Depression and Addiction: How to Stay Positive During the Early Stages of Alcohol Recovery

Research reveals that around one-third of people with a substance use disorder also suffer from depression.

One of the main reasons why these two issues often co-occur? If underlying feelings of loneliness or hopelessness were already present, substance abuse can intensify them. It can also trigger their onset, even when no prior symptoms were present.

When you’re in the throes of addiction recovery, the light at the end of the tunnel can feel light-years away. Thus, it isn’t uncommon to feel sad, whether you receive an official diagnosis of depression or not.

Today, we’re further exploring this link between depression and addiction. We’ll also share a few ways you can make the journey to recovery as positive as possible, even when you’re feeling anything but.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Early Recovery and Your Mindset

Once you’ve completed your alcohol addiction recovery program, you might feel like you’re on top of the world.

The material you learned is still fresh in your mind, your inspiration and motivation are at an all-time high, and you’re determined to make this time stick.

However, that feeling of euphoria can fade in an instant once the real world sets in.

Suddenly, you notice temptations everywhere. Your friend circle likely narrowed and you’re unsure how to spend your free time. Plus, any time you encounter a negative situation, you feel paralyzed.

Previously, you’d turn to alcohol to cope, easing and numbing the pain with the bottle. Now, you feel every ache tenfold.

You need a new way to grapple with those negative thoughts so they don’t consume you.

It’s no wonder that between 40% and 60% of people who have completed treatment for alcohol addiction relapse within one year. Day-to-day negativity can be enough to consume anyone, especially someone who has yet to establish healthy coping mechanisms.

How, then, can you harness the power of positive thinking during the early stages of your recovery? The answer lies in setting your mind on things that bring you joy. Let’s explore a few ways to do just that.

Practice Mindful Meditation

While you’re recovering, it’s tempting to dwell on the dark side. It’s true, there are myriad stressors that can make just getting through the day feel difficult.

Yet, keeping a positive mindset isn’t impossible.

One of the ways to help redirect your psyche is to practice mindful meditation. A popular technique both inside and outside of the addiction recovery sector, this is the process of paying close attention to everything that’s occurring in the present moment.

Rather than anticipating what’s to come or looking back with regret, you’re simply taking note of how you feel right now. Find a quiet spot, sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and the energy around you.

If a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it and then let it pass. As you practice this exercise more often, the easier it will become. Soon, you’ll find that you can enter that place of peace regardless of where you are.

Find Positive Influences

If birds of a feather flock together, you might feel like you’re flying solo right now.

Right after treatment, you’re craving connection and a return to normalcy. Thus, it can be alluring to seek out your old crew and see what you’ve missed.

Unfortunately, these might be the very people who supported and fed your alcohol addiction in the first place. To stay sober, it’s imperative to find a supportive social circle filled with positive influences. This might mean making the difficult decision to cut ties with some of your closest former companions.

Not sure where to look?

Start by joining a support group for people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. These individuals will be in the same shoes that you are and might be seeking a similar kind of companionship.

They also know your struggles, as well as the complexities of recovery. They can offer encouragement, lend a listening ear and suggest substance-free activities that you can all enjoy.

Volunteer and Give Back

There’s no denying the power of altruism.

Studies show that being generous with your time, money and resources can deliver a powerful mental boost to your brain.

If you’re looking for another way to find and connect with sober friends, as well as another outlet to dedicate your free time to, find a local charity and plug in.

Not only does volunteer work help you meet new people, but it also gives you a chance to feel like you’re making an important, beneficial difference in someone’s life.

Find a cause that you feel passionate about and inquire about dedicating a few hours of your time every week or a few times a month. You’ll find that your confidence and self-worth will begin to grow as you recognize the impact of your work.

Focus on Your Health

Yes, recovering from alcohol addiction can wreak havoc on your physical health. From headaches and nausea to hallucinations and seizures, the withdrawal and detoxification symptoms can be difficult.

As you’re regaining your footing, it’s important to focus on both your physical and mental health. Thankfully, there are several simple steps you can take to improve both at the same time.

First, make sure to get plenty of sleep. Especially if you’re used to drinking at night, turning off your devices, lowering the lights and creating a tranquil, earlier bedtime routine is a great healthy habit to adopt.

As you establish that new schedule, make it a point to prioritize proper nutrition.

