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Strategies for Coping with Depression While Sober

Sobriety does not magically happen after completing alcohol rehab or drug addiction treatment. It takes a lot of hard work, and sometimes it becomes even more challenging for a person fresh out of rehab when they’re most vulnerable. They are once again exposed to the same emotional triggers that may have led them to their addiction in the first place.

It can be exponentially more difficult for individuals diagnosed with concurrent disorders or who have been found to have some form of a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder on top of addiction. At Freedom From Addiction, we offer dual diagnosis treatment, continuing care, and relapse prevention programs that teach our clients about healthy strategies they can take for coping with depression without compromising sobriety. 

Keep reading to learn practical tips on how to deal with depression while you’re sober:

1. Recognize the Signs of Depression

Learning how to identify the symptoms of depression will help you determine when it’s time to get help before things spiral out of control. Contrary to popular belief, the signs of depression go beyond feelings of sadness or loneliness for an extended amount of time. A person experiencing clinical depression can exhibit a wide range of symptoms that can disrupt their everyday life and dramatically affect their ability to maintain a healthy relationship with family and friends. 

These may include:

  • Insomnia, or being unable to sleep at night
  • Hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Chronic fatigue and lethargy
  • Sudden lack of interest in doing everyday tasks or activities they used to enjoy
  • Eating too much or loss of appetite to the point of starvation
  • Negative feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness
  • Feeling hopeless to the point of despair
  • Constant thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Intense mood swings characterized by anger, irritability, and aggression

If you notice these symptoms slowly creeping up and interfering with the way you think and act, it means it’s time to see a therapist immediately. Remember, depression, like other forms of mental health illness, is not something that goes away or you can snap out of at will. Ignoring its symptoms can only make it worse. 

2. Maintain a Fit and Healthy Lifestyle

Eating a nutritious diet and following an active lifestyle can work wonders, not only for your physical health but for your mental and emotional health as well. 

According to Mayo Clinic, experts suggest that 30 minutes of exercise daily can effectively ease symptoms of depression and anxiety because it releases a healthy dose of endorphins, also known as the “feel-good hormones” in your body. It’s a positive way of coping with depression that also:

  • Regulates your blood pressure and other health markers
  • Makes you more confident about your physical appearance
  • Gives you a sense of purpose by incorporating it into your daily routine
  • Provides a chance for social interaction and to make new friends
  • Takes your mind away from your worries and the cycle of negative thoughts

Getting fit does not necessarily mean going to the gym. This can also be jogging, brisk walking, or playing sports you enjoy the most like basketball or badminton!

A man in gray shirt and black shorts jogging in a park

3. Practice Meditation

One of the simplest ways on how to deal with depression is through meditation. Several studies reveal that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or doing meditation techniques regularly can improve symptoms of depression. Meditation could be as simple as closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing, and repeating a single phrase. 

“This helps provide some distance from those negative thoughts or stressful feelings, allowing you to recognize that, although they affect you, they are not you,” Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, told Harvard Health.

Other known benefits of meditating that can lead to enhanced emotional health include stress reduction, increased self-awareness, pain management, and blocking out negative thoughts.

Man in black shirt and pants meditating

4. Find a Strong Support System

Maintaining sobriety and mental health also means distancing yourself or completely walking away from people, places, occasions, or things that cause intense negative feelings in you. These feelings can trigger strong cravings for alcohol or drugs, leading to relapse when you’re in recovery. 

During the early stages of your addiction recovery process, this could also involve skipping special occasions or social gatherings where alcohol would be served and people would be drinking. Sometimes, in order to avoid awkward conversation or having to explain why you’re not drinking, you may feel pressured to simply accept a glass of wine or cocktail. Stepping away from these situations will only aid in your recovery process.

Surround yourself with kind, loving, and sober people who genuinely care about you and you can trust. Building a strong support system composed of friends and family who will watch out for you, listen to you whenever you need someone to talk, and give you sound advice when the situation calls for it is important at this stage in recovery. Replace triggers with supportive loved ones and safe, sober spaces.

Woman being comforted by a friend

5. Continue to Work on Your Emotional Recovery

Unresolved emotional trauma, which can stem from abusive or toxic relationships with family members or previous partners, is one of the biggest contributing factors that influence many people’s depression and addiction. In the past, the intoxication from alcohol and illicit drugs may have provided them with an escape from reality. Confronting old demons may be unbearable for some when they’re sober. 

This is why emotional recovery is an important aspect of one’s addiction recovery. Don’t stop your journey towards complete emotional healing even after you have completed your addiction treatment and don’t feel any signs of depression coming.

At Freedom From Addiction, we encourage clients to attend our continuing care program, which includes: 

Taking this proactive step will strengthen your overall emotional health and empower you with coping skills that will come in handy as you navigate your sober life. 

To learn more about concurrent disorders and how our dual diagnosis treatment can make a difference in your or a loved one’s life, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly. Contact us today.


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