The physical act of withdrawal is difficult, uncomfortable, and can feel incredibly painful. Your body is finally relinquishing its need for a substance that it’s depended on for a substantial amount of time.

depressed woman with her head downYou may be thinking that after the withdrawal process, your recovery will be easier; physically you may be right, but you need to prepare for the emotional next steps.

Drugs and alcohol don’t only impact our bodies physically; they have a major effect on our mental state as well. Once the physical symptoms of withdrawal have subsided, the emotional ups and downs will likely accompany them.

Depression and substance withdrawal: what’s the connection?

Both drugs and alcohol have the ability to make chemical changes to our brains. “Many of these changes create a flood of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which create an artificial feeling of pleasure, or a “high.” The more frequently somebody uses an addictive substance, the more of that particular substance will be required to produce the high feeling.

Eventually, your body will depend on this increased volume of the substance in order to feel happy at all. When the substance is no longer available, your brain will have trouble creating happiness on its own. So, as you can imagine, during and after the withdrawal period, your mind will be more susceptible to feelings of depression.

So, what are the next steps?

The prolonged period of depression after initial withdrawal is what commonly leads to relapse. Addiction sufferers may tire of feeling down, depressed, or even suicidal, so they return to substance abuse in hopes of feeling happy again. However, by continuing to fight for your sobriety with the appropriate therapeutic support after the initial withdrawal, you can eventually learn to cope with depression and create your own happiness again.

Some people assume that once an addict is no longer consuming a substance, they no longer need help. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When treating addictions, some of the toughest work comes after the substance abuse has stopped. Withdrawal is simply the first step in preparing an addict for the brunt of the recovery work. When addicts stop using, it is then that they can finally begin to address why they used in the first place.

What does the recovery process look like?

In order for an addict begin recovery, they may partake in months of treatment and years of therapy. An addiction doesn’t just stop once the substance is abandoned. There was a reason the addict used in the first place, and a reason they continued to do so.

You will not be able to fully recover until we address the root of the problem. If you used drugs or alcohol to cope, you will need to replace this coping mechanism with a healthier one instead. The trigger may still be present so the coping skills can change.

Depression is exhausting, it will likely feel that your substance abuse provided the only pleasure or stimulus in your life. Coping skills can include reaching out to a friend, journaling, exercising, reading, watching television, and more. Keep a long list of activities you once enjoyed and choose at least one daily. Fight negative thoughts with a list of activities you loved. Work on rediscovering pleasure as a means of avoiding relapse and the joylessness of depression.

Mood management is also a crucial part of the recovery process. This often requires the help of a therapist. If depression or anxiety is not easing through therapy alone, your physician and counselor may consider carefully administered medications as well.

Withdrawal and depression can feel overwhelmingly difficult to manage on your own. Yet, with dedication and the right treatment approach, full recovery is possible. Reach out for experienced help to start your progress to a physically and mentally healthy life. Please contact me soon for a consultation.