Introducing our first Contributed Post at the Head in the Game blog, where, among other items, I hope and plan to share stories of others making their minds stronger.
Addicts and Their Overlooked Struggle with Depression
by Constance Ray, Contributor from RecoveryWell.org
People working to overcome an addiction often battle an additional — and equally devastating — struggle: depression. It often feels like a war within themselves that simply will not have a happy ending for them.
But we have spoken with people in addiction who shared wonderful news: there is always the possibility for a happy ending.
They told us that their key to success was reaching out for help. Not only did treatment help them get sober, it also helped them acquire the tools they need to find joy in life, which keeps them from drowning in their depression.
Here are two stories of how recovered addicts found a life of overall wellness.
Eddie found the path to sobriety and joy
Eddie had been struggling for years — not just with addiction, but with deeply-rooted unhappiness he just could not escape.
Seeking treatment helped him understand that he could overcome his issues if he did the work. Now, he says, “The trauma therapy and looking deep within myself was especially meaningful: peeling back the layers — as hard as that was — and understanding why I am the way I am.”
He is sober now, and his work on bettering himself continues — and although it is, indeed, hard work, he is grateful for it. “I’m working to overcome the fact that I’m not perfect — and that’s OK,” he says. “I don’t have to try to be, and nobody expects me to be, so I keep telling myself to ease up. I’m also learning to take what people say by its face value and stop trying to read into every little thing.”
He added that no matter what hardships someone is facing, there is always a chance to push ahead into brighter days.
“I thought I needed to forgive others so I could move on and find happiness,” he says. “But what really needed to happen was to forgive myself for punishing myself for all these years. When I did that, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. And boy, did it feel good.”
Sobriety saved Lincoln’s life at his lowest point of depression
Lincoln knows all too well how depression and addiction can make a person feel lost and hopeless — especially when they’re working together.
Though he was able to go for long periods of time without using, Lincoln struggled with drugs and alcohol for years.
Then one fateful day, everything changed.
Not only did he relapse, but the thought of getting sober again sent him into a detox-fueled rage: “[My family] put me on lock and key. … By that point, I was making crazy threats to them and to myself. In Kentucky, there’s a thing called Casey’s Law where if two or more people think you’re a threat to [yourself] or others, the court can order involuntary drug treatment.”
Though rehab wasn’t his idea, Lincoln eventually got on board. He even vetoed his family’s initial choice of facilities because he knew it would send him right back down the same path.
“They picked a place that was close to home, but I knew the people there and knew I wasn’t going to get better if I stuck around,” he says.
Instead, they opted for Texas’ Treehouse facility. When he arrived, Lincoln knew he had an opportunity to get his life back — and be both sober and happy.
“At the Treehouse, I hit the ground running,” he says. “I knew if I was going to be there, I wanted to be 100 percent. My therapist got where I was coming from and helped me to understand what was going on. I immersed myself in it and went to all of the classes that I could.”
Today, he’s happier than he ever thought he could be, without needing to turn to drugs or alcohol, and he believes that everyone has that chance: “If life isn’t going great, and you see that your life is a disaster, something has to change. Nothing external has to change, but internally you have to find a new start. Once you get right internally, the external will follow.”
Eddie and Lincoln show that whether you’re living with an addiction, depression, or another mental health issue, it is possible to make it through to the other side. And if you need to reach out to someone for help in order to do that — whether to a mental health professional or even just a trusted friend — you should.
Eddie offered one more piece of advice for those still not convinced that they can overcome their toughest battles:
“I would tell them to quit punishing themselves, and understand that the past is there to teach us and guide us, not define us.”
Constance Ray co-created Recovery Well to provide a safe place for people to share their addiction stories so that others can learn from them and benefit in their own lives. Learn and read more at RecoveryWell.org.