Depression can lead to addiction. To escape his dislike of his life, taxi driver Joe used vodka binges. Those led, however, to a plan to end his life. Like the weeds that grow in our yard, demanding our constant attention to remove them, emotional weeds can grow in our lives. The weed of addiction may begin with something as simple as a desire. But desire can lead to an inclination, to repetition, to relief, and/or distraction. From there, the road leads to pleasure: “I drink because I like it!” Before we know it, like Joe, we’re hooked, another word for addiction. That slow development of addiction, as I wrote previously (https://www.gordongrose.com/signal-addiction/), can lead a church member to drop out.
Many people find alcohol relieves depression. Among those who experience depression, in fact, alcohol is the most common addiction. In the general population, the risk is 15%: for every 100 people, at some time in their lives, 15 become alcoholic. For those with depression, according to Christian psychiatrist Donald Hall, that risk almost doubles.
Effect On Our Brain
Alcohol, then, both results from and creates a down mood. As alcohol, along with unrelieved stress, injures brain cells, it increases the possibility of depression. When depressed, people act with poor judgment, behave impulsively, and abuse alcohol (Donald Hall, Breaking Through Depression, 137).
When, as a result of a friend’s phone call, Joe came to Dr. Hall, Joe admitted his past poor decisions. After they discussed ways of making better life choices, they also discussed Joe’s attempts to escape his confused feelings through drinking. The counseling and self-examination led to better ways to help Joe cope. Antidepressants prescribed by Dr. Hall, helped Joe think more clearly. His group of recovering alcoholics gave Joe support and relieved his feelings of loneliness. Using every tool he found, Joe broke the addiction cycle as well as his dark moods. For resources to help with what professionals call Dual Diagnosis (e.g., depression and addiction), go to: https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/depression-and-addiction/
With one drinking man who sought my help, I found a lack of assertiveness. A “nice guy,” he found it difficult to stand up for himself. Like the time the boss unexpectedly asked him to work overtime. That night he went on a binge, but felt baffled as to why. Through our work, he discovered that when life turned against him, he felt depressed. He no longer felt mystified by his binges. I helped him trace back to the trigger, the specific insult to his ego he hadn’t dealt with: his need to speak up for himself to his boss. Along with insight, in which we help connect past experiences with present events, we worked on teaching him assertiveness.
With the other tools such as those Dr. Hall provided Joe, pastors and other concerned Christian friends can offer a way out when we help someone find an accepting support group, e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous (https://www.aa.org), and/or Christian fellowship, e.g., Celebrate Recovery (https://www.celebraterecovery.com).
[Pictures: Depression: Public Domain; Destitue man: Flickr.com. No attempt to violate copyright is intended. Hall, Donald, MD, Breaking Through Depression: A Biblical and Medical Approach to Emotional Wholeness, Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2009.]