Early sobriety is often referred to as one of the most vulnerable phases of recovery because emotions tend to run high and a newly sober individual will still be learning how to get accustomed to daily life without drugs or alcohol. Emotions can veer from high to low in a matter of hours during this phase. Over time, feelings will eventually level out but managing emotions will continue to be a challenge throughout recovery. this is why it’s important to address the issue early on and build the skills needed to recognize dangerous emotions in recovery and learn how to manage them in healthy ways.
Some of the emotions that deserve mention and that are commonly experienced during recovery include:
-fear and anxiety
-boredom and restlessness
-guilt and shame
The following is a short guide to recognizing these emotions as they arise and responding to them in a healthy way.
It’s important to understand the difference between being alone and feeling loneliness. Loneliness can be experienced in any setting, even in a room surrounded by people or in a crowd. Feeling lonely can involve a variety of other emotions, and can range from an occasional bout to an overpowering experience that lasts much longer. Loneliness can trigger feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, and depression as well. This is why dealing with it can often be especially challenging. During recovery, loneliness can be quite common because it often involves leaving old friends, acquaintances, and other social connections behind. The negative emotions that come from leaving old connections behind and facing the challenge of making new ones can become overwhelming and lead to a relapse. Joining a 12 step group, another recovery group, or simply making sober friends to spend time with can make a big difference in how you experience loneliness.
This emotion is probably the most dangerous one in recovery and also the most difficult to handle. Anger can easily cloud judgement and make us behave in ways that are destructive. For someone in recovery, anger can be especially detrimental. Oftentimes anger arises out of resentment, and then quickly spirals out of control. This happens when someone feels they have been wronged, not recognized for their effort, or otherwise mistreated or ignored. Resentment quickly leads to negative thoughts that simmer and quickly turn into anger. The chance of a relapse is increased when an individual doesn’t deal with any feelings of resentment and anger.
This is a powerful emotion that is difficult to understand and recognize. Fear often simmers deep within a person and is the source of other negative feelings like anger, envy, and anxiety. Fear also stands in the way of making progress in recovery. Many of those who are new to recovery worry about their future and sabotage their progress. Someone in recovery often worries about issues like finances, how they will be able to stay sober for life, health issues, rebuilding damaged relationships, and how to find happiness in recovery. Most of these fears involve worrying about events from the past or things that have not even happened yet. To deal with fear, it’s important to develop faith in the process of recovery and face the challenge of following through. Learning to believe in oneself and the hard work that goes into recovery is also important for dealing with fear.