This is a valid question that many alcoholics will have to tackle in early recovery.
I personally fit the criteria for some type of depression back in my drinking days, as diagnosed by a psychologist at that time.
Now, it might have been the case that I suffered depression before I ever picked the booze up, and was simply medicating myself.
Or, it might have been the case that the alcoholic drinking had created a depressive state. I honestly don’t know for sure to this day because these days I am both sober and also living an active enough lifestyle with plenty of exercise that could probably suffice to treat some mild forms of depression. But that brings us back to the question of which really came first, the depression or the drinking?
For our purposes, it doesn’t really matter.
Solution focused recovery
If your recovery focuses heavily on the solution (meaning: positive action) then the answer to the question largely won’t matter. If you’re going to stick it out in sobriety then 2 things are going to happen, just as they did to me:
1) You’ll stop drinking, and eventually any depression fueled by this drinking will cease to exist.
2) You’ll start actively creating recovery, which serves as a cure for most forms of depression (when done right).
I would also add in a third disclaimer: if you have a major form of depression that cannot be treated with an active lifestyle and increased social interactions, then obviously you would seek professional help in early recovery as part of your sobriety efforts. In other words, if you take all of this positive action and remain clinically depressed, it should follow that you would seek professional, medical help.
But for many alcoholics, the first 2 points above will definitely help in any struggle with depression.
Remember the 3 strategies of creative recovery and realize that they directly fight depression in their own right: “Networking with others” is a direct push for socialization, and “caring for self” is also a way to directly combat depression. There is also a push for holistic growth and in particular some form of physical exercise, which can work wonders in overcoming depression and in some cases has even been proven to be just as effective as medication.
The bottom line is that if you think you might have depression, here are 3 suggestions for you:
1) Quit drinking (if you have not already done so)
2) Seek medical treatment
3) Live the creative theory (positive action, holistic growth, exercise, etc.).