Over the course of addiction treatment, you will experience a wide range of emotions from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Recovery is hard, and healing is not linear. At times you will feel on top of the world as you conquer your addiction, but there will also be days when you feel stuck and as if sobriety is something just out of reach. On these days filled with sadness, anger, resentment and more, you may feel discouraged. However, these negative emotions can strengthen your recovery as you learn to express them in healthy ways.
Addiction and Numbing Bad Feelings
Addiction often begins with using drugs or alcohol to numb out the feelings of sadness, anger and other negative emotions. A person begins depending on dangerous substances to avoid confronting the issues and emotions that are causing them harm so they do not have to directly cope with them. Instead, they use drugs and/or alcohol to make the bad feelings disappear. But the “cure” is only temporary. By not dealing with the problems that are harming you, those feelings only become stronger. Learning to cope with negative emotions in a healthy way is the only way to break the cycle of negativity and addiction. The journey begins with an understanding that these feelings are normal and you shouldn’t be ashamed of them. From there, you can learn proper strategies for coping with them in your addiction treatment.
The Harmful Effects of Suppressing the Bad
While suppressing negative emotions can help for a little while, they will eventually re-emerge, forcing you to deal with them. Over time, suppressing these feelings can lead to problems with physical health. Your immune system will suppress, and you may experience problems sleeping, change in appetite, digestive problems, nausea and muscle tension. Specific emotions such as anger can have their own effects. For example, repressed anger can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.
Working to understand your negative emotions and learning to cope with them in a healthy manner will help you over time. This is why addiction recovery focuses on identifying triggers, bad memories and other parts of life that make you feel down.
Negative Emotions Are Common
Negative emotions are a common and healthy response to certain circumstances. They allow you to recognize that something is wrong, which in turn helps you to take a step back and identify what is causing you pain or harm. From there you can take the proper steps to cope with said issue.
By analyzing your negative feelings and their causes, you can gain insight into your own internal life and the root of your unhappiness. With this learning comes a greater ability to face similar emotions in the future in an ongoing cycle of healing. Developing a deep understanding of the sources of your negative thoughts can promote healing and emotional growth.
Knowing the Difference Between Negative Thoughts and Negative Emotions
In learning to cope with your emotions, it is important to understand the difference between negative emotions and negative thoughts. Confusing the two is easy, yet it can complicate your healing.
Negative thoughts serve to keep you in the vicious cycle of feeling low. Unlike negative emotions, negative thoughts are present only to constantly remind you of your sadness, anger, loneliness and more. They are that voice in your head telling you to give up. This is why you must learn to turn them around into positive thoughts. For instance, when you experience the negative thought that you are not healing and should give up on recovery, try telling yourself that you are trying your best and will get there one step at a time. Turning negative thoughts around is extremely powerful in recovery and can keep you on the right track to sobriety.
Focus on What You Can Control
A great way to deal with negative emotions is by focusing on what you can control. You can’t control if the bus is on time or if the weather is bad. Understanding this will help you release some of the negative emotions held within you. Instead, focus on what you can control to help turn your perspective into a more positive one. For example, you cannot control how other people treat you, but you can control how you react to their behavior. Understanding that one person’s opinion of you does not define you will help you combat negative emotions surrounding a bad exchange on the bus, for example.
Find Healthy Outlets
For the times that you are overwhelmed by negative emotions, consider a healthy outlet to release them. There are various ways to release these emotions, you just have to find the one that works for you. Consider journaling, exercising, meditating, hiking, watching a funny movie or anything that brings you a sense of peace or joy. Again, focus on what you can control and take the initiative to not dwell on your negative emotions. Distract yourself with fun and stress-releasing activities.
Negative emotions can have a detrimental effect on recovery in many ways. Many people in early recovery find it difficult to cope with these emotions because they are so used to numbing them with drugs or alcohol. A successful treatment will help you learn healthy ways to express and cope with negative feelings. Accepting that negative emotions are normal and not a source of shame is a first step. At Authentic Recovery Center in Los Angeles, our comprehensive services will help you along the road to recovery by teaching you coping strategies and other tactics to deal with your feelings in a healthy manner. We specialize in helping people with dual diagnoses of substance abuse and related conditions along their entire recovery continuum. ARC offers a wide range in levels of care including residential, outpatient services, and aftercare that provide you with the ongoing support you need to maintain your sobriety. Contact us today at (866) 786-1376 to get started.