After years of using substances, your emotions can become numbed and imbalanced. Consistent substance use also involves avoiding emotions. Alcohol and drugs used to cope with feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, and depression further perpetuate your emotional numbness. Recovery, however, is all about reconnecting with your emotions and finding balance. As such, you will have to face and feel things that might make you uncomfortable, which could make you want to return to the numb feeling.
However, it’s important to understand that emotions are a natural–and essential–part of life. While in early recovery, you are likely to face challenging emotions that can threaten your sobriety. However, there are effective ways to help you manage and overcome these difficult emotions. Let’s look at some of the common emotions that challenge early recovery and how you can overcome them.
When reflecting on your addiction, you might focus on all the things that have gone wrong. Whether your guilt stems from a certain incident or a continued pattern of behavior, feeling guilty is a natural emotion that challenges recovery. Understand there is nothing wrong with guilt. Feeling remorse for some of your past actions can help motivate you to change your behavior.
Acknowledge these moments and the people, including yourself, who you may have hurt and work to make amends. While some family and friends may choose to forgive you, some may not, but remember–it is their choice. Part of this process is to help you understand that, whether people decide to forgive you or not, you cannot control others. You can, however, control your own thoughts and behaviors. First, you need to learn to forgive yourself, and then you can work on making amends to others. Self-forgiveness will allow you the peace of knowing that you have found resolve with your past, and how others decide to move forward is not your worry, nor should you feel continue to feel guilty.
Shame and guilt often get confused. However, shame occurs when you believe that something is inherently wrong with you. Shame affects your self-esteem and self-worth. It will keep you from forming healthy relationships and even convince you that you deserve to be alone or that you don’t deserve to be happy. Shame is a very difficult feeling to overcome and often requires help from a therapist, counselor, peers, friends, and family. Support networks that put your needs first are great in helping you navigate feelings of shame. You may also want to keep a journal to track your progress and the successes that you’ve achieved in your recovery. Taking these steps will help create a positive outlook and boost your self-esteem and self-worth.
Worrying All the Time
Early recovery can come with a lot of speculation and worry over a future that has not yet happened. While thinking about the future is essential and sometimes unavoidable, you may be creating scenarios that have not happened and can get you into trouble. Worrying takes up a lot of energy, time, and effort and can be one of the most useless emotions because you are likely worrying about situations you cannot control. Focusing on tackling each day as it comes can help distract you from getting too far ahead of yourself. Keeping in touch with peers, mentors, and supportive family and friends will also help keep you focused on the present. Once you realize that you cannot control certain things, you learn to focus on controlling what you can.
Feeling Resentment for Others
Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick. Holding onto anger and bitterness towards others does more harm to you than them. While you are spending time stewing on the hurt and pain that someone has caused you, that person is going about their usual business and not thinking about what has you so upset. It’s important to understand that, in life, people will hurt you and do you wrong, but holding onto your anger can trigger you to want to use it against others, and even yourself. Continuing to work on forgiveness does not mean that you will eradicate all your feelings attached to your resentment, but it can allow you to move forward mentally.
Loneliness can deteriorate any recovery progress. Learning to cut ties with toxic relationships, including friends and family, is essential to building new and healthier relationships. However, cutting ties with people you still have an emotional attachment to can lead to feelings of loneliness. Because of this, your mind may focus on only the negatives and soon have you turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with these feelings.
You grow into your best self when you stay connected with others. When you find your footing in recovery, it’s essential to connect with friends, family, and peers who support your recovery. Going to a 12-Step meeting or volunteering are great ways to socialize with others who are good for your recovery.
It takes time to find emotional balance and get yourself back on track in recovery. At certain points, it will be difficult. Even beyond early recovery, you will likely experience tough emotions. At Choice House, we offer men the space to develop the tools needed to help them cope with and express their emotions. Our approach to treating men operates to speak to their needs, including using adventure therapy to build relationships through outdoor activities. We also offer group therapies and therapy with a focus on family. Our mission is to provide a safe place for men to get the care they deserve and to help change the narrative about men and their relationship with mental health and substance use disorders. If you or a loved one is currently struggling to overcome addiction or maintain recovery, the time to seek help is now. Reach out and find out more about Choice House by calling (720) 577-4422.