How to Deal with Depression in Early Recovery

Woman thinking How to Deal with Depression in Early Recovery
This entry was posted in Healthy Living, Relapse Prevention on by .

Today, an estimated 46.3 million Americans have a substance use disorder.  However, some 19.1 million of us have a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. This means that almost half of all people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and the most common of those are anxiety and depression. If you’ve been to rehab, treatment likely worked to help you tackle the most pressing issues of substance abuse, behavioral dependency, and any crippling mental health problems. However, as you leave rehab and go back into your life, you’ll still have to navigate those mental health problems and deal with them in a healthy way.

It’s true that depression will complicate your early recovery. It puts you more at risk of relapse. It also prevents you from feeling the same amount of reward and self-satisfaction for your achievements as you would without depression. Therefore, it’s critical that you take time to get extra support and help so you can navigate your early recovery and your depression, stick to your goals, and stay healthy.

Talk to Your Doctor

It’s important to take time to discuss your mental and physical health with your doctor. They can offer insight into your mental health and your needs and can offer solutions like regular checkups to ensure you have someone else looking out for you. If you’re still working with a therapist, you should also have the same talk with them.

Practice Self Care

Good self care can help you to alleviate depression as much as possible. It also means taking steps to ensure you don’t exacerbate depression. For example, by ensuring that you take care of your home and your physical health, you can avoid triggering depressive episodes that make everything worse. Unfortunately, this can require a lot of discipline and you may find that you need help. In fact, many people opt to stay in a sober home for the first 6-12+ months out of recovery, just so that they get the regular schedules and assistance that help them avoid depression. For example:

  • Eat healthy meals about 80% of the time and on average at about the same time every day
  • Get good quality sleep – wake up and go to bed at about the same time most days so that you have a bedtime and a wakeup time
  • Turn your phone and screens off about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed so you can relax without input and fall asleep when you move to bed
  • Make time every day to do cleaning up and chores so that they never get too big or too overwhelming
  • Exercising for 30-60 minutes in the morning, before work, when you know you have the energy

Of course, self-care is also about active prevention. For example, if you know that you get stressed if you don’t have enough sleep, taking steps to get enough sleep is important. But active prevention also looks like:

  • Having a friend come over 1 day a week to help you with laundry if you can’t get yourself to wash it and put it away immediately
  • Using meal prep or meal boxes if you never have enough energy to cook healthy food at dinner time
  • Scheduling social activities a month in advance if you know that you don’t easily plan social activities

Routines are difficult to start and difficult to commit to. It’s also not a thing that you will likely ever autopilot on. But, by setting alarms reminding you to turn off your phone and TV, having another alarm for moving to bed, etc., you can remind yourself to stick to your routines.

Good self-care is about creating a predictable and stable environment where you can thrive. And, that means taking care of your physical and mental health, and taking steps to avoid or mitigate things that can be overwhelming. That will, eventually, put you in the best possible place to deal with depression.

support group facing the ocean having fun together

Get Support

Staying in a sober home, going to self-help and support groups, and even spending time with people you graduated rehab with can all be powerful ways to support your recovery. Surrounding yourself with a support network means surrounding yourself with empathetic and caring people who have the means and empathy to understand what you’re going through and to be supportive. Of course, that’s never going to be a one-way street, you’ll have to offer support and care to the people in your life, even if you’re going to a 12-step group like AA or NA. However, having that can help you to feel valued, validated, and like you’re helping others, all of which will help you to deal with depression.

Of course, that will also mean knowing when to ask for help and being able to. If you struggle with those things, you’ll likely want to ask your therapist for help and will want to get coaching or counseling .That is, in itself, a form of asking for help, so this won’t be easy. However, it will help you to improve quality of life and your life experience.

Be Social

Humans are social creatures. But, depression makes it hard to be social. That’s true not only because it robs you of energy but also because it can make you feel unwanted and not worth. Powering through those feelings to spend time with friends and family will help you to feel better. Actually being social can be as simple as making time once a week to play digital games with friends during a video call. It can also mean going out hiking. Sober activities or even just sitting on a couch and talking with someone can all be extremely good for your mental health.

Of course, you should always have days with no people so you can relax and focus on yourself. But, it’s also important to ensure that you have time with others, for the purpose of having a fun.

Take Breaks

It’s important to build routines, to work on yourself, to have fun, etc., But, at the end of the day people need breaks. It’s important to recognize your limits, to take breaks when you need them, and not to overdo it or overstretch yourself. Pushing yourself into a burnout or further into depression will not help you to recover from substance abuse. Here, it’s always a good idea to discuss feelings of fatigue or of being overwhelmed with your doctor or counselor, so they can help you create a plan to manage your energy and your abilities. You don’t have to do everything all at once and if you’re struggling, taking things slow is always the better option.

man talking to a psychologist getting professional help

Keep Getting Professional Help

A lot of people leave rehab and stop getting professional help. That can be a mistake. It’s important to continue getting help with your mental health, your substance use, and reintegrating into everyday life. Here, some people opt for outpatient recovery to supplement their first treatment. Others opt to stay in sober homes. And, you could also opt to see a therapist or counselor to help you learn management strategies and mitigation options for depression.

The important thing is that you acknowledge when you need help, consider what that help should look like, and then ask for it. Managing depression is often a lifelong battle and that can mean getting longer-term therapy. Depression may also be a side-effect of early recovery, which may mean you’ll need shorter-term help to deal with more pressing symptoms. In either case, it’s important to acknowledge when you need help and to ask for it.

Depression can make recovery more difficult. It also means that it’s more important to build routines and to ensure you focus on time and energy management. However, with good planning, you can deal with depression in early recovery as you navigate your new clean and sober life.

Stairway Recovery Homes has multiple sober living homes located in Los Angeles, CA. We provide quality gender-specific recovery homes for both men’s sober living and women’s sober living

About Jim Sugel

SEO and Digital Marketing Expert Jim Sugel is an SEO and Digital Marketing Expert in addition to having achieved the coveted Google Partner status for PPC expertise. Prior to focusing on Digital Marketing, Jim worked in Information Technology roles at a variety of national firms as a software engineer and consultant, resulting in many years of professional coding and consulting experience. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science, cum laude in Computer Science and Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. After relocating to Southern California from his native Chicago, he became involved in the recovery industry here, discovering a natural niche in helping treatment centers with Digital Marketing and other technology projects. Jim is the Founder and CEO of Airtight Digital, a firm that specializes in digital marketing for the behavioral health industry. His other interests include hiking, canyoneering, urban exploration, and screenwriting. Jim now lives in beautiful and sunny Orange County, California.