4 Tips for Managing Your Emotions in Recovery
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Anyone in early recovery will tell you that their feelings can at times be intensely overwhelming.
Years of active addiction can have the mind, body, and spirit feeling like it’s been short-circuited. Depletion of natural serotonin, a draining of the needed daily vitamins that keep us running at optimal levels, and a warped perspective are just a few components of the problem. Good news, these can all be restored but it doesn’t happen overnight.
Add to that the dark spiritual reality that people struggling with addiction have subjected themselves to and it can at times feel like hurricane force winds raging within.
But there is hope! Millions of people, and 1 in 10 Americans, are living free and healed from addiction. A good part of healthy recovery is about learning how to be in charge of our feelings rather then our feelings being in charge of us.
Feelings are meant to be simple indicators of how the internal engine is running. Feelings are wonderful slaves, but terrible masters. Feelings, or emotions, are rarely a perfectly painted picture of reality, but they can be a pinpoint GPS of the area within us that is in need of some love and attention.
“...emotions are absolutely core to basic human functionality. We need them to operate and perform in the world, as well as interact with other people,” says Tor Wager, Director of the cognitive and effective neuroscience laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in an article about human emotions.
I remember being 100% clueless to this reality during my 13 years of active addiction. Even in my first year or so of recovery, it took work and intentionality to go from my emotions governing me to me governing my emotions.
Now almost 10 years into recovery from a deadly drug and alcohol addiction I’m not perfect, but I’ve been able to live in peace and healthiness in regards to my emotional well being.
Here are 4 simple tips to build your emotional skill set and IQ
1- Get a mentor, sponsor, Coach, therapist, etc...
You need help. If you haven’t been able to fix the problem on your own, chances are you need some feedback and correction from someone that possesses the skill set to get you out of that unhealthy cycle.
It is smart to get connected to someone that lives in a place of healthy recovery and humble yourself and take direction. “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
2- Truthful Journaling
A Harvard study showed that writing lowers stress and anxiety, and even eases the effects of trauma. It’s like popping the top on a can of soda that has been shaken.
Honesty is a BIG key to this. I recall writing for hours sometimes, and still to this day, about how I’m feeling, my part in the situation, and what I can do to bring positive change. This action step is a very healthy tool that when put to use can be as a weapon against stress, anxiety, depression, and the like.
God is not the author of worry and confusion. Emotions are normal and you will always feel them. We were created to experience emotions. But we were also created to be the boss of our emotions, not our emotions being the boss of us.
Ask for help! Many studies have been done and it is proven that prayer lowers blood pressure, stress, and can bring healing in various ways.
Just like we need a mentor, we need spiritual help even more. General prayer will get general answers, specific prayer will get specific answers