Drugs and alcohol can serve as a way for people to hide, drown out, or change uncomfortable and unwanted feelings.
When a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) begins the recovery process, they may suddenly experience feelings they haven’t faced in years.
In some cases, these new feelings can be a lot to handle, creating an urge to relapse. However, healthy coping skills can be learned for managing difficult emotions.
Keep reading to learn about the complex role that emotions play in the addiction recovery process, including how to identify, embrace, and manage them for long-term recovery.
The Role Of Emotions In Substance Abuse
The first step in facing these new emotions is to understand the powerful impact that they can have throughout the recovery process.
Emotions play a significant role in triggering addictive behaviors and can be both a cause and consequence of substance abuse, creating a vicious circle.
By acknowledging and beginning to explore complex emotions, people can gain insight into underlying issues, identify related emotional triggers, and develop healthier coping strategies.
Embracing emotional awareness and regulation is key to achieving sustainable recovery.
Building Emotional Awareness During The Recovery Journey
The key to emotional awareness during the recovery journey involves engaging in self-reflection and introspection. It begins by acknowledging and accepting emotions without judgment.
Mindfulness practices can aid in observing emotions in the present moment without reacting in a way that fuels the emotion.
Some mindfulness-building practices include:
- journaling: encourages an exploration of strong emotions and their related triggers
- psychotherapy: such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides a safe space to express emotions and gain insight
- support groups: such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer an opportunity to learn from others’ experiences in addiction recovery and build a support system
- meditation: when led by a trained teacher, offers a technique for staying grounded and attuned to emotional fluctuations without reacting
- exercise: creates positive, happy feelings by releasing endorphins in the body and can improve confidence and self-image
These and other practices that build emotional awareness create a foundation for identifying underlying issues, making healthier choices, and cultivating emotional resilience on the path to recovery.
Developing Healthy Coping Skills For Emotion-Related Triggers
Once a person is better able to identify negative or complex emotions, they can begin to develop a plan for handling them when they arise outside of mindfulness-based practices.
For example, if someone has connected to their anger through journaling, they may be more likely to identify when they’re feeling angry in everyday situations.
They can then employ coping mechanisms for handling these emotions in healthy ways.
Implementing self-soothing techniques, like deep breathing or grounding exercises, can help manage intense emotions in the moment.
Engaging in positive and holistic activities, such as hobbies or physical exercise, provides constructive outlets for emotional expression.
Relying on professional support through therapy or counseling can also equip people with effective coping strategies to navigate emotional triggers more successfully.
Fostering Emotional Connection In Substance Abuse Recovery
Establishing meaningful connections with others who have experienced similar struggles can reduce feelings of isolation and create a sense of belonging.
Social and emotional support provides a safe space to share experiences, process emotions, and receive encouragement, which can significantly contribute to a person’s overall well-being as well as their recovery.
Some places where people can build emotional connections during recovery include:
- peer recovery groups
- group therapy
- sober living homes
- recovery workshops
Embracing Resilience In The Addiction Recovery Process
To embrace resilience in the recovery process, cultivating a positive mindset and adaptability is key.
Acknowledge setbacks as opportunities for growth, and focus on developing coping skills to navigate challenges.
Surround yourself with a supportive network, seek professional help if needed, and maintain a commitment to personal growth.
Embracing resilience allows us to bounce back from adversity, overcome obstacles, and thrive on the journey to lasting recovery.
This also includes facing the reality that relapse may occur. If it does, it doesn’t mean that your recovery is a failure. Look at the relapse as an opportunity to reassess your recovery process with your care team.
Celebrating Emotional Growth And Milestones In Addiction Recovery
People may forget that the chance to recover from alcohol and drug abuse is a gift because it also requires hard work and commitment.
Taking time to self-reflect and celebrate personal achievements, newfound coping skills, and emotional breakthroughs is encouraged.
Share your successes with your support network or therapist, who can provide positive reinforcement. This may include a recovery group, family, friends, or a partner.
Embrace gratitude for the transformations you have experienced, and take some time to set new goals to continue on the path of emotional growth and recovery.
Find Drug And Alcohol Abuse Treatment Today
If you are interested in learning more, reach out to our addiction treatment team today.Article Sources
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- National Library of Medicine
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)