Depression and Addiction
This series aims to promote awareness of the nature and reality of depression, encourage those who are battling depression, and equip those who want to help someone who is struggling. This post is part 8 in the series. Stay tuned for a new post each week, and find the rest of the series here.
People battling depression often turn to a wide array of coping mechanisms, many of which are addictive and ultimately destructive. Whether it is alcohol, pornography, drugs, gambling, food, or work, the result tends to be the same—continuing the downward spiral. Such addictive behaviors complicate the equation by thrusting additional weight in the form of guilt and shame upon the back of someone trying to climb out of the ditch of depression.
When people compound depression with an addictive vice, they greatly reduce their chances of coming through the depression. Addiction fuels and intensifies depression. As if feeling depressed weren’t bad enough, now you feel worse because you can’t stop ____________________ (drinking, eating, gambling, etc.). Therefore, breaking the cycle of addiction must be a top priority.
There are a variety of schools of thought on how to break an addiction. There is no magic formula to prescribe because what works for one person won’t work for another. Some people can stop cold turkey. Others devise a regimented plan to wean themselves off the addiction. Addiction therapies and strategies must be formulated on a case-by-case basis, often with the help of a professional. While this topic is beyond the scope of this series, I would point you to the following resources as potential starting points for breaking free from an addiction:
Breaking Addiction: A 7-Step Handbook for Ending Any Addiction by Lance Dodes
Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by James Prochaksa, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente
Freedom from Addiction: Breaking the Bondage of Addiction and Finding Freedom in Christ by Neil T. Anderson
I Want to Change My Life: How to Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Addiction by Steven M. Melemis
Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery by Erica Spiegelman
Our most basic instinct is survival. At all costs. This is why we feel a surge of fear when an oncoming car swerves into our lane. This is why thick plexiglass, metal bars, and electric fences are the only reasons we feel safe at the zoo. This is why we nourish and hydrate our bodies. This is why soldiers study battlefield tactics. This is why astronauts go over their re-entry calculations ad nauseum. Suicide goes against our God-given instinct to live.
And yet …
Each year, nearly three times as many Americans die from suicide as from homicide. More Americans kill themselves than die from breast cancer. 
No one’s story should end in taking their own life. No one’s. Yet it happens. Daily.
When the darkness becomes so overwhelming, you feel you have nowhere to turn. When you hate yourself, you don’t feel worthy of life. When you feel you have nothing to add to the world, you figure the world is better off without you.
I suspect that many people who attempt suicide really don’t want to die—they want someone to notice them. Their goal is not to end their life—it is to utter a cry for help. I believe that many people who talk about harming themselves are making a plea for someone to come to their aid.
I understand that there are cases where someone truly does want to kill themselves. These are heartbreaking situations to which there are no easy answers. If someone close to you has taken their life, you have been scarred with one of the deepest wounds life can inflict. I am sorry. These stories break my heart. As you grieve, may you find some measure of comfort in knowing that God’s heart is also broken. The person was God’s son or daughter.
Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide.
If you are suicidal, reach out to someone. Today. Admit yourself to the nearest hospital. Don’t become a statistic. Become who you were meant to be. Help awaits you. Life is a beautiful gift. Don’t throw it away.
If you or someone you know is suicidal to the point that they have talked about a means and a method, take immediate action and contact the authorities. Don’t ignore or minimize their words. Your intervention might save their life.
In the next post, I will offer some closing thoughts and prayers for yourself or someone in your life who is struggling with depression.
This material is taken from my book Rethinking Depression (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016).
 Silberner, Joanne. "What Happens If You Try To Prevent Every Single Suicide?" NPR. 2 Nov. 2015.