Addiction comes in many forms: drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex. We turn to things that give us pleasure in the moment without much thought to what it will do in the long run, and that kind of thinking can be costly.
Substance abuse is one of the most dangerous types of addiction. In a short amount of time, it can affect physical and mental health, finances, relationships, even jobs and school. It can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, and, if left untreated, can become fatal. Yet it’s difficult for many people to talk about because of the stigma that surrounds substance abuse; it’s hard to reach out and ask for help because of shame or guilt.
When drugs or alcohol are used repeatedly, they begin to change the way the brain functions over time. They cause deterioration of the body and memory and can lead to low-self esteem, trouble sleeping and eating, and social isolation. When this leads to depression, the individual at risk automatically becomes more at risk for suicidal behavior.
The most common symptoms of depression include:
If these behaviors are left untreated, they are likely to only get worse. It’s imperative to reach out for help as soon as possible; if you are uncomfortable talking to someone you know, consider looking for a support group online or near your home. Consult your doctor and be honest about your substance abuse--how long it’s been going on, how often you abuse, and how much. He or she will likely recommend therapy or medication to begin recovery.
There are other ways to work toward healing, as well; getting daily exercise is one of the best ways to start down a healthy path. You may not feel up to getting outside, and that’s okay; there are many ways to be active. Swimming at the local pool is a great way to battle depression, because swimming requires focus and repetitive activity, both of which can help combat negative feelings. Yoga is also highly recommended.
You can also get creative. Any type of creative outlet--writing, art, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, acting, baking, sewing--can be tremendously helpful for those working toward a healthy life. Keeping a journal is also a good idea, because it will allow you to see when you felt a particular emotion and what caused it.
If the depression begins to lean toward suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to ask for help, either from a family member or close friend or a trained professional. There is no shame in expressing a need for assistance; in fact, it is one of the bravest things a person who is battling depression and substance abuse can do.
Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.
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The Mental Health Minute