Struggling With Depression After Addiction Recovery
It should be the happiest time of your life. You’ve gone through treatment, you’ve stuck it out in sobriety, and you’ve passed the big recovery milestones. You should be proud and have every reason to be happy. However, if you’re like the many who still struggle with depression after treatment, you might find it hard to stay motivated and question whether or not recovery has truly had the impact you were looking for. Often, in people who abused opiates or other mood-altering drugs, natural levels of “happiness chemicals” like serotonin and dopamine become stunted and possibly permanently damaged. Post addiction depression is a common problem for many who are in recovery, and with little information on how to deal with depression online, many become discouraged and sometimes turn back to substance abuse to feel happy again.
If you can relate to this situation, you might be happy to find out that there are numerous options for you to cope with post addiction depression. You don’t have to struggle with depression, just like you didn’t have to struggle with addiction.
Physical Health and Post Addiction Depression
You might be surprised to find out that depression isn’t only caused by chemical imbalance in the brain. In fact, physical health can be one of the biggest determinants of mental health. We’ve written on the importance of nutrition before, and gave some tips for having a healthy diet and lifestyle to support your recovery. It should come as no surprise that nutrition could be a factor in your current depressive state. Before seeking medical solutions, find out if a holistic solution is more appropriate. No antidepressant or mood elevator can replace a good eight hours of sleep or Vitamin C.
The general common sense rules apply to combating depression. Eating plenty of vegetables, cutting out sweets, exercising a few times a week, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water all contribute to a better mood and will also help with any of the other treatments or strategies you participate in for better mental health.
Getting Dopamine Flowing With Music Therapy
A key factor in getting the “happiness chemicals” flowing in your brain without the use of drugs is to do things you enjoy. With depression, that’s easier said than done. It’s a vicious cycle of lowered motivation and lowered stimuli, with post addiction depression as the result.
One type of therapy that has seen success in the recovery world is music therapy. You know that tingly sensation you get in the side of your face when you hear that guitar solo in your favorite song? That’s dopamine. And despite what substance abuse has done to desensitize you, the dopamine pathways in the brain that get triggered by music are unique, and don’t get lit up by drugs like opiates. Similar pathways are created while learning instruments as well, meaning that learning to play Eleanor Rigby on piano not only gives you a rush by hearing the music, but also by playing it.
Boosting Natural Serotonin Production
So how would one begin to heal damaged serotonin pathways in the brain? Research suggest that time is the biggest factor, which isn’t the most encouraging advice to give to someone struggling with depression. However, there are a few natural – and inexpensive – supplements that you can pick up from a local vitamin store to help with serotonin levels.
Taking the essential amino acid l-tryptophan supports mental health and can be a key to silencing depression. You might have heard of it before, being found naturally in poultry like turkey and sometimes inducing sleepiness in high amounts. However, the science behind it is pretty simple. As the precursor to serotonin, l-tryptophan is a natural supplement that the body can utilize in elevating your mood and repairing the damaged neural pathways from addiction.
Treating Post Addiction Depression With Therapy
The biggest threat to our recovery can often be as simple as our ways of thinking. Post addiction depression can sometimes be sourced from the feelings of shame and regret that come from having struggled with addiction. As we’ve said in an earlier article, a big component of recovery is learning to overcome that stigma and practicing self-love in sobriety. It’s not as easy as simply saying it out loud, however. Professional addiction counselors and therapists are available after treatment to help cope with the struggles and self-defeating attitudes that can arise after addiction. Post addiction depression, while often sourced in chemical imbalances, can just as easily be rooted in our attitudes and coping methods.
Finding ways to come to terms with post addiction depression means exploring new avenues and working up the courage to return to your daily life. You’ve already done the hard part and found treatment. Now it’s time to get to that state of happiness you know you deserve. If you’re currently struggling with staying sober, check out our guide to relapse prevention. If you’re just looking for ways to have fun while you’re sober, also check out our list of hobbies to pick up that can help you have fun without drugs or alcohol.