Struggling with suicidal thoughts and addiction can be isolating and feel heavy. Addictions are ways that we might self-medicate our mental health issues, but over time, they often make mental health concerns worse.
Know that it’s okay to feel depressed, overwhelmed, have the urge to use, or feel suicidal. It’s normal to face overwhelming negative thoughts in your recovery journey or as you take care of your mental health. Understanding that there’s a connection between suicidal thoughts and addiction can help you check in with yourself and find support when you need it. Your feelings matter. It can be helpful to remember that your feelings are fleeting. You’re experiencing a crisis right now, you won’t feel suicidal forever,
People who survive suicide attempts report feeling glad that they are still here. Though things seem heavy, know that the feeling is temporary, and the world is a better place with you in it.
Coping with suicidal thoughts and addiction
I know personally when I was experiencing suicidal thoughts I was going through withdrawals…didn’t think withdrawals would end and thought it was better [to die].
If life already feels unbearable or hopeless, using or drinking can intensify suicidal thoughts. On the other side, if you feel suicidal first, using drugs or alcohol can increase your risk of harm because it can feed the suicidal thoughts, lower your inhibitions, and cloud your judgment.
When we are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the negative thoughts we have begin to take up more space in our heads. And we may start to see only one way out. Also, going through withdrawals is hard on the body and mind. Suicide might feel like a way to make the symptoms and the cycle of addiction stop. Having suicidal thoughts and using drugs and alcohol at the same time is dangerous and can increase your risk of suicide.
Life can be overwhelming. It can feel natural to use negative coping skills (e.g., using drugs or alcohol or self-harm). But you also probably have some positive ways of coping, like connecting with loved ones, working out and physical movement, or finding new hobbies. You can create a little light in that dark place by reaching for some of your healthier coping skills.
Sobriety is protection against suicide
Some people find that putting space between themselves and drugs or alcohol allows them to think more clearly. Not using and taking time to reconnect with yourself through journaling, meditation, or self-reflection is one way to create distance. If you can, stay away from people, places, and things that make you want to use.
Engaging in activities that bring you joy, spending time with loved ones, eating well, getting regular sleep, and practicing self-care can also help. The distance makes it easier to find their reasons for living.
Tracking your suicidal thoughts
Passive ideation involves thoughts of wanting to kill yourself. Active suicidal ideation means that in addition to those thoughts, you’ve also thought about a plan or taken steps to gain a means to hurt yourself.
Tracking your suicidal thoughts can help you better understand yourself. Write down when you’re feeling passively or actively suicidal. Make a note of thoughts, feelings, or situations that cause you to feel in crisis. You can share this information with a trusted loved one or therapist. Being able to spot when you’re headed toward a crisis can mean you can better cope with intense emotions and stay safe.
Other things to try on your own
- Try meditating. This is a great tool to add to your daily self-care practice. It has also been shown to decrease suicidal ideation.
- Use DBT skills. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy a therapist teaches skills to cope with intense emotions. You’ll learn how to tolerate distress and regulate emotions.
- Practice radical acceptance., Radical acceptance is a key DBT skill that shows us how to cope with pain without becoming consumed with suffering.
- Create a safety plan. This is something you can do with your therapist or on your own. Safety plans include a list of triggers, coping skills you can use on your own, places you can go to feel safe, people you can contact, ways to keep your environment safe, and reasons for living. When you’re suicidal, it’s hard think about those things. Having a safety plan in place means you can turn to it anytime you need it.
Leaning on others for support
If you’ve ever felt like things would be better if you weren’t here, you’re not alone. These lies often feel like truths when we’re in crisis. It can help to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who can help ground you. The truth is that you’re most likely in pain, and you’re not sure how to make it stop it. Having these feelings is okay, but the important part is not to get stuck there.
Asking for help is scary. You might not know what to say or worry about how people will respond. Try reaching out to someone you trust. Examples are a parent, teacher, friend, or therapist or someone who has supported you in the past. Let them know you have something important to share. It’s okay to say that you’re unsure how to say it or are nervous. Let them know you need their love and support.
Attending a recovery meeting like NA, AA, etc. or a peer recovery group can be a great place to connect with people with similar experiences. It can help to know that others have been where you are, can relate to how you’re feeling, and have found their way out of a dark place.
Here are ways you can reach out to someone for help
- Phone a hotline or warmline. If you need immediate help, you can reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or using the chat box at 988lifeline.org/chat. You can also text “MHA” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Warmlines are an excellent place for non-crisis support.
- Call for help if you are actively suicidal. If you reach the police, let them know you’re experiencing a mental health crisis. They may be able to send a licensed clinician, mobile crisis unit, or transport you to the nearest ER for assessment.
- Attend Emotions Anonymous. This is a group offering peer support with managing difficult emotions and challenges.
- Talk to a therapist/psychiatrist. A mental health professional can help you manage suicidal thoughts and keep yourself safe. They can also provide support, tools, and coping strategies once you’ve made it beyond the crisis that can help you continue to navigate challenges.
The bottom line is you don’t have to deal with suicidal thoughts or addiction by yourself.