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Old 04-10-2012, 04:19 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Can AA help with depression?


I've been sober for six months. I quit because my body (extreme high blood pressure, obesity) and mind (depression, OCD, anxiety) were starting to break down. All of the doctors and therapists told me that I needed to quit and that I would be feeling better in 30-90 days.

I waited for 30, 60, then 90 days - not a drop of alcohol. Things just got worse. My depression and anxiety have spiraled out of control. My OCD is worse, and after seeing four different psychiatrists I'm still looking for a combination of meds that will work without making me totally crazy. I'm currently trying two different types of therapy and starting to exercise a little bit. I also meditate a bit (not enough). I'm on very low doses (can't handle high doses) of prozac and lithium that help keep me from suicide, but between the depression and OCD, every day is a struggle.

Before I quit, I went to AA about 5 times per week for a couple of weeks - just trying to get my courage up. Now I don't go at all. My questions (finally): Can AA help with depression? Am I a dry drunk who can be restored to sanity by the steps? Have your mental health been helped by the program? I'm not worried about drinking again. I'm worried about staying alive for my family. Thanks.
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Old 04-10-2012, 06:19 AM   #2 (permalink)
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For my alcoholism, I rely on AA and the steps. For my mental health issues, I rely on the professionals in the mental health community.

The two are very intertwined, and when I slack on working the program of AA, my depression and anxiety are exacerbated.

I hope this helps. Sending you hugs of support.
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Old 04-10-2012, 06:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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AA isn't about mental issues. I need the help that medical professionals provide for my depressioon. I agree that it's important to work on both my alcoholism and depression at the same time.
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Old 04-10-2012, 05:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Although AA is for the treatment of alcoholism, why not try AA for better overall health reasons. There is a bunch of helpful people in AA, so maybe working the steps, connecting with others might help. Its worth a try...yes.
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:17 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Can AA help with depression? There is no absolute answer to this question. Some people find that it helps; others find that it does nothing; still others find that the program makes things worse. You can try it and see what you think, just remember that there is nothing wrong with you if you don't find it helpful.

Am I a dry drunk who can be restored to sanity by the steps? The term "dry drunk" is a pejorative term used by AA members to describe people who have quit drinking but are not members of that particular program. It is not a word that I use or an idea that I subscribe to. I will say this: if your depression was caused solely by the action of alcohol on your brain, then you will feel better when you quit drinking and to the extent that you find the steps helpful, they too will help you feel better. If, however, you have an organic mental illness, working the steps will not "restore you to sanity".

Have your mental health been helped by the program? Me personally? No. I found the "magic thinking" inherent in the program decidedly unhelpful. But that's just me; others do find it helpful.

The most important thing to keep in mind is this: do NOT refuse to take, or stop taking, prescribed psychiatric medications under the theory that "working steps" is the answer to mental illness. I cannot stress this enough.
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:18 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I've been sober two decades and also treated for depression that long. I go to AA for my alcoholism and a shrink for depression. However, going to meetings is a huge help for my depression because it gets me out of my own head. Typically the depression is lessened after a meeting and, conversely, if I don't get to meetings I isolate and depression starts to slide back. First question my shrink asks: "are you going to meetings" and he's not an addiction specialists, he's seen that it helps.
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you all very much! As you may know, depression and anxiety can make one desperate for any kind of relief. I think I will give some of the better meetings in my area a try - maybe they'll help. At least they'll help remind me that drinking is not going to help.
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Old 04-15-2012, 11:27 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by sunday69 View Post
At least they'll help remind me that drinking is not going to help.
and that's HUGE.

One of the best things recovery has done for me is to teach me this. I may not have THE answer, but I've eliminated several really stupid options. Things that made things worse, not better.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I also suffer from excruciating depression, and at its worst can lead me back into drinking. Depression makes me want to self-isolate, which in turn makes it worse. So if I can drag myself to a meeting I tend to feel better. I think that just the act of connecting with others is what helps, more than the program itself. The program/ steps help my alcoholism, and being surrounded by well-meaning folk help my depression.
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Old 04-19-2012, 09:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"Am I a dry drunk who can be restored to sanity by the steps? The term "dry drunk" is a pejorative term used by AA members to describe people who have quit drinking but are not members of that particular program."

100% correct. The original statement itself is philosophically akin to asking: "Am I a sinner who can be saved by Jesus?"

Thank you for pointing that out, I'd have skipped over it otherwise. (A)(N)A need to update transparently antiquated views like this.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:18 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I waited for 30, 60, then 90 days - not a drop of alcohol. Things just got worse. My depression and anxiety have spiraled out of control.
This is my greatest fear. I have been off and on meds for depression for the last 15 years. Next week I am meeting with a doctor to discuss starting meds again. A few months ago I went to a different doc for blood tests, etc. and was advised to get help to stop drinking and to consider depression meds again. I told her I would cut back on the drinking and see if it would help alleviate my depression. After vowing to quit for the past couple of months, I am finally ready. In the past, I would stop drinking for a few days but I then I would still feel bad and just start drinking again. I know alcohol doesn't help, and makes my mood worse, but I guess I expect maybe it will make some of the depression symptoms go away? It sounds like the other responses here prove that getting sober doesn't always help with the mental health problems. Anyway, good to hear everyone else's experience with this.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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The steps absolutely helped me and continue to do so. Being a member of AA has saved my life.

I also have to be treated for my depression.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:35 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Might help. You might have to try some things and find what works for you.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:40 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I am not an alcoholic but I do have OCD, severe at times. Luvox is the antidepressant that is most prescribed for OCD and the only one that helps me. Might be worth checking with your doc on this one.

But, AA and Al-Anon meetings always help me feel better, with depression and OCD stuff because I can talk out those things that make me anxious. So for me, yes, they help. So did therapy and so does prayer.
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Old 06-13-2012, 06:57 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Thank you for your post. I am newly sober (43 days) and have suffered depression my entire life. I am avoiding therapy bc I have not found it to work. I am on Prozac and without it I would be dead. I am going to AA and it helps, but I probably need to go back to therapy. Honestly- it's all so much work and when you have depression that work can seem overwhelming.
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:12 AM   #16 (permalink)
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i got into AA amiserable wreck. i worked my but off working the steps and saw improvement in my life. ater a year, even though i saw results in me through working the program, i was still having problems with my thinker. i was talking to a friend in Aa about it. he said," have you talked to your doctor about this?" wellll, THAT was a concept i never thought of! went to see my doctor and tak to him about it. in the exam room, there was a lil sign by the sink with 10 signs of depression. wow!! i had 8 of em! didnt even know it was depression i had . by the grace of God, my doctor put me on a med and i listened to what he said and that we had to give it at least 2 months for the medication to level out in my system and then re evaluate.

one thing i want to stress is that before seeking out that help, i busted my but off working the steps and practicing the principles in all of my affairs.

the big book says the program cant fix everything for everyone and that we should seek outside help.

i also have OCD, i'm not on meds for that, but it has gotten better over time and i am gooder at controlling it rather than it controlling me.
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Old 06-13-2012, 09:56 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Thank you all very much! As you may know, depression and anxiety can make one desperate for any kind of relief. I think I will give some of the better meetings in my area a try - maybe they'll help. At least they'll help remind me that drinking is not going to help.
Very good idea. I suggest getting a sponsor as well. When I'm in a real depression I can't think my way out of it. But taking the action of going to a meeting gets me out of my own head. I always feel much better afterward. AA has saved my life.
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Old 06-23-2012, 05:42 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I have learned that if I have depression, it is the electrical impulses in the brain aren't properly working correctly.
Along with all meds that my Dr. can give me, I take Flower essences. Flower essences repair the electrical circuits in the brain so that our body can heal itself better and quicker. You can get them at a health food store or online.
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Old 06-27-2012, 09:55 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I can't answer your question because I never did AA in my recovery. But it seems like your doctors were completely ignorant of what recovery really is. For the first 6 months or so of being sober, I was dealing with crushing depression and anxiety. Why? Because you drank to cope with your mental illness. When you remove that "coping" mechanism, all your mental illness comes back with a vengeance. I think there are many benefits to AA, if not for the fellowship of other people who've been through the same stuff. But I don't think it can replace the help of therapists and psychiatrists and there's not many in AA who would tell you otherwise (hopefully). For me the first 6 months of recovery weren't recovery, they were staying sober so I didn't further spiral down. After that I started doing the hard work of recovery. I'll have three years sober next month and I am still dealing with my mental illness despite getting much better. I want you to hang on and keep doing what you do and it does get easier. But more than easy, it just gets different. Start finding new coping mechanisms and habits to build and don't let the voices in your head tell you not to do things that are good for you like go to AA or exercise. And stop letting your inner judge tell you you're not doing enough meditation. If you only do 5 minutes once every two weeks you're doing more than most people on this earth will or ever have done. Tell your inner judge to go to hell or something more profane.
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:13 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I suffer from severe depression and if I go to meetings every day I feel my mood dramatically increases. I also believe reading the BB and working on the Steps helps too. It also helps being around people who understand me. My depression increases when I am not in the rooms and feels isolated.
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