After quitting drugs and alcohol, it is normal to experience mood swings. Addiction recovery is a time that is generally filled with adjustments, challenges, milestones, and changes. These changes are overall for the better, but there is no denying that they can also sometimes be overwhelming. Sober living homes provide a great deal of support for residents who are dealing with challenging or distressing emotions, but it is also important for residents themselves to have access to a set of coping tools and resources for handling difficult feelings.
Keep in mind, most of these negative feelings will fade over time — especially if you are taking action daily to pursue recovery. These feelings are most common during what is sometimes known as “early sobriety,” a period that is often considered to be approximately 90 days. Some of these feelings may continue for several weeks, months, or even a few years after early sobriety. Nonetheless, they tend to become much more manageable with each passing day, especially when a person has developed a strong support system and other recovery tools in a sober living house. The resources and support systems that residents develop in sober livings enable them to face all of the obstacles and challenges of life in sobriety without any danger.
Depression in Early Sobriety
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 50% of people with drug or alcohol use disorders also suffer from a comorbid mental health condition. Depression is one of the most common conditions. Why is there such overlap? Ultimately, both depression and addiction are mutually reinforcing. Individuals with depression or other mood problems have a tendency to turn to alcohol and drugs to get relief from their distressing emotions. While substances can indeed offer short-term relief, this form of self-medication is likely to exacerbate the underlying mental illness over the long run. This process is a vicious cycle that can make drugs and alcohol even more appealing, even if they are the cause of the problem.
Understanding that many addicts use drugs and alcohol as self-medication is important. It means that removing drugs and alcohol is often equivalent to removing their most important coping tools. This is why the first few weeks and months of sobriety are often such a difficult adjustment period. In the absence of drugs and alcohol, individuals often find themselves facing difficult feelings that they have spent years covering up and numbing. Over time, however, by making use of a sober living home and other recovery resources, these individuals can learn new coping tools and find better ways of handling their underlying mental illnesses.
Signs of Depression
If you are living in a sober living house and you are in the initial days of sobriety, it can be difficult to distinguish the sometimes negative feelings associated with early sobriety and the feelings of an underlying mental health condition. It is normal to experience negative feelings in the first weeks and months of sobriety. However, if these negative feelings persist or get worse, it can make it difficult to function. Depression is not the same as mere sadness. Major depression is a mental health condition that can make it difficult to function. Signs of depression include:
- Feeling empty or sad. It is not strange for people to feel empty, sad, or down in the dumps at times. However, if you feel this way every single day then there is clearly something wrong.
- Lack of interest in activities or hobbies. If you are finding yourself less drawn towards activities that once stimulated you, this may be a sign that your interests are changing — but it could also be a red flag for depression.
- Loss of energy. Everyone gets tired at times. But if you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning to complete simple tasks, then this extreme fatigue can be a sign of depression.
- Sleep problems. Individuals with depression often find themselves suffering from extreme insomnia. They may suffer from a considerable lack of sleep as a result. On the other hand, some people with depression experience the opposite problem! They may find that all they want to do is sleep. Some people go to sleep early and sleep into the late afternoon. This can also cause problems.
- Difficulty concentrating. Depression can make it difficult to focus or even remember past events clearly. When depression affects concentration, you may find yourself experiencing intrusive thoughts or ruminating on morbid subjects.
- Suicidal ideation or actions. Severe episodes of depression can cause people to contemplate suicide and self-harm. If you are experiencing these thoughts, it is critical to reach out for help as soon as possible.
Dealing with Depression in Sobriety
It is absolutely normal to experience sadness or even mental health conditions like depression in sobriety. Fortunately, being sober makes it far easier to utilize tools and coping techniques for handling these distressing feelings. While reaching for a drug or a bottle of alcohol may feel like an effective short-term solution, in almost all cases it will ultimately make problems worse. While living in a sober living home, you will be able to confront your problems and face them head-on. Doing so may feel awkward or even painful, but you will generally find that over the long run your negative feelings will diminish.
Sober living homes are supportive environments where residents are encouraged to take action when facing difficult challenges. Some coping strategies for individuals who are feeling down in sobriety include:
Research shows that meditating helps with anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain symptoms. There is also evidence that meditation can help people stay sober. Perhaps more importantly, meditation can help you nonjudgmentally accept the negative emotions you’re experiencing. Many sober living homes encourage residents to engage in a spiritual practice, which can include diverse elements like prayer and meditation. Mindfulness meditation can be done alone or with friends. Scheduling a time each day to meditate can help you find peace and calm. Even 5 minutes a day can make a world of difference.
Studies show that cardiovascular exercise provides a powerful short-term boost to mood. This is due to the endorphins that cardiovascular exercise releases in the brain. Over the long term, however, exercise actually changes the brain on a neurological level. It causes the brain to release proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors. These encourage nerve cells to make connections and grow. Cardiovascular exercise also promotes growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that regulates mood. For these reasons, studies show that long-term cardiovascular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants like SSRIs for individuals who have mild to moderate depression.
Talk To Sober Living Housemates
Depression can make you feel alone. But keep in mind that you are likely not the only one feeling down. There is a high likelihood that other members of your sober living home have been through the same or at least similar experiences. Sometimes simply talking about what you’re going through with someone who understands can be enough to help you feel better. They may even offer feedback or advice based on their own experiences that can directly help you cope with your own situation. Getting community support from your fellow sober living housemates will not only help you stay sober, but it will lend you strength for dealing with other mental health conditions like depression.
Engage in Hobbies
While you’re working on addiction recovery, it can be easy to get overly serious. There are many recovery-related activities to engage in, from repairing relationships and getting your health in check to attending 12-step meetings and mentoring other people in recovery. But don’t forget to have fun! As a resident of a sober living, you’ll have plenty of time to do activities that you enjoy. Group trips to the park with your sober living housemates can give you a chance to relax or play sports. Other ideas include going to the beach, going for a hike, or even just reading a novel by your favorite author!
Ask For Help
Making use of everyday coping tools like the ones listed above can help you combat depression and stay sober, but it is also important to know when to ask for help. As with substance use disorders, major depression is a legitimate mental health condition — and there is no reason why you should feel compelled to handle it alone. Outpatient therapy, medications, and other resources can be enormously beneficial. Making use of these treatments for depression can also help reduce your likelihood of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, sober living home staff members and house managers are always willing to help connect house residents with any resources they need. Sober livings are not clinical treatment centers, but they are home bases that make it easy for residents to access any care services they might need.
Recover Today at Design for Recovery
Design for Recovery is a structured sober living home located in West Los Angeles. Our facility is a sober living home for men that provides a safe, supportive, and trigger-free environment. No matter what a person’s drug of choice was or how destructive their addiction was, they can turn their life around while living in Design for Recovery. Our sober residents work daily to develop the skills, values, behaviors, and social support systems that they need to maintain long-term sobriety. In the process, they work to build new lives for themselves beyond their wildest imagination.
Design for Recovery was founded on a simple notion: that addiction recovery involves more than just putting down drugs and alcohol. Rather, it means developing a life that is meaningful, joyful, and free. Housemates at Design for Recovery work to develop a strong foundation of values to live by. The crucial principles that form the foundation of their lifestyles include responsibility, integrity, honesty, and accountability. By cultivating these values, a new way of life becomes achievable. Relationships improve, career prospects change, and the future opens up.
If you are ready to escape the vicious cycle of substance abuse and addiction, contact us today. Recovery is possible at Design for Recovery.