Suicidal Ideation in Addiction Recovery: Devastating Effects
Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide as it pertains to suicidal ideation in addiction recovery.
Suicidal ideation is a concept I've grown to be incredibly close to in my addiction recovery journey. Most people sweep suicidal ideation into the same categories as suicidal thoughts or even suicidal attempts, however, it's not quite the same as either of those. Think of suicidal ideation as the "monster before the monster;" it's not quite to the level of building a plan or tying thoughts together, but it's pretty close. In my addiction recovery, suicidal ideation has been a constant battle to face, and for the longest time, I didn't even know or understand the severity of it.
What Is Suicidal Ideation?
If you're reading this post, I would bet that you already have a preconceived definition and idea of suicide, so there's no need for me to intellectually define the term. Instead, I want to highlight the word ideation. According to Merriam-Webster, ideation is:
the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas1
The concept of forming or entertaining an idea is much more subtle than the commonly noted symptom of suicidal thoughts. Ideation is something that is passive, yet deadly. Ideation creeps up on you and slyly whispers how death could feel nice and how pleasant it must be to no longer exist.
Suicidal thoughts are often a growing and consistent pattern, but suicidal ideation can slip in and out of your mind 100 times before you even realize what's really going on.
The Role of Suicidal Ideation in My Addiction Recovery
When I was recovering from my addiction (and even beyond my initial recovery) I was repeatedly, yet so subtly, tempted by the idea of death. I never made a single suicide plan; actually, the idea of it sounded quite terrifying to me. Suicidal ideation didn't feel like a suicidal plan to me, it felt warm, comforting, and oddly hopeful.
It felt remarkably good to fantasize about the idea of not being present in my current struggle. I wasn't actually planning to die so it didn't feel harmful to me, in fact, it didn't even feel real because I'd never shared it with anybody else.
It wasn't until this year that I began to understand the devastating effects of my harmful thoughts and suicidal ideations in my addiction recovery. I had no idea how wrapped up I'd become in the idea of dying and how peaceful I was about the possibility of death.
Addiction recovery can be daunting, I think we all know that; and of course, most of us are desperately looking for some kind of escape from our suffering especially in early recovery. Suicidal ideation and the "entertaining" of those thoughts became some kind of sick escape for me, a way for me to forget about some of my sufferings ("Using Suicidal Ideation as a Depression Coping Mechanism").
Is Suicidal Ideation in Addiction Recovery Actually Harmful?
I can't say one way or another what the real long-term goal was with my suicidal ideation in addiction recovery. I can say that over time my thoughts did grow stronger and more consistent, but, thankfully, I never pursued a plan or anything of the like.
Some might conclude that this means that suicidal ideation isn't really that harmful, but I would tell those people that they are totally and completely wrong.
Suicidal ideation may not be the thing that takes my life, but it did take the life out of my days. When you become obsessed or fixated on the idea of death or just "not being here," you are no longer present in your own life. Instead, you are longing for a time or a place where you no longer exist and let me tell you that is a really scary place to be.
Ideations and the forming of thoughts like these rob you of your peace and emotional presence here on earth. It's hard to maintain relationships or plan for a pleasant future if you're desperately longing to just not exist anymore.
So no, suicidal ideation might not take your life in the traditional sense, but it can rob you of so much and only further the notion of you wishing you were dead, and for some, that can be nearly just as damaging.
How has suicidal ideation affected your addiction recovery? Share your thoughts in the comments.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
- Merriam-Webster, Ideation. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Richardson, A. (2019, September 19). Suicidal Ideation in Addiction Recovery: Devastating Effects, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2019/9/suicidal-ideation-in-addiction-recovery-devastating-effects