How Your Emotions Can Threaten Your Sobriety
Emotion & Sobriety
It is common for people with substance use disorders to use drugs or alcohol as a way to avoid dealing with emotion. Thus, a crucial part of building the foundation for a successful recovery involves learning how to cope with your emotions in a healthier way.
Loneliness is a well-known relapse trigger in the early stages of recovery. Since people in recovery are advised to avoid contact with friends and family who are actively using addictive substances, they often have a much more limited social circle. For extroverts who thrive on social contact, this can lead to intense feelings of loneliness.
The best way to cope with loneliness as someone who is new to recovery is to seek out support from others who understand the challenges you’re going through. This is why self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery are so beneficial. In addition to providing a source of accountability, they help you meet new friends who are supportive of your efforts at self-improvement.
Another great way to fight loneliness is to explore a hobby or special interest that you put on the back-burner while you were using. For example, if you’ve always been interested in acting, you might decide to try out for a community theater production. Or, if you miss the feeling of teamwork you associate with your time playing high school sports, you might decide to join an adult recreational league.
We often try to run away from our sadness, but this is a natural and normal human emotion. For example, if a loved one has passed away, sadness is an expected part of the mourning process. Expressing your emotions by writing in a journal, drawing, painting, listening to music, or confiding in someone you trust can help you process your grief and begin to heal.
Sometimes, sadness can be an indicator that you need to make a change in your life. For example, if spending time with a certain person makes you feel sad, this might be a sign that the relationship has become toxic. Acknowledging your sadness and recognizing that it’s time to move on will help you continue to progress in your recovery journey.
Sadness that is accompanied by prolonged changes in sleep habits or appetite, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, social withdrawal, and an inability to concentrate can be a sign of depression. People who are in recovery often have this co-occurring mental health diagnosis, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your care provider may suggest counseling, lifestyle changes, and/or anti-depressant medication to help you feel better.
Many people make the mistake of viewing anger as an inherently negative emotion, but it can often serve an important purpose. Like sadness, anger can sometimes alert you to changes that need to be made in your life. It can help you set healthy boundaries in your personal relationships or inspire you to work towards changing broader injustices in our society.
The key to managing the emotion anger effectively is to remember that anger is never an excuse for aggression—whether that refers to physical violence or verbal abuse. When you’re feeling anger, you can try meditation, deep breathing exercises, writing in your journal, or simply distracting yourself until you feel calm enough to deal with the situation. If needed, you can then share how you feel using “I” statements that avoid blaming or shaming the person who has made you angry. Often, you will find that a situation that triggers feelings of anger is a simple misunderstanding, such as when a friend cancels plans without warning because they’ve been in an accident, have a sick child, or are dealing with another type of crisis situation.
If your anger is related to events from your past, such as the trauma of an abusive childhood, ignoring the issue or relying on temporary distractions won’t work. You will need counseling that is focused on helping you learn to process what you’ve experienced and move forward in a more positive way.
Let Us Help You Work Toward Emotional Sobriety
Lasting recovery requires more than just physically abstaining from the use of addictive substances. You must also achieve what is known as emotional sobriety. This term refers to leading a balanced emotional life where you can accept difficult emotions as temporary, feel comfortable expressing your emotional needs to others, and recognize that the struggles you encounter are an opportunity for lasting personal growth.
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we provide a full continuum of care for men and women with substance use disorders. Treatment at our South Carolina residential addiction recovery center is personalized to fit individual needs and takes a holistic approach that focuses on achieving emotional sobriety and developing the wellness-focused lifestyle habits that are necessary for a lasting recovery. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you or your loved one break free from the burden of addiction.