Author: Samantha Colicchio
Depression After Quitting Drinking
You were so looking forward to sobriety; a new life in recovery seemed like it was finally here. But after getting sober, the feelings that had been pushed down for so long started to come to the surface. Now that you’ve finished treatment for alcoholism, you wonder why you’re feeling so sad. If you’re thinking, “I quit drinking and now I am depressed,” this article can shed some light.
What Causes Depression in Recovery?
Newfound sobriety is often met with feelings of depression. The good news? You’re not alone. In fact, even the co-founder of A.A., Bill W., struggled with depression in recovery. There are many reasons why someone in early recovery might grapple with a bout of depression. Here are a few:
- You’re not used to feeling real emotions. After numbing unpleasant feelings with alcohol as they bubbled up, it isn’t easy to stare these emotions in the face. Self-medicating with alcohol only acts as a Band-Aid, and once sober, that Band-Aid gets ripped off. It just takes time to learn how to better cope with and manage negative emotions.
- Your relationships are changing. In recovery, you are doing a lot of rebuilding, and that includes your primary relationships. For instance, there may be some leftover anger and resentment that needs healing. Mostly, you are a different person in recovery and it takes time to fit that version into existing relationships.
- You’re facing the fallout. Alcoholism exacts a heavy toll on all areas of someone’s life. While drinking, it is easy to ignore things, like paying bills on time and showing up to important appointments. In sobriety, the fallout from alcoholism comes into sharp focus, which can be pretty depressing.
- You’re feeling boredom and loneliness. When just starting out in recovery you may struggle with feelings of loneliness and boredom. Drinking took up such a huge chunk of real estate in your life, so without it life looks quite different. You now have fewer friends, as you had to walk away from toxic people. Also, without drinking to numb reality, you may find yourself bored and restless.
- Your brain chemistry is rebooting. Alcohol dependence causes the brain pathways to become altered. The brain became dependent on the dopamine released by daily drinking. Once sober, brain chemistry will adjust, but it takes time. In the meantime, symptoms of depression can be very common.
The Link Between Nutrition and Depression in Recovery
A healthy diet can help immensely in the struggle against depression. Alcohol use disorder often leads to nutritional deficiencies, and it’s crucial to fill in the gaps once you get sober. Additionally, after the body has rid itself of alcohol, it undergoes various physical and chemical changes. Consequently, there’s a connection between the foods you eat, brain function, and mood. Adhering to a balanced diet with the right nutrients can influence the brain’s chemical balance positively and mitigate depression after quitting drinking.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe, with most falling somewhere in between. Depression can impair daily functioning and even disrupt all aspects of life. Become familiar with these signs and symptoms of depression:
- Sadness, despair, hopelessness
- Loss of desire to participate in usual activities.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Sleep disorders.
- Slowed motor and cognitive function.
- Inappropriate feelings of shame or guilt.
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
- Suicidal thoughts.
When a cluster of five or more symptoms is present for more than two weeks that would indicate depression.
Anxiety, PTSD, and Trauma
Depression might not be the only thing that comes up with newfound sobriety. Sometimes, people also experience anxiety, and even symptoms of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Think of it like this: drinking is like driving a car incredibly fast, with all your “baggage” in the backseat. Once you step on the brakes (stop drinking), all that baggage flies up to the front. By getting sober, you’re creating an environment where your psyche feels safe enough to bring up past traumas, in order to help you resolve them. That may mean a period of increased symptoms. With the right support, you can heal these past traumas, get sober, and start living a life that’s happy, joyous, and free.
Many substance abuse facilities don’t acknowledge the impact mental health can have on substance abuse. At Journey Hillside, we accept clients with primary substance abuse and secondary mental health, so you can address any co-occurring disorders in treatment.
Was the Depression There All Along?
Another way to explain why you quit drinking and now are depressed is that the depression was there first. In fact, the mental health disorder may have led to increased alcohol intake as a means of self-medicating. This means that the drinking problem arose because of the depression.
When two mental health disorders exist at the same time it is called a dual diagnosis. When in treatment for alcohol use disorder, it is crucial that the depression also be addressed and treated. If not, once sober, the depression will continue to plague you, which can threaten sobriety.
