Navigating Early Recovery from Depression

thoughtful woman sitting near a river Navigating Early Recovery from DepressionToday, millions of Americans struggle with drugs and alcohol. In fact, with 46.3 million of us qualifying for a substance use disorder diagnosis, almost 14% of the adult population has a drug or alcohol use disorder. But, if you’re in recovery, you’re one of the less than 1.4% that actually go to rehab. That process is notoriously difficult, with many people refusing to start because of fear of failure. But, if you’re already struggling with mental health and have depression, navigating early recovery requires even more care and support.

You probably learned in rehab that negative emotions can be triggers for relapse. That’s true. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay clean and sober. It just means you have to lean on your routines and your support network, prioritize staying in recovery, and take each day one step at a time.

Create and Stick to Routines

Routines can be hard to build and to stick to, but if you do them long enough, they get easier. In addition, having a routine or something that you can just do and that you know you should do will give you stability and expectations. Most people won’t ever autopilot routines – even things like brushing your teeth. However, you can ensure that you have stable routines that enable self-care and that work to improve your state of mind and the state of your home. Some good routines look like:

  • Go shopping for the whole week on the weekend and don’t go to the store throughout the week. This reduces exposure to alcohol and reduces daily stress and decision-making.
  • If cooking and taking care of yourself requires effort, try to meal prep on a single day a week, so you can spend 4-5 hours cooking on one day and have the rest of your days free.
  • Wake up and go to bed at about the same time every day. E.g., 8 AM-11PM
  • Have a bedtime routine, where you turn off screens and devices and read or do something off your phone at least an hour before you intend to sleep
  • Try to spend 15 minutes per day cleaning up your home so that you never have to spend a great deal of time cleaning
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days, in the morning, before you get tired. It doesn’t have to be hard exercise and a walk or biking to work can be better than going to a gym, although a gym will provide social interaction
  • Spend at least an hour talking to other people, either on the phone or having them over

These kinds of routines can be extremely difficult to start. However, you can add them on one at a time. For example, if you start with creating a bedtime and you can make yourself start doing it, you then have a basis for doing the bedtime routine every day at the same time. Likewise, you can start a routine of exercising when you get out of bed based on your bedtime routine. So, if you start with one, the rest get easier.

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Build a Support Network

support groupPeople need support. That’s important for anyone. But, if you’re in early recovery, it’s more true than ever. Here, you’ll need someone to talk to. You’ll want people you can share with. You’ll also just want normal emotional support and physical contact. Building that up can be difficult. If you’re struggling with depression, that’s more true. However, you can take steps to ensure that you have people around. You can make reaching out a habit.

For example, some good steps to take include going to a 12 step or similar self-help groups. These will put you in close proximity with people who are best-able to understand where you’re coming from and to face similar problems. In addition, you can try to set up regular contact with friends and family, to schedule regular talks with your therapist or counselor, and to work towards having friends you can talk to.

That’s all easier said than done. And, no one is obligated to offer you support, even if they are close to you. So, talking to people, asking if they can help, if they have energy right then, and offering reciprocation are always the best ways to go about asking for support.

Take Time Out When You Need It

Rebuilding your life in early recovery can be extremely difficult. If you’re struggling with depression, you’ll have even more to worry about. For that reason, it’s important to look into options that can give you more time to build good habits, to stay clean and sober, and to get the time out you need to focus on recovery. Some of those options include looking into a sober home or halfway house. You might not feel like you are “that bad”, but you don’t have to be. Having people around, having people to help you with routines, and having the extra help with staying away from drugs and alcohol can relieve you of a lot of stress. And, that can be the difference between navigating early recovery and failing it – because people do need help.

Keep Getting Professional Help

Graduating rehab means you’ve taken enough steps to follow through on staying clean and sober. In other cases, it means your program has ended and your counselors and therapists might recommend you into further treatment. In either case, the rehab treatment was most likely focused on helping you to move past addiction. You’ll still need ongoing support for navigating life in recovery, for managing your depression, and for treating depression. You might also need continued professional help with addiction, because many people benefit from addiction treatment for years.

No matter what you need, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you’re out of rehab doesn’t mean your professional help goes away. You can always reach out, get help for the specific issues you’re facing now, get ongoing support with staying clean and sober, or get therapy. Some good ideas include going to an outpatient program, so you can spend your nights in counseling and treatment, going into a mental-health-focused program to help you improve the symptoms of depression, or getting a counselor who can help you navigate reintegration into life. No matter what you choose, getting help is always a good idea.

If you’re struggling with depression, it makes early recovery that much more difficult. However, good routines and good support networks will help you to make it through.

If you or a loved one needs help with mental health treatmentdrug rehab, or alcohol rehab Compassion Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us to ask about our modern and effective treatment programs.

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