One of the things that most alcoholics and addicts have in common is a desire to escape from stormy emotions. Even after becoming sober, you may have reached for food, sex or gambling to try to bring your emotions under control. The drug or behavior chosen varies from one addict to another. The point is that you have been in the habit of reaching for something outside of yourself to find a way to make turbulent emotions go away or at least calm down.
In sobriety, one thing you can count on is that now you are going to have to deal with your emotions, and substituting drug addiction with food addiction or gambling addiction or any other unhealthy behavior isn’t the solution. In recovery, you have to let yourself feel your feelings, and when you do that, you may feel a depth of emotion that you probably never felt before. If you’re newly sober and only recently got past constantly numbing your feelings, you may be surprised by how intensely overpowering feelings can be.
Strong Emotions You Will Face in Sobriety
You will experience a wide variety of emotions in sobriety, both good and bad. For example, when events in your life aren’t going your way, you may feel very disappointed, discouraged or sad. When people say or do things you disagree with, you may have surprisingly strong feelings of rage. If you experience a major loss such as the death of a loved one, you may feel like your sadness is crippling or seems never ending. When confronted with new situations, you may be very conscious of feelings of anxiety or fear.
You may be surprised at how intensely you experience positive emotions in sobriety as well. Good feelings can sometimes remind you of getting high. While you’re feeling great, you may find that you want to exaggerate or prolong these feelings. You may be surprised to realize that good feelings may suddenly trigger the desire to use chemicals to further intensify upbeat feelings such as joy or excitement.
Although you may be caught off guard by the depth of your emotions, feeling strong feelings doesn’t have to be dangerous to your sobriety. The key is learning to deal with them.
What to Do With Overwhelming Emotions
How do you keep extremely deep feelings from setting you up for a relapse? How do you calm feelings of anger, rage, sadness or fear? How do you get past feelings of depression or sadness?
There are several things you can do when you are experiencing strong feelings. One healthy choice is to channel your emotions into intense physical activity such as running, biking, dancing or weight-lifting. Writing in a journal on a regular basis is another healthy habit that can help you to get in touch with your emotions. You can express your emotions on paper and no one has to see what you have written.
It’s important to talk to others about your feelings. Reach out to friends or family or to people in recovery groups. If you still are overwhelmed by your emotions, you may want to talk to a counselor or an addiction professional. Don’t try to pretend that your emotions aren’t overpowering.
Pursuing Calmness and Serenity
Some practices can help you get in the habit of pursuing calmness and serenity. Take some time every day to sit in silence. You might want to sit in a room by yourself for a while or take a walk by yourself. Give yourself time for spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. Learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga.
Get to extra meetings if you can. Sharing your feelings with others in recovery can help you to sort them out. It can also help to listen to the experiences that others are going through. The most important thing you can do is stay committed to recovery. No matter how strong your feelings are, and whether they are good feelings or bad feelings, the emotions you are experiencing today are going to pass. Sometimes the only thing to do is hang in there and trust that you won’t always feel the way you are feeling now.