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Carole Bennett, MA

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The Road to Addiction: Loneliness And Depression

Posted: 07/15/09 02:48 AM ET

Addiction often starts from feeling lonely or depressed. Turning to drugs or alcohol often appears as the easiest (though most damaging) fix one can turn to in an effort to take away that emotional pain.

As previously mentioned, there are a number of triggers that can become intertwined with each other. Last week's trigger of wanting to belong, be accepted and popular could manifest emotions of loneliness or depression if not fulfilled. Feeling lonely evokes an awareness of being cut off from others, sadness from being alone, or a feeling of bleakness or isolation.

Feeling lonely or depressed are two very different sensations. Being lonely is more of a state of mind and that state of loneliness can change on a dime if one so desires. There can be a joy in solitude as opposed to the "down" of loneliness. There is also a difference between feeling lonely and being alone. If you are alone, you are literally a party of one (solitude), and often times that is a preferred choice. If you are indeed feeling lonely, missing the company of others, you have the ability - if you so choose- to move into a more populated venue. How many times have we said to our friends..."I'm so lonely, I just don't know what to do." Often the cure is literally: get out and meet people, join a book club, take yoga classes, etc.

So the question is: "How does one counteract emotional loneliness void of the company of others and at the same time take care of real needs?" If the answer is to do anything to take away the pain, meaning turning to drugs or alcohol, that is obviously destructive behavior. Drugs and/or alcohol deliver a false sense of comfort which in turn allows one to temporarily feel that they are no longer lonely. It is temporary, illusory, unhealthy and ultimately destructive.

As a treatment counselor, I often assign my clients to write a "Dear John" goodbye letter to the drug of their choice. Every letter stated that the drug of their choice had become their best friend and when they were intoxicated or high, they were no longer feeling lonely. What could possibly be worse for genuine self-care and authentic long-term health?

Depression is different. Depression hits people in different ways. If one is living life on life's terms there are bound to be times of depression. It is common to hear one say..."I'm so depressed, my boyfriend broke up with me," or, "I'm depressed because this or that did or didn't happen." Considering today's global and economic problems, depression is more prevalent than ever.

Though these emotions are very real at the time, it becomes a question of how one might deal with it. Hopefully, a healthy, well grounded individual will simply lick their wounds for awhile. An unhealthy response to a wave of depression can make one think that drugs or alcohol is the only thing that will get them through this trying experience.

Clinical depression is a very real disorder. It is categorized as having a depressed mood all day, diminished interest in pleasurable activities, significant weight loss, fatigue or loss of energy, even recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideations. These individuals are ripe for self-medication with drugs or alcohol in their quest to take away the pain; and in so doing, they become semi-functional at best.

Answer? There are numerous medications that can be prescribed for the slightest to most extreme cases mentioned above. Today, taking anti-depressants no longer carries the stigma of a mental health disorder that it once did. In fact, for many people it has proven to be a life-saver. For more information, please explore assistance from a qualified doctor or therapist.

If your child or teenager is starting to develop symptoms of being melancholy or is morose and after a few days they are not back to their old self, have an honest heart-to-heart discussion about what is worrying them. If there is no change in their demeanor, talk to the school psychologist or advisor. Investigate as many possibilities as necessary and come up with a plan to help your child deal with these emotions before they find a path to substance abuse. Seeking professional help with a psychiatrist, counselor or pediatrician is a good way to show your child that you care and are involved with their life and well being.

If you still find yourself at a dead end, you may have to consider other options such as an intervention or in-patient treatment programs. It is important to remember that in order to be genuinely successful in dealing with depression or loneliness; one must be clean and sober and committed to a clean and sober life style.

Thank you for all of your comments; I appreciate your insight and opinions.

If I can be of service to you or someone you love, please e-mail me at Carole@familyrecoverysolutions.com I invite you to visit my website at www.familyrecoverysolutions.com