Your body will crave the vitamins and minerals that it’s lacked for so long, and putting your energy into meal planning and healthy cooking is a great way to stay positive.

It also gives you something to work toward and a goal to maintain!

Finally, commit to an exercise routine, even if it’s just running a lap around the neighborhood every morning.

Consistent, gentle workouts can help your body recover more quickly from the damage of addiction. They’re also economical, effective ways to clear your mind and help you recharge your mental battery.

Find a New Hobby

Whether you used to be a social drinker, solo drinker, or both, it goes without saying that consuming alcohol once took up a large percentage of your time. Even when you weren’t drinking, you were thinking about it or finding ways to keep it under wraps at work and at home.

Now, you’re out of recovery and have tons of new free time on your hands.

Rather than sit at home and dwell on your former pastimes, it helps to go out and find a new hobby! What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try but never did?

Maybe for you, that’s painting. Or, it could be skiing, rafting, poetry writing or pottery making.

Don’t be afraid to explore your interests and dig into what makes you happy and allows you to lose yourself for a moment. When you engage in an activity that brings you joy, your mood is elevated.

Look for creative outlets that allow you to stretch yourself and discover new talents you might not have even realized you had. From making music to sketching, there are many different opportunities to pursue.

Repeat a Positive Affirmation

Alcohol addiction can feel like a nagging, taunting voice that’s always in your head, pulling you to pour just one more drink.

During the early stages of recovery, that voice might turn into a shout. This can bring about feelings of hopelessness and despair that can quickly snowball into depression.

While it might not be a quick fix, it helps to counter that voice with a positive affirmation that you can repeat any time you need a reminder of your inner strength.

Your affirmation doesn’t have to be a paragraph long. In fact, it should be as short and as simple as possible so you can remember and repeat it often. Some ideas include:

  • I will try my best today
  • I am working hard at my recovery
  • Today is going to be a good day
  • I am succeeding one day at a time
  • I am stronger than I think

These sentences are simple, but they carry an enormous amount of weight. Try writing them down and keeping them somewhere where you’ll notice them throughout the day, such as taped to your bathroom mirror or on the dashboard of your car.

Talk It Out

One of the quickest and easiest ways to fall prey to the trappings of depression is to keep your pain bottled up inside.

From the first day of your recovery onward, find someone who you feel comfortable opening up to about your day-to-day struggles.

This might be a professional therapist, someone from your place of worship, a close friend or co-worker, or a beloved family member. Talking about your issues, concerns, and doubts is a therapeutic way to release pent-up anxiety and negativity.

While it can be tempting to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and wallow in isolation, those feelings of loneliness can make it more difficult to stay sober.

Just as it’s important to connect with positive people who can help you enjoy this journey and have fun at social events, you should also find people who are willing to walk through the hardest parts with you.

In some cases, this might not look like a casual chat at the coffee shop. During the difficult moments, it might look more like sitting beside you in the trenches as you find your way out.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

It might sound like a cliche, but there is so much to be thankful for. The only problem? When you’re knee-deep in the hard parts of recovery, it can be hard to think of a single one.

Yet, it’s important to try. Set aside time in the morning or evening to reflect on all the good that’s going on in your life, even if it’s as simple as “I woke up today” or “I saw the sunset.”

As time goes by, you’ll find that this exercise will become easier to do. Set a reminder on your phone to write in your journal at the same time every day so you don’t forget.

Try to think of at least three things to be thankful for at first. Then, increase your list to at least five or more! You can look back on your list years later and see the positivity that was all around you, even when it felt like there was none to be found.

Seeking Positivity Amid Depression and Addiction

As if addiction weren’t hard enough to work through, adding depression on top of your recovery can feel like a weight you just can’t lift.

That’s why it helps to have access to resources that can turn your day in a positive direction. Whether that means chatting with a friend, going for a bike ride, helping others, or any other idea on this list, you’ve got plenty of options.

Depression and addiction might be linked, but they don’t have to go hand in hand. Seek the outlets and opportunities that help bring happiness and peace to your days, and you’ll find this journey easier to navigate.

Need help kicking your alcohol addiction to the curb? That’s why we’re here.

Our free webinar breaks down the steps to take, all without AA, pricey rehab or even personal willpower.

Register now to reserve your spot and let’s take this next step together.

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