Depression, Relapse, and the Risk of Suicide
People who have co-occurring depression and alcoholism have an increased risk of suicide. In fact, SAMHSA reports that nearly one third of all suicides involved people who had blood alcohol above legal limits.
Also, half of those who completed suicide had a history of depression when they died. Alcoholism puts an individual at a ten-fold higher risk for suicide as compared to the general public. A study states that among alcoholics the lifetime risk of suicide is 10%-15%. In 85% of 100 cases of completed suicide were in people with co-occurring alcoholism and depression.
With that in mind, alcoholics who relapse could be at special risk for suicide. This is due to a sense of failure and despair that follows a relapse, plus the compound losses that resulted.
How to Manage Depression in Recovery
If you are in recovery and notice the signs of depression creeping in, do not ignore these. Continue to receive ongoing therapy to manage the depression in recovery and find things you love to do, whether it’s exercise, time with family, podcasts, or reading professional development books you can find passion and positive messaging all around you if you look. If things get serious, our depression treatment involves:
- Medication. In most cases, antidepressants will be useful for helping to manage depression symptoms.
- Psychotherapy. Therapy is a core treatment element for people in recovery for co-occurring disorders like depression.
- Group support. Peer support is an essential aspect of dual diagnosis treatment. Support groups, group therapy, family therapy, or couples therapy are all helpful for managing depression.
- Life skills. An alcohol use disorder can cause immense damage in one’s life. Life skills classes can help restore confidence by teaching resume writing and job-seeking skills.
- Holistic therapies. If you struggle with depression in recovery, you might benefit from holistic methods. These can reduce stress and anxiety, and help you be in a calmer more relaxed state of mind. These might include art therapy, yoga, mindfulness, deep-breathing techniques, and meditation.
If you find yourself saying, “I quit drinking and now I am depressed,” you are surely not alone. This is a common experience in early recovery. With patience and time, you will begin to feel better.
Recommendations for a Balanced Diet in Recovery
That old adage, “You are what you eat,” might seem oversimplified, but it’s true. The better you eat, the better you feel. If you’re experiencing depression after quitting alcohol, these specialized dietary elements may provide you with some relief:
- Proteins: Incorporate lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu. These and other proteins rich in amino acids are essential for neurotransmitter production.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help stabilize blood sugar levels, impacting mood regulation.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These special fatty acids are found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds and can potentially decrease symptoms of depression after stopping alcohol consumption.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Ensure your diet has a mix of essential vitamins, especially B vitamins. B vitamins play a pivotal role in mood regulation and can be a major player in lifting depression after quitting drinking.
- Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can negatively affect mood and cognition. Drinking sufficient water is crucial in feeling your best.
Building New Hobbies and Interests
With the void that quitting alcohol might create, it’s essential to find new passions. Engaging in new hobbies can not only act as a distraction but also provide a sense of purpose and achievement. If you have an artistic bent, consider painting, sketching, pottery, learning a new instrument, singing, keeping a journal, or writing stories can provide an outlet for emotions. If you find being in nature therapeutic, consider gardening or hiking. Athletic activities like biking, running, or joining a local sports league are also excellent for mood and stress regulation.
Journey Hillside’s Approach to Co-Occurring Disorders
At Journey Hillside, we recognize the intricate relationship between alcohol dependence and depression. That is why we make every effort to prepare our clients with the best defense strategies in order to avoid depression after sobriety. Our tailored dual diagnosis treatment programs are designed to address both these challenges concurrently, ensuring a comprehensive recovery path. Our staff of caring and experienced professionals is trained to provide the necessary therapeutic and medical support for individuals grappling with depression after quitting drinking.
We believe in a holistic approach, combining therapy, medical intervention, nutrition, physical activity, and community support, ensuring that our clients are not just sober, but mentally and emotionally resilient. Trust Journey Hillside to guide you or your loved one through this dual journey to a balanced and fulfilling life. Reach out today to learn more.
Journey Hillside Offers Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder & Depression
Journey Hillside provides premier addiction treatment services for those who are ready to give up alcohol. For those who quit drinking and now are depressed, looking at treatment options to maintain long term sobriety is key. For more info, please call us today at (877) 414-1024.