Emotions have a way of sneaking up on a person.
One moment, you are feeling perfectly fine, but then a stray memory makes you feel sad. Or you are working steadily on a project, but then a series of small setbacks add up to mounting feelings of frustration. Or you are feeling down in the dumps, but then someone pays you an unexpected compliment and you feel happier than you have all day.
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As a rule, we experience a range of emotions throughout each day. But sometimes an emotion can seem to settle in for the long haul. And if that emotion is a challenging one, it can be a danger to your sobriety.
Let’s take a look at four emotions that can, if left unaddressed, threaten your sobriety.
Ongoing Anger: Lighting the Fuse Leading to Relapse
It is only natural to feel anger from time to time. We get into arguments at work, home, or school. We get upset with people who seem inconsiderate on the road, in a public place, or on social media. We feel strong emotions around causes and issues that are important to us and that might bring us into conflict with others.
Again, all of that is natural. But feeling angry all of the time can quickly become a problem—especially for a person in recovery. You don’t want to find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol to try to keep your anger at bay.
So you need some strategies. When you get into an argument, remember that it is okay to pause the conversation until everyone involved has calmed down. When you encounter someone rude out in the world, you can choose to ignore them or to remove yourself from the situation. When you are upset about the state of the world, you can resolve to take positive action to move things forward.
We should also note that ongoing feelings of anger might be anxiety in disguise. Keeping your mental health providers apprised of any anger issues you are experiencing is a good idea.
A Sense of Shame: Focusing on the Past Can Upend the Future
Once you have regained your sobriety, you may well find yourself feeling ashamed of some of the things you did and people you hurt while you were struggling with drugs or alcohol. That sense of shame can be extremely strong—and it can’t lead to anything good for a person in recovery.
That is one of the reasons that recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous put significant emphasis on the process of making amends to the people who were harmed by your behavior when you were in the grips of a substance use disorder. The process of making amends can alleviate feelings of shame and allow you to move forward rather than wallowing in the past.
The Challenge of Grief: A Deeply Felt Loss Can Lead to Loss of Sobriety
When we lose a loved one, the experience of grief can feel truly overwhelming. It can feel as though you won’t ever be able to overcome the loss. That feeling might lead you back to drugs or alcohol in an effort to dull the emotional pain you are experiencing.
Of course, losing your sobriety due to grief just amplifies the feelings of loss. Fortunately, it is possible to deal with grief in ways that do not undermine your recovery. The key is to remember how resilient you are—and to use that resilience to help you through this difficult time.
It can also be helpful to remember that every single one of us experiences grief at different times throughout our lives. That means you are not alone in your grief. Turning to your support system of family and friends is far preferable to turning to drugs or alcohol when it comes to managing grief.
Heavy Load of Loneliness: Don’t Try to Go It Alone
Loneliness can quickly become a problem for a person in recovery. When you are lonely, you are more likely to feel sad or bored or frustrated—or any combination of difficult emotions. Those emotions can make it seem as though turning to drugs or alcohol would be preferable to continuing to feel the way you do. And since you feel lonely, you may decide that no one will care if you give up your sobriety anyway.
To avoid that potential slide from loneliness to a loss of sobriety, it is essential that you build a strong support system you can rely on. Part of that support system will be people you meet in your 12-Step (or other recovery program)—including your sponsor. Your closest friends and family—those who know the challenges you are facing and are committed to facing them with you—are the other key parts of your support system. It is important to lean on them when feelings of loneliness come calling.
Regaining Your Sobriety Will Inspire Happiness
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we want to help you experience a positive emotion—the feeling of happiness that comes with reclaiming your sobriety and your life. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help.