If you suffer from an addiction, you are also likely to suffer from depression. I know from personal experience as well as a lot of research that both conditions tend to strike simultaneously and, while they are often incurable, effective treatments exist. While you don’t have to suffer an addiction to suffer from depression, the condition is life-changing and something you have to learn to live with and adapt to, whether you choose to medicate or not. I am not talking about sadness or short bouts of typical depression brought on by life’s circumstances, but clinical depression which seems to go hand-in-hand with addiction, or at least an addictive personality. Together, they’re tough to conquer but it’s entirely possible to make depression and addiction your new best friends, making healthy choices that lead to a life of happiness and freedom.
What is clinical depression?
Most of us have felt sad or even depressed at some time or another in life because it is normal to feel this way after a loss, a life-altering roadblock or illness. However, when these feelings last for weeks, months or even years on end, we are talking about clinical depression.
WebMD cites clinical depression symptoms as:
- A depressed mood during most of the day
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired concentration
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- A sense of restlessness
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
What is addiction?
Psychology Today defines addiction as the search for emotional pleasure for a sense of security, of being loved, and even a sense of control over your life. Yet, the gratification from abusing whatever the substance or habit is short-lived and illusory. The behavior only results in greater self-hatred, reduced psychological security, and poor coping ability. All addictions have this outcome in common, no matter if the abused substance is food or foreplay.
How to befriend depression and have it work to your advantage
As an addict myself, and having recovered from various addictions, I have found a creative outlet when depression hits me. Once I understood my tendency toward depression, I learned to live with it. When it flares up, I acknowledge it and don’t allow myself to be engulfed, paralyzed or wallow in it. Instead, I have an action plan. I’ve found that drawing or painting not only soothes me but helps me express my sadness on paper and let it all go, leaving the feelings on the page. Not surprisingly, after having finished, I feel much better, having accomplished something which no one will probably see, but I keep it and collect it as I would a photo album. Another outlet is writing. I don’t write about how I’m feeling, but any other subject that moves me deeply or speaks to my soul. My feelings are so deep and intense at those times that I can spend hours pouring my heart out onto paper.
How to befriend addiction and have it work to your advantage
Once an addict, always an addict, right? Unfortunately, as an addict myself, I know I am prone to any addiction out there, and will always have a tendency toward addiction even if I don’t give into my cravings anymore.
I know I tend to become addicted easily to unhealthy habits, so I’m always vigilant about my health and wellness. While I don’t like gambling, for example, if I go to Vegas, you won’t see me anywhere near a machine, the same way you won’t see me alone in a bar! I don’t push my luck by putting myself in the path of temptation.
As any addict, I’m compulsive, so I make this work for me by intensely focusing on something healthy.
Years ago, I channeled my addictive energy into working out and gaining muscle mass. I read everything I could get my hands on and was able to reach my goal since I put all my obsessive energy into it. Just as I found a healthy way to channel my tendency toward depression, my compulsive personality helps me achieve greatness when I set healthy goals for myself.
You can make friends with your depression and addiction and not only that, you can help other people who go through the same thing by sharing your own experience. By taking care of yourself and understanding your natural tendencies, you become more empathetic. This, in life, is invaluable. I don’t think I would be as sensitive to others if I hadn’t had my own personal experience with depression and addiction. Now, I encourage others to make friends with their addictive side and feelings of depression and, instead of getting stuck in destructive behaviors, find a creative, healthy outlet and go nuts with it!