Dealing with negative feelings and experiences can be hard, which is why many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Rather than facing these difficult feelings, substance abuse provides an escape. It can be a form of self-medication or a way to mask reality, but substance abuse does not provide the support a person truly needs to overcome difficult emotions. In fact, using drugs or alcohol can worsen a person’s experience and intensify negative emotions.
One of the hardest parts about recovery is the emotional aspect of it. While you can help a person physically abstain from substance abuse, the underlying issues that drive its continuation are harder to deal with. Without the aid of substances to muffle the impact of emotional difficulties, a person can easily become overwhelmed by what surfaces. Suddenly, they are faced with negative feelings that they do not know how to manage in a healthy way. Some of these emotions are driven by the loss of substances and withdrawal symptoms, while others are feelings that drove the development of addiction in the first place. Regardless of what order they developed in, coping with emotions in a healthy way is vital to successful recovery.
Emotions to Look Out for in Recovery
Emotions can trigger substance abuse making it imperative to learn new ways to cope with them. By understanding what emotions you associate with substance abuse, you can better prepare for potential pitfalls in recovery. Some of the most common emotions experienced and associated with substance abuse and withdrawal include:
- Anxiety: Anxiety is a common trigger for substance abuse. Substances are often used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and help people connect with others. Unfortunately, once substance abuse stops, it can also cause anxiety to spike. Just the thought of being unable to use can cause symptoms of anxiety to appear.
- Depression: Substances are often misused to self-medicate for symptoms of depression. Use can cause euphoria, and many people chase the high substances create. Drugs and alcohol can change the way the brain functions which makes abstinence even more difficult. Depression is commonly experienced during withdrawal and can lead to a plethora of issues when not properly treated.
- Paranoia: The act of abusing drugs or alcohol itself can cause feelings of paranoia. The fear of getting caught, the feeling that people around you are plotting against you or talking behind your back, and a vague sense of dread are all caused by substance abuse. These same feelings can be experienced when going through withdrawal. Paranoia is a common side effect even in recovery.
- Fear: Because of the way drugs and alcohol affect your brain chemistry, fear is a common experience. Similar to anxiety and paranoia, many people experience fear when thinking about moving forward without substances as a crutch.
- Anger: Anger can be driven by multiple aspects of a person’s experience. Anger can be a side effect of substance abuse, but becoming irritable and experiencing mood swings is part of the withdrawal process as well. Without substances to cloud your thoughts or memories, you may experience anger more clearly and regularly. Anger can be driven by feelings about being in treatment, reflecting on past actions and behaviors, or realizing you can no longer use drugs or alcohol.
- Disappointment: Disappointment is another common emotion in recovery. You may feel disappointed that you can no longer use substances, but you may also feel disappointment when reflecting on the past. Past actions and behaviors can create feelings of disappointment in a sober mind.
- Loneliness: In addition to losing your substance of choice, you also lose relationships with substance-abusing peers. While this step is necessary for recovery, it can still leave you feeling lonely. Loneliness can be a driving force for the development of substance abuse and it can be a powerful emotion in recovery. It is important to develop healthy relationships while in recovery from addiction. /li>
- Guilt: Much like disappointment, guilt can be a difficult emotion to cope with in recovery. Reflecting back on past choices, actions, and behaviors can cause intense feelings of guilt. When your mind begins to clear, you may start to feel more guilt about how substances made you interact with others.
- Resentment: Even if you know treatment is the right course of action, resentment can still be a powerful feeling, especially in early recovery. This is particularly true for those who were placed into treatment involuntarily. It can take some time before a person comes to terms with feelings of resentment, but it is a normal response to a life-changing action taking place.
- Boredom: Boredom can be a risk factor for relapse. Many people find themselves with much more time on their hands without substance abuse to occupy their time. Boredom can cause a person to consider using drugs or alcohol again, making it a particularly problematic feeling in recovery. Scheduling and planning to fill as much time as possible can help minimize this risk.
Many in recovery will experience several of these emotions and states of mind to varying degrees. They can range in severity and make the recovery process more difficult. Without the aid of drugs or alcohol, those in recovery must now learn how to cope with difficult emotions in a productive way. Experiencing these feelings is normal, and finding ways to manage them in a healthy way is critical in preventing relapse.
Developing healthy coping mechanisms is vital to the recovery process. Treatment heavily focuses on finding healthy outlets early on to help establish positive behaviors and thought processes moving forward. But what happens after treatment? Giving in to negative emotions can be a risk for relapse, but finding ways to deal with these feelings in a healthy way can improve your quality of life and recovery experience. Whether your outlets be through creative expression, physical exercise, or spending time with people you love, engaging in a healthy way can improve recovery outcomes and enhance sobriety.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.