The news of those breaking free of addiction only to later commit suicide is shocking. The expectation is that escaping alcohol or drug abuse should lead to some type of ‘happy ever after’ scenario. The majority of those becoming sober do not commit suicide after a few years, but many do fail to find happiness, despite this major life change. The truth is that giving up alcohol or drugs is not enough to ensure a great life – although it is a crucial first step.
Why Do People Commit Suicide in Recovery
One reason why individuals may commit suicide in recovery is that they have an undiagnosed mental health problem – usually depression. This means that the person continues to feel bad despite the fact of being sober. The individual may be working very hard to build a new life but the fact that the depression is not being dealt with means that things do not really improve. This is why it is so vital that anyone who is struggling to find happiness after giving up alcohol seeks proper medical advice. A huge number of alcoholics also suffer from depression and they may not even be aware of it.
Many use alcohol or drugs as a type of coping mechanism. Early recovery can be full of stress and challenges as the person tries to readjust to a new way of living. Substance abuse is a negative type of coping strategy, but it may be the only tool the person has. Unless individuals are able to develop coping strategies for dealing with sober living, they can feel overwhelmed; often they see the only way out as suicide.
Becoming physically sober but not making further attempts to change their life could mean affected individuals develop what is known as ‘dry drunk syndrome’. This indicates that while the person is physically not drinking, he or she continues acting as if in the midst of addiction. Staying sober is a white-knuckle ride for the dry drunk, and there isn’t much fun to be had. The fact that life feels so unsatisfying can lead to suicidal connotations.
Those who have attempted suicide in the past would be at greater risk of repeating the attempt in the future. This suggests that those who have attempted suicide during their years of addiction may consider the same option if things get hard in recovery.
Warning Signs of Suicide Risk in Recovery
People who are close to suicide will often exhibit certain symptoms, including:
- isolating away from other people
- a sudden improvement in mood following a period of depression
- giving personal belongings away
- constant pessimism
- talking a lot about death
- making strange comments about not being around
- saying goodbye to people
- change in sleeping and eating patterns
- behaving in a reckless way.
How to Avoid Suicide in Recovery
Suicide has often been described as the final solution to a temporary problem. The keys to preventing it happen in recovery include:
- seeing a professional about symptoms of depression or other mental illness
- joining some type of fellowship or support group
- seeing a therapist to deal with any unresolved issues
- developing effective coping strategies for dealing with the ups and downs of life
- continuing to work on self-development following rehab
- having sufficient aftercare following rehab
- trying techniques such as meditation in order to develop the ability to manage stress
- getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet
- always being open about feelings of depression and asking for help when needed.