to provide relief from the pressure of bottling up your emotions and can be a constructive addition to acquiring the language to feel your feelings instead of suppressing them. There are a myriad of journaling styles to choose from- the most important thing is that you select something that feels good to you.
Make change a priority in your day to day routine. It doesn’t need to be a big change, but ensure that it’s one you can stick to. Developing new habits and routines can be a great tool to build on bigger, more powerful changes that keep you from falling back into old ones.
While substance abuse and depression are scary and difficult things to manage on your own, there is something we hope you always remember:
You are never alone.
We are here, to add to or help spark the start of a support network that will carry you from detox to the future of your dreams. Your recovery starts with recognition but the power is in you now.