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Managing Emotions in Recovery

People often have trouble managing their emotions early in recovery. For many people, drugs and alcohol were a way to avoid feeling negative emotions. After detox, not only do they have to deal with the depression and irritability that often accompany abstinence, but they also have to confront thoughts and emotions long buried by drugs and alcohol. Dealing with these emotions is challenging and often leads to relapse. Here are some ways you can use those challenging emotions to strengthen recovery.

Accept that challenging emotions are normal.

No one likes to feel anxious, guilty, bored, depressed, scared, or frustrated, but everyone feels those things sometimes. Usually there is a reason for some negative emotion and it’s better to explore it than to ignore it or try to avoid it. Often these emotions are based on irrational beliefs and confronting those beliefs–sometimes with the help of a more objective observer–can eliminate a lot of pointless suffering. Sometimes these emotions can prod us into behaving better. Feeling guilty, for example, is terribly unpleasant, but it might nudge us into asking someone’s forgiveness or trying to make amends. We have emotions for a reason. We should listen to what they are telling us, but we don’t always have to believe them.

Talk to a therapist.

At the very least, a therapist can be the objective observer who can tell you when you are making yourself miserable with irrational beliefs. She can help you process overwhelming emotions and traumatic memories that you may have tried to avoid for years. If your negative emotions are strong and persistent, she might prescribe medication to help you control your thoughts and feelings. About half of people struggling with addiction have some other mental health issue as well. A therapist can help you manage those other issues so they don’t drag you into relapse.

Find social support.

Every problem looks smaller when you have backup. Cultivate support wherever you can. See a therapist, go to meetings, and share your feelings with supportive friends and family. Many people don’t like sharing their feelings because they feel too vulnerable. Start small with someone you trust and be willing to listen to others and support them too. Support goes both ways and helping someone else makes you realize that asking for help is not such a big deal.

Take care of yourself.

Perhaps the most important thing, from an emotional perspective, is getting enough sleep. Everything is easier when you’re well-rested. Conversely, every minor problem seems overwhelming when you haven’t had enough sleep. Getting a little exercise every day keeps your mood up and helps you sleep. Exercise also improves executive function, which makes it easier to regulate your emotions. Eating healthy makes exercise easier and it helps your brain get the nutrition it needs to function properly.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We specialize in detox and getting you started in treatment that works best for you. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.