I’ve talked a bit here about how much depression, especially the dissociative disorder I suffered from, is similar to alcohol or drug abuse. No, obviously there are big differences but both are the result of self-destructive behavior and act as a coping mechanism. My response to pain, suffering, stress, etc. was to dissociate, turn the depression into a barrier between reality, and my own physche. Alcoholics or drug users, drink or use as a response to pain, stress, etc.
One area that I’ve been thinking about the similarities are after the initial diagnosis and treatment. When you enter rehab or a 12 step program and stop using, you’ve taken a giant leap forward, no doubt, but you’re not done. When you enter therapy and maybe get put on anti-depressants, you’ve taken a giant step forward, but you’re not done either. There’s a pretty common misconception that all a user has to do is stop using to have a normal life, much like there’s a misconception that someone with depression and dissociation only has to get the right medication and then they’ll be fine, but it’s not true.
Remember, the using and the depression both are a reaction to pain and suffering. Until you learn how to handle pain in healthy ways, you are not really better. For myself, I had to spend much of my late twenties into my early thirties learning how to be an adult. How to make healthy decisions, how to cope with painful situations, how to handle the stresses of adult life. I had spent my childhood dissociating in order to deal with the pain and stress of an abusive childhood. Being medicated helped keep me from completely getting lost in my dissociation, but it didn’t teach me how to do something else to handle pain and suffering. That took a long time and a lot of work. Over coming addiction isn’t only about not using, it’s also about learning what else you can do when you are in painful or stressful situations. That takes time, and it takes work. Overcoming addiction, depression, and various other “issues” is about so much more than just stopping one unhealthy behavior, it’s about growing up and learning to live in a healthier way. Give yourself the time to learn how to do that.