Do I Need a Pill to be Happy?
I got sober April 17th, 2008. I started taking antidepressants April 18th, 2008. For better or worse, antidepressants and sobriety have been linked for me from the very start.
It’s over six years later and I still take antidepressants. I’ve questioned whether I need them to be happy. Hell, I’ve questioned whether I need them to be sober.
I don’t think I’m alone in this questioning, either. Although I’ve only spoken to a handful of my twelve-step friends about this, I believe depression in sobriety is something a lot of recovering addicts deal with.
So, my question is – do I need a pill to be happy?
The Truth About Mental Illness and Addiction
As far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety. In fact, I think those were driving forces behind my addiction.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that addiction and alcoholism are very separate from depression and anxiety. I’m an addict because I suffer from the disease of addiction. I’m an addict because I have a mental obsession, a physical allergy, and a spiritual malady.
That last point, though, is important. I believe that depression and anxiety are part of the spiritual malady. While the spiritual malady is removed by God, sometimes we need more help.
For me, that’s when antidepressants and sobriety entered the picture.
Mental Illness: An Outside Issue?
I’ve heard this repeated at meetings. Someone will raise their hand and share about how they’re struggling with depression or anxiety. The next person will talk about how mental illness is an outside issue and shouldn’t be discussed in a twelve-step meeting.
On one hand, they’re absolutely right. Mental illness isn’t the same thing as addiction. Still, I think this type of thinking is shortsighted. After all, mental illness does go hand-in-hand with addiction. Don’t believe me? Ask ten addicts how many of them also suffer from some sort of mental illness. I bet you’ll see ten hands in the air.
So, how does a recovering addict talk about antidepressants and sobriety? How do we, as men and women of grace and dignity, start the conversation about antidepressants and sobriety?
My Experience with Antidepressants and Sobriety
Like I mentioned above, antidepressants and sobriety are intrinsically linked for me. I started taking antidepressants the day after I got sober.
I found myself in yet another treatment center. This time, though, the rehab’s doctor seemed to know what he was doing. He talked to me for about an hour and, at the end of our conversation, recommended I go on an antidepressant.
I was pretty hesitant. Like the title of this article, I thought to myself “Do I really need another pill?” I decided to listen to the doctor. I thank God everyday for that decision.
In early-sobriety, antidepressants allowed me to have some peace. They provided a window of sanity in an otherwise insane life. Remember, I was abstinent from drugs and alcohol, but I still hadn’t done much work on myself.
After I did the work, aka completed the twelve-steps, I continued to take antidepressants. I had a long talk with my sponsor about this. He said that taking non-narcotic medicine in sobriety was between me, my doctor, and God.
I’ve tried to talk to other addicts about antidepressants and sobriety. Most don’t want to talk about it. In fact, it seems like by asking I’m breaching some kind of code or something. They shrug the question off or respond by telling me to talk to my sponsor.
I briefly stopped taking antidepressants during my sobriety. Guess what happened? Both my depression and anxiety returned. They weren’t as bad as they’d been in active addiction, but they certainly handicapped me.
During this time, I prayed, meditated, and sought other types of spiritual relief. While these things helped, I was still depressed and anxious twenty-four hours a day. So, I went back on antidepressants.
Does the fact that I take antidepressants in sobriety make me less sober than someone who doesn’t? I don’t know. All I know is antidepressants have helped me tremendously.
Pros of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety
- They can relive depression and anxiety
- They can provide relief in early-sobriety, before someone has completed the twelve-steps
Cons of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety
- Some people will claim you’re not really sober
- It can be hard to have to take another pill in sobriety