emotions in recovery

Controlling Emotions in Recovery

Articles, Australia, International, Malaysia, Treatment, Understanding Addiction, United Kingdom, United States

Emotions are a normal part of life, but addiction can mess with emotions. Addiction can dull many emotions while exaggerating others, but doing so falsely. Once you are in recovery you must relearn how to control these emotions so they do not damage your long term recovery. Many who are just starting out in recovery find feelings that they have not had for many years. Some may feel angry or depressed or simply overwhelmed at the undertaking of recovery. These emotions must be acknowledged, dealt with, and controlled as part of overall recovery. There may also be positive emotions associated with recovery, but even positive emotions, when very strong, can be problematic. The real issue is that drugs and alcohol are usually used to dull extreme feelings and when these feelings arise it could cause relapse or in the least intense cravings.

Emotion  is defined as a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behavior. Though feelings and emotion are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A feeling can be an emotional state, but a single emotion can lead to more than one feeling. The first few months of recovery can be an emotional rollercoaster as the former means of dealing with emotions is no longer an option. There are many common emotions in recovery and they include fear, anger, resentment, disappointment, and loneliness. This is especially true for early recovery. Strong emotions typically mean that someone is not thinking rationally which makes relapse much more likely. However, the strong emotions you experience can be controlled by learning appropriate coping strategies.

Knowing the different coping strategies that are available is important, but more importantly is knowing which ones work for you when strong emotions take over. Some of the most common strategies are journaling, emotional sobriety, and mindful meditation. Each of these will be briefly described. Journaling is an excellent way to get emotions out without going overboard or making poor decisions with those emotions. Journaling allows you to write out your feelings, draw pictures, and just scribble if needed. Putting the emotions on paper is cathartic and can help you calm yourself simply in the process of writing. If the emotions are truly strong it may even help to rip up the page and toss it as a way of getting rid of those negative emotions.

Emotional sobriety is also an effective coping strategy. It is a defense mechanism that allows you to get in touch with emotions, without allowing those emotions to take over and cause you to fall back into addiction. Emotional sobriety is just as important as general sobriety in recovery. If you cannot learn to control your emotions then relapse is much more likely.

The final recommendation from this article is mindful meditation. Mindful meditation is intense focus on one specific thing or emotion in order to detract from other intense feelings. Many people choose to focus on breathing or relaxing one muscle in the body at a time starting with your toes and moving up. This intense focus allows other emotions to calm and fade as you focus on the present moment only. This is a way that emotions can be controlled and then dealt with after you have become calmer.

Dealing with emotions in recovery can be overwhelming, but knowing they will be strong offers a chance to practice dealing with those emotions before an extreme feeling arises. Try different coping techniques to see which works best for you before a crisis hits. You are strong enough to control yourself, no matter what.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.
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