A large percentage of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics suffer from some degree of depression. In particular, nearly anyone who is first getting clean and sober struggles to some extent with motivation, as well as the idea of “OK, what do I do for fun now that I’m sober?” Finding the energy and enthusiasm to get out there and tackle life can be seriously lacking in early recovery. So, what are some ways to stimulate ourselves into overcoming this initial depression in recovery–depression that can sometimes drag on for years, or potentially resurface later on?
1) Move your body – I cannot emphasize this one enough. Any excuses are pathetic and you know it. If you want to feel good about yourself, you have to exercise, you have to get active, you have to move your body. This is so important for overcoming depression that it is arguably the single most important thing you can do, as evidenced by this article in Psychology Today.
2) Hobby – This might sound ridiculously trite and boring to the newly recovering addict or alcoholic, but eventually life will get interesting again and you can become passionate about things. Find something that sparks your interest and get involved with it, finding things that you like is part of the balance of your new life in recovery.
3) Connect with Peers – Reaching out to others and having friendships in recovery make it very difficult to stay depressed. This is especially useful when you can connect with others in recovery who are on the same “path” as you are.
4) Meaningful work or volunteering – I truly believe that this is a critical part of self-esteem and overcoming depression: you have to put forth effort that actually helps others. This can be through either a paid job or through volunteering, but I think it is important to feel genuinely needed in what you are doing. It’s important for your own self-esteem to be making a difference.
5) Balance – This is an important concept that I actually dismissed in early recovery, but I have come to see the benefit of living a balanced lifestyle as my recovery has progressed. Balance is the principle that ties everything together in recovery, and keeps you from getting too focused or obsessed on any one thing. For example, I have work, school, family, and exercise, but I still find time to relax and unwind as well–no single aspect of my life is dominating the others and stealing away all of my time and energy. I believe this attention to balance becomes even more important as recovery progresses, because maintaining a healthy balance is a big part of fighting complacency.
For more information, you might want to check out my friend Bill’s excellent article regarding overcoming depression in recovery. And for anyone with severe depression, seeking professional help would be a better starting point than research on the internet.
Action items – What you can do:
1) Move your body. Exercise.
2) Create a new life. Find meaning. Find passion.
3) Engage your peers. Interact.