Whatever reasons or excuses you had while you were still abusing substances, one of the reasons it was hard to stop was because your drug of choice made you feel different. You could have a couple of drinks to relax or get more confident or take a pill to boost your confidence. Once you get clean, you have to figure out how to manage your emotions on your own.
Especially in early sobriety, dealing with feelings on your own is very uncomfortable. You may find yourself tense, scared, worried, sad, or a mixture of all of these. Even happiness can be overwhelming when you are used to numbing your feelings.
Drugs and alcohol probably helped you to deal with social situations too, helping you to feel more comfortable in groups or in settings where you felt like you didn’t fit in. A big part of addiction recovery is learning how to deal with your emotions and becoming comfortable in your own skin, even if you can’t ever remember feeling like that before.
Don’t fight your feelings; accept them instead
Feelings by themselves can’t hurt you, and the more you accept them and get comfortable with them, the easier it will be to deal with any negative feelings and achieve emotional health. The first thing you need to do is accept your feelings; they are yours, and you have the strength and the power to deal with them. Acceptance is one of the key principles of recovery because as long as you try to keep control over everything, you won’t be able to let go of the path and start healing.
Take an inventory
It becomes easier with time, but you can at least try in the beginning to take an emotional inventory. Ask yourself:
- What am I feeling? Is this sadness, anger, fear?
- Am I reacting to something in my environment? Is there something actually triggering this feeling, or are these just feelings I need to deal with?
- Do I need to ask for help? Another key principle of recovery is learning that you are no longer ever really alone. Many people have already walked the path you are walking, and they can offer you guidance in dealing with your feelings in early sobriety.
Asking for help
Never, ever feel ashamed of asking for help. Even the strongest people ask for help, and in fact, it takes a great deal of strength to admit when you are vulnerable and need help. Depending on how you originally got sober, you might already have supports you can turn to when you are feeling overwhelmed.
If you are still in individual or group therapy, you can bring your issues to your sessions. If you feel like you need to talk to someone right now, you hopefully have a sponsor who can lend an ear and offer their own experience, strength, and hope. You may still have friends and other loved ones who can listen to you and help you get through this.
One caution, though: sometimes if you try to explain everything you feel to a loved one in early sobriety, you can end up saying hurtful things without meaning to. Even if they are loving and patient, they might not be the best people to help you with some issues. Go to a meeting, talk to a new friend, or call the hotline in your town if there is one.
Make new habits
When you have really made the commitment to change, you will be surprised how much you can change. One day you will look back at your past self and see how different you used to be, but that takes time and practice.
Wake up every day with a meditation. You can use a book, a prayer, or just a greeting for the day. Start your day with an attitude of gratitude and work your way up. Take times throughout the day to find your emotional center again, even if you already feel calm. Make meditation a habit, and learn to find peace in yourself no matter what is going on outside you.
Actually practice meditation, and use breathing exercises, yoga, and other methods to improve your mind-body connection. No matter what you encounter during the day, you will know that you can return to this state in the end.
If you find it difficult to control your feelings, you have something in common with all the people who have longterm sobriety. Life is a journey, not a destination. If you are in the area of Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks, Warren Park Recovery can help. We offer both mental health and substance abuse treatment, with extensive supports for ongoing treatment after our patients have left our facility. Call today if you or a loved one needs help.