There’s a saying that a fellow recovering addict told me in our rehab program:
Alcohol can cause mental illness, but mental illness cannot cause alcohol addiction.
Is this true?
What I do know is that certain mental conditions, particularly those that are not diagnosed and treated quickly, might trigger the use of alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol always has the opposite effect
I used to reach for a drink because I wanted to alter my mood at that moment. After my father passed away a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by a bundle of uncomfortable feelings like sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness. The only way I escaped the overpowering emotions was to down a few glasses of wine.
Most of us know that savoring a glass of wine after a hard day at work can help you relax and unwind. I felt that when I drank, I managed to narrow my perception of the situation. Moreover, I didn’t respond to all the cues around me and it helped me fall asleep faster.
However, as I found out the hard way – when you’re prone to anxiety, that glass of wine will eventually transform into an entire bottle per day. As many people in my situation can confess, in the long run, alcohol contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety. In the end, it will make stress harder to deal with.
Can you do something about it?
Alcoholics diagnosed with depressive disorders have a harder time than addicts without depression. In fact, simply feeling bad about drinking too much can constitute a trigger for a drink and spiral you in the grasp of a vicious cycle. Nevertheless, you can do something about it.
As for my situation, here’s what I did to stay sober for the past 2 years. After I finished rehab, I searched for a solid social sober network with people in my exact situation and who were undergoing a recovery treatment. If you find it hard to make new friends in general, take it slow and start with the contacts you made in your support groups.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to stay away from people, places, and things that prompt the impulse to have a drink. Some of you might want to attend a wedding, a birthday party or another type of social event, but are afraid you’re going to start drinking again. Participating in a happy event and surrounding yourself with the people you care about could actually help you overcome sadness and depression.
If you want to be certain that you will resist the temptation, then you should bring someone from your support group with you. The thing that worked for me was planning my actions for the event ahead of time: I used to go in to greet and congratulate people and made sure I was out the door in about 45 minutes.
You can pull through!
If you drink heavily, then you’re very likely to develop symptoms of depression and there’s even a scientific explanation as to why this happens. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis is known to lower the levels of serotonin in the brain, meaning the neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood.
A false sense that we all create in our mind is that alcohol can help us cope with a stressful or unpleasant situation. Then again, if you commonly use alcohol to improve your mood or hide your depression, you will get more than you bargained for!