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Tommy Recovery Coaching

Understanding Depression when Quitting Drinking

In March 2023, professional golfer Chris Kirk scored a PGA victory while competing at the Honda Classic in Florida. That was his first title since he dropped off the PGA tour in 2019 to recover from alcoholism and depression. In an interview with ESPN, an emotional Kirk explained that sobriety is what helped him return to the PGA tour, which he had abandoned because he felt he was lying not only to himself but also to his family and the sports community. In other interviews, Kirk has gone into greater detail about his journey to recovery. He has been clear about the severe depression he endured early on, and he admitted it was more difficult to overcome than he had expected.

Depression among Alcoholics

The relationship between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and depression is unfortunately common. During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers who conducted longitudinal surveys among recovering alcoholics found that more than 70 percent of AUD patients also suffered from depression. In this sizable cohort, approximately half experienced severe depression during the detoxification period. In many cases, this condition lasted well into the next stage of the recovery process. Addiction recovery specialists, particularly those who have gone through the process themselves, will tell you that most of their patients fall into depression during some stages of the recovery journey.

Depression during Detox

Alcoholics who must undergo clinical detoxification will almost invariably sink into severe depression. In fact, this likelihood is often the reason they’re admitted to such programs under medical orders. Anecdotal studies based on data provided by Alcoholics Anonymous indicate that up to 10 percent of their members start their journeys with inpatient detox because doctors or counselors believe there may be a risk of delirium tremens and severe clinical depression. During medical and emergency detox, medications such as anticonvulsants, sedatives, and barbiturates can be administered to attenuate the effects of severe withdrawal, which is what triggers terrible depressive episodes.

Depression after Detox

The majority of AUD patients will detox at home and on their own before they attend AA meetings, enter rehabilitation clinics, or begin living in sober homes. Approximately 40 percent will experience depression during this period, but most go through mild episodes that won’t require antidepressants. All recovery programs address mental health issues, particularly depression, so treatment is already built in. Once AUD patients are at these stages, mental health professionals will watch out for:

  • Anhedonia – While it’s normal for recovering alcoholics to feel sad, prolonged episodes can be problematic
  • Strong cravings – If these devolve into withdrawal, they can lead to depression
  • “Pink fog” – Being overly and irrationally optimistic during the early stages of recovery can result in depression if disappointment comes too soon

If the issues above persist after detox, the treatment strategies can be adjusted.

Depression & Sobriety

In a perfect world, AUD patients would never have to worry about depression once they find solace in sobriety. The reality of depression is that it’s not preempted by sobriety. For some individuals, sobriety means being able to deal with depression without having to hit the bottle. For others, sobriety lets them know that feeling depressed is a challenge that must always be overcome in a holistic manner. It’s not uncommon for AUD patients who seek professional recovery coach services in Encinitas to be concerned about depression, which is why coaching often involves coping strategies for dealing with guilt and other emotions that often end up in depression. 

For strength-based support with alcohol addiction recovery in Encinitas, CA, you can rely on the trained recovery coaches at Sober Lifestyle Coaching. Our goal is to offer our clients maximum recovery support, especially in the first fragile days or weeks of early recovery. From helping you transition back into your home and create a healthy, sober living space to traveling with you to court cases or business events, we’ll be with you every step of the way. If you’re looking for extra addiction recovery support so you don’t risk relapse when you head into the danger zones, we’ll work with you to put together a game plan to keep you safe and sober as you accomplish your goals. Give us a call today at (760) 300-8338.

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