Depression is not an uncommon state where alcohol is concerned.
Depression and alcoholism go together in three important ways:
- Isolated episodes of post-drinking depression
- As a withdrawal symptom
- Alcohol is often used by depressives to self-medicate
1) Isolated episodes of post-drinking depression
When I first started drinking, I didn’t feel depressed the next day; in fact, I rarely had hangovers and never had blackouts, at least as first. As things got worse and the blackouts started happening more and more often, I started to experience depressive episodes after drinking – sometimes to the extent that I couldn’t even seem to get out of bed. I knew that giving up drinking was the only way to stop the depression and in the end, it was the increasing frequency and severity of these episodes that made me give up the bottle.
Alcohol is a depressant which “lowers or depresses arousal levels and reduces excitability.” ”A descending BAC [blood alcohol level] corresponds to a decrease in vigor and an increase in fatigue, relaxation, confusion, and depression.”
2. Depression as a withdrawal symptom
There have been a large number of studies that have shown that depression is a common symptom of withdrawal from alcohol.  Often, the depression subsides along with the other symptoms of withdrawal, but it can persist in some cases – which means that alcoholics may need treatment for their depression as well as for the addiction itself.
3. Alcohol as a form of self-medication
Alcohol is a drug which affects mood in a powerful way. Alcohol induces a sense of elation and excitability.  Simply put, it makes you feel better and definitely masks depression – which is why so many alcoholics use it to self-medicate.
The end result is that if you use alcohol to self-medicate for depression, you’ll almost certainly suffer from severe depression if you quit drinking, which makes quitting even harder. However, it is possible to receive treatment for alcohol dependency and depression simultaneously.
There are 10 (actually more than 10) things you can do to treat alcoholism and depression; these are ten of the things that I tried that helped me get rid of depression and help me adjust to sobriety.
10 Ways to Address Your Alcoholism and Depression
1. See a physician
If you’re suffering from depression, get help right away. Your physician may suggest medication and/or other treatment options that can help you with your depression very quickly.
Therapy can help treat depression and anxiety as well as helping you to get sober. If your insurance covers therapy (or you can afford it out of pocket), it’s definitely worth trying.
3. Get into and/or continue with your recovery program
Just like getting sober, your depression will get better little by little. You might need medication and therapy, but you should definitely continue in any recovery program you’re in – and get into one if you’re not already. The support system of a recovery program (especially having a sponsor) is invaluable and it works.
4. Be socially active
When you’re suffering from depression it’s tempting to retreat into yourself, but one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself right now is to spend time with family and friends – that’s why recovery programs tend to be so effective. Spending time with others helps keep your depression at bay and improves your self-confidence.
You need to keep busy with something you’re passionate about – the kind of things you’ve wanted to do for a while, but haven’t been able to do because of your drinking. Anything that gets your mind off of your addiction and keeps you busy is great.
6. A healthier lifestyle
Exercising regularly, eating well and getting enough sleep can be a powerful remedy for depression . In fact, working out was very helpful for me after I got sober.
7. Setting goals
When I gave up drinking, I found that I had no goals in life; so I set some goals for myself and worked to achieve them. Achieving these goals helped me to become more confident and stay motivated to remain sober as well.
You didn’t hit bottom overnight and just like addiction, recovery is a process which takes time. Be patient with yourself and work every day to progress towards feeling better.
9. Have faith in yourself
Going to meetings helped me believe that staying sober was worthwhile and more to the point, to believe in my own ability to stay sober. I listened to others who had been where I was and had overcome it – and hearing these stories literally saved my life.
You have to be honest – both with yourself and with others. It’s hard to admit you’re an alcoholic and it can be even harder to admit to depression at the same time. If you’re not honest with yourself and the people around you who are trying to help you get better, then you’re not going to be able to turn things around. Being honest is the only way that you’re going to be able to get help and get sober for good.
While being depressed is not a pleasant way to live life, adding alcohol to the situation doesn’t help. There are many steps you can take to address your depression whether alcohol is involved or not. You don’t need to suffer in silence. Getting sober is great, but sometimes you must still address depression in sobriety … it’s not uncommon to do so … it doesn’t mean you have poor sobriety.
 Wikipedia. Depressant.
 Gowin, J. Your brain on alcohol. Psychology Today.
 Lopresti AL, Hood SD, Drummond PD. A review of lifestyle factors that contribute to important pathways associated with major depression: Diet, sleep and exercise. J Affect Disord. 2013 Feb 14. pii: S0165-0327(13)00069-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.01.014.
For more information about alcoholism and recovery, visit Zen Sobriety.