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Working Through Emotions in Early Recovery

Emotions in Early Recovery

Facing Your Feelings

Many people believe that once they get sober, all of their problems will melt away. While it’s true that life improves dramatically upon getting clean, that doesn’t mean that life won’t present any challenges moving forward. The reality is that using drugs or alcohol serves as a coping mechanism for addicts. Their typical pattern of behavior is to avoid or numb their feelings in response to distressing events. Once that option is taken away, it’s vital to learn how to manage strong emotions without turning back to life-ruining substances.  

Difficult Emotions in Recovery

As you stop muffling your feelings with alcohol or drugs, you may be surprised by how intensely you feel everything. Certain powerful emotions are common in early recovery. We encourage you to deal with these moods in a healthy way – our suggestions are outlined towards the end of this article. Anger has the unique potential to draw out self-destructive behavior. Perhaps the greatest danger of anger is the tendency for people to repress it until they can’t anymore. The results are explosive and often devastating. This response is very common in men, who may not feel comfortable discussing their frustrations or feelings. Facing this anger and working through it in treatment is imperative to continued sobriety. Fear is also a standard response for those in early recovery. When you’re getting sober, everything about your life changes. Going back to familiar settings after treatment, like the workplace or your home, can create unexpected anxiety. Worrying about the judgments and opinions of others is also typical. Continuing to work with a therapist can be helpful for this particular concern. Shame associated with addiction and past actions can be a destabilizing force in early recovery. It’s difficult to pursue treatment and confront your past actions. Forgiving yourself and making amends with loved ones can go a long way toward healing feelings of guilt and shame.  

The Challenges of Newfound Sobriety

In early recovery, it’s common to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster – one moment, you’re on top of the world, and the next, you’re physically drained and wondering whether being sober is worth it. You may go from feeling incredibly proud of yourself to being wracked with guilt about your actions while in active addiction. Take comfort in the knowledge that this wild spectrum of emotions is common in treatment and beyond. Addiction affects every part of the body and mind – it even alters the chemistry of the brain, severely damaging reward pathways and the decision-making centers of the brain. With all this in mind, it’s easy to feel unstable soon after getting sober. Recovery is a process. As the body catches up and begins to equalize, one can begin to work on their knee-jerk reactions and unhealthy habits. Over days, months, and years, those in addiction recovery teach themselves new, better behaviors to replace disordered responses to day-to-day life. By creating new associations and processes, you can prepare yourself to handle difficult emotions without risk of relapse.  

How to Manage Strong Emotions in Early Recovery

Think of recovery as your chance to process all of your traumas and complex emotions. Work with professionals and develop your coping skills – you won’t regret it. Below are some of our top suggestions for thriving in sobriety, even when times are tough.

  1. Work with a therapist or counselor. Meeting one on one with someone who is impartial and educated about the addiction recovery process can be incredibly helpful as you transition from treatment to your daily life. You can keep them updated about your feelings and alert them to instances where you need a little extra encouragement.
  2. Turn to your support system. Attend AA or NA meetings and stay connected with your treatment center’s recovery community. Plug into a program that prioritizes aftercare and provides related services. Be transparent with them about how you’re feeling, especially if it’s negative. They can help you to stay accountable and have likely been through the exact same thing.
  3. Remember holistic treatment practices. It’s hard to be in a good mood when you’re not taking care of yourself. Yoga, meditation, workouts, nutrition, and self-care can all contribute to stress reduction and emotional regulation.
  4. Create goals. Whether for your personal life or your recovery, setting goals is a great way to keep your eyes on the prize and get through difficult moments. Focusing on the positives on your horizon can help you deal with temporary challenges and missteps.
  5. Learn coping mechanisms for specific situations. No matter how intense your feelings are, you can overcome them by establishing concrete patterns and habits of response. If you’re a person who’s prone to anxiety, memorize a self-soothing breathing exercise. If you get very angry, learn to count to 10 and walk away rather than engage.


Freedom from Addiction

Early recovery is a challenging time. Without the ability to lean on drugs and alcohol, many people feel lost and unable to process life’s challenges – especially traumatic incidences, such as a death in the family. When life becomes overwhelming and you need extra support to protect your sobriety, we encourage you to turn to Spearhead. You can speak to our caring staff at 888-483-0528.