Sober and Still Unhappy
You admitted that you have a problem, that you were powerless and all that jazz. You survived the physical detox process that, by the way, was not a mere “7 to 10 days.” You’re feeling like a crazy person. You’re not exactly sure what serenity feels like, but this definitely is not it. Your emotions are all over the place. You can’t cope with the slightest discomfort. Everything is stressing you out. Reading this article is stressing you out and you’re ready for me to just get to the point, right?
So, What Exactly Is Wrong With You?
When an individual suffers from both addiction and a mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety), it is called a dual diagnosis. The risk of relapse is high for those who are dually diagnosed unless the individual seeks treatment for both the substance abuse and the mental illness. According to Oltmanns and Emery (2007), approximately 40% of people with alcoholism have experienced a major depressive episode at some point in their lives. The authors also state that “people with anxiety disorder are about three times more likely too have an alcohol use disorder than are people without an anxiety disorder” (Oltmanns & Emery, 2007, 188). Unfortunately, people who are dally diagnosed experience more life problems than people with addiction alone including homelessness, criminal behavior, and suicide (Knowlton, 1995). Doesn’t it make sense that if you have a dual diagnosis, that you seek dual recovery?
Not Dually Diagnosed?
So, you don’t meet criteria for a mental illness, but you’re still miserable. Maybe you’re angry at yourself…or the world. Pity party – check. Your relationships (the ones that are left) are riddled with mistrust, resentments, and anger. Perhaps you’re unemployed, dealing with the financial repercussions of your addiction, or you have legal problems. You stopped using, but your problems didn’t disappear. In fact, they seem worse than ever!
Ok! Ok! Now What?
Even if you achieve physical sobriety, without learning how to cope with life, you place yourself at high risk of relapse. It’s possible, and even likely, that you were experiencing all those negative emotions before you started using. Many people use to cope with uncomfortable emotions. Drugs and alcohol serve as numbing agents. And now that you’ve lost that anesthetic, all those feelings have come rushing back with a vengeance, accompanied by some new problems.
You don’t have to figure out if you are dually diagnosed or not. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist who is experienced in the area of addiction, can assess for a mental illness. Let them figure that part out. In therapy, you will learn ways to cope with your mood, stress, anger, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and resentments. It’s imperative to your sobriety that you resist the urge to run away from or avoid emotions. You want to be able to experience and cope with your feelings and not become paralyzed by emotions. You will also explore what led to your addiction and you will hone your relapse prevention skills. You might include loved ones in therapy sessions in order to take steps towards improving your relationships. Therapy is also an opportunity for them to learn more about the disease of addiction and how to best support your recovery.
You’re completely normal (whatever that means). The disappointing truth is that getting sober does not immediately result in your life getting better. But being sober is empowering. You now have the power to take action and make your life better. You are no longer completely powerless. If you’re going the same things over and over again, you’re going to get the same results. It’s time to try something different. A psychologist, educated and experienced in the area of addictions, is a professional who has heard stories like yours and who can help you cope more effectively, rebuild and repair relationships, and prevent relapse.