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5 Tips for Dealing with Depression After Quitting Drinking

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

5 Tips for Dealing with Depression After Quitting Drinking


Depression is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal and can happen with any addiction. 


Imagine, you spend years of your life with your best friend – alcohol – and you two are inseparable. You spend every waking moment with your booze of choice – parties, cloudy days, sunny days, holidays, dates, celebrations, funerals, even upon awakening you two are side by side. All of a sudden, your alcoholic companion is gone. No good-bye, and no hope of ever seeing this friend again. 


This is what it feels like for an alcoholic to quit drinking. The individual has been separated from their most loyal companion. Completely disregarding the fact that this so-called friend destroyed relationships, ruined job opportunities, and wasted precious time, the individual feels a huge loss once he/she decides to quit drinking. 


Not only are you experiencing the emotional void of no longer spending time with your fair-weather friend, alcohol, but your body is also experiencing biological changes that can cause depression. Your brain’s reward system is in shock, and the process of recovering takes a little bit of time. Studies have shown that alcohol can cause emotional instability and worsen underlying symptoms of depression. These symptoms can linger into your sobriety. Also, the physical withdrawal symptoms of alcohol detox are unpleasant and can lead to feelings of depression.


Depression in recovery from alcoholism can be mitigated through therapy, applying healthy coping skills, and sometimes through appropriate medications. Depression is generally not cured overnight and your body may need time to adjust. However, if you properly treat your depression, you will begin to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Most importantly, you will experience a new sense of freedom and a whole new meaning to life. Here are a few tips for how to deal with depression after you decide to quit drinking.  


Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

When you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal and depression symptoms, simple changes in diet, sleeping patterns, and exercising can make a huge difference. Adopting an all-around healthy lifestyle has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of depression. For example, Harvard Health Publishing reported that alcohol has a slowing effect (depressant effect) on the brain. Most alcohol abusers have a shortage of several vitamins and minerals. As a result, they will benefit from nutritional supplements. Exposure to sunlight can restore levels of vitamin D and eating vitamin-rich foods can restore the deficiencies leftover from your ravishing alcohol abuse. 


When you begin to take on a healthy diet and exercise, you will begin to feel good about yourself. As your confidence is restored, self-hatred and self-loathing will begin to dissipate as the symptoms of depression slowly disappear. You can take action on combating your depression by implementing some of these healthy lifestyle choices. 


Participate in Aftercare and Therapy

Your addiction shouldn’t stop once you leave your alcohol rehab program. Many substance abuse treatment centers offer aftercare resources and you should take full advantage of them. Continuum of care is absolutely vital to maintaining your sobriety and beating depression. For example, therapy is a useful tool in dealing with depression and other unpleasant emotions in recovery.


Depression should always be treated by a professional and licensed therapist who can properly assess your condition and help you recover. Therapists often offer insight to help you fully understand the root causes of your depression, what steps you can take against it, and help you decide if you should try an antidepressant medication. In recovery, there are often stigmas surrounding mental health medications. However, when treating addiction, it is important for co-occurring disorders to be properly treated as well. In order to maintain your sobriety and enjoy the full benefits of your recovery, it is always a great idea to establish a strong aftercare plan and attend therapy as needed.


Practice Self-Care

It may seem cliche, but the age-old advice of taking care of yourself is one of the simplest and best things you can do. From eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, and doing nice things for yourself are vital to your recovery. If you take the time to take care of yourself, you will feel better. Take time to do the things that you enjoy the most – read a book, go for a hike, and create your own “self-care kit”.


A self-care kit is a box or container filled with items that soothe you or help put you in a more positive mood. Most people prefer to create their own personalized self-care kits to help ease the symptoms of their depression. When you begin creating your self-care kit, keep your senses in mind: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.


Examples of what to include in your self-care kit: 

  • Candles
  • Calming teas
  • Face masks
  • Stress balls
  • Soothing essential oils
  • Chocolates and other non-perishable comfort snacks
  • Stuffed animals
  • Positive affirmations
  • Gratitude list
  • A list of your favorite mood-boosting songs
  • Fidget spinner
  • Your favorite book
  • Pictures that comfort you
  • Journal


Call Your Sober Support

When you are in recovery, you are encouraged to create an unbreakable bond with new, sober friends for support. If you are feeling depressed, you should always pick up the phone and ask for help. Most recovering alcoholics have dealt with the grieving process of saying goodbye to alcohol. Consequently, your sober support will be able to identify and offer advice for the depressing feelings you may be experiencing.


Co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and depression are very common amongst recovering alcoholics. Chances are, someone in your sober support network understands what you are going through. They can offer encouragement when you are struggling with depression in sobriety. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on, advice, or even a distraction from the overwhelming feelings of depression – you can count on your friends in recovery to help pull you out of your depression slump.


Be Open to Medications

As mentioned previously, there is a stigma for sober individuals about the use of mental health medications. However, untreated co-occurring disorders must be treated simultaneously to avoid potential relapse. If you find yourself unable to escape extreme feelings of depression, you should seek medical advice and be open to taking medication if necessary. Antidepressants can be taken to combat a chemical imbalance. 


Medications should be taken until you have a handle on your addiction and depression. Holistic therapy can also be implemented in the treatment for overall recovery. With the help of a medical professional, you can properly assess and treat your depression.