How to Handle Negative Emotions in Addiction Recovery

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How to Handle Negative Emotions in Addiction Recovery

In the initial phases of drug recovery, you can initially feel as if you are on top of the world. For some time, it may feel as if you have put all your problems behind you. This early “honeymoon” period of recovery can last until the realities of daily life outside your rehab facility begin adding up, and negative emotions begin to displace the positive ones.

Often, these negative emotions include:

  • Anxiety and fear that you will not live up to others’ expectations for you
  • Frustration that despite everything you learned in recovery, you still have occasional setbacks
  • Resentment of family members and friends who do not support your recovery goals
  • Guilt or shame over the people you hurt or drove away while you were addicted to drugs and alcohol

Today, we’ll provide healthy strategies for confronting negative emotions on your journey to recovery.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Bad

On their own, emotions are perfectly understandable responses to circumstances. The benefit of negative emotions is that they give you an opportunity to step back and reevaluate the situation. However, active addiction has roots in a desire to avoid having to deal with fear, anger, sadness or heartbreak.

Most addictions make emotional numbness a way of life. It can be overwhelming when feelings start to flood back after you are newly sober and have to confront them without the crutch of drugs or alcohol. Don’t multiply the problems by focusing on why you “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. Find a positive outlet for dealing with your emotions, and talk about your feelings, concerns and desires with a therapist or supportive loved one.

Distinguish Between Negative Emotions and Negative Thoughts

You can leverage negative emotions as a tool for growth if you think about what you can learn from them. Negative thoughts, on the other hand, are like a constant voice in the back of your mind telling you that you have failed and you should give up on your goals. If you listen to what that voice is saying, you will have given in to self-pity and sadness — which makes you vulnerable to a relapse.

Letting go of negative thoughts doesn’t mean fighting or ignoring them — that approach often lends strength to the negativity. Practice recognizing when you are experiencing these thoughts, then learn how to replace them with positivity: “I have the power to do this. Look how much I’ve already overcome, and how much progress I still have ahead of me.”

Practice Good Self-Care

You’ll experience less negativity in life if you maintain your overall physical and mental health. Skipping meals, neglecting good hygiene habits, not sleeping enough and being out of shape will all jeopardize your emotional balance. Always follow healthy lifestyle habits, and ask your general practitioner for ideas if you aren’t sure where to start. Above all, don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day or don’t get everything exactly right. You’ll be surprised how much happier you will become — and how much more positivity you will be able to bring yourself and others.

Your Recovery Begins With Us

At Seabrook, we build on our four-decade legacy of service to help adults who are struggling with addiction. We follow the 12-Step Principles of Recovery and offer an evidence-based treatment model that includes four distinct phases of healing and support. Learn more about our admissions process and start your recovery journey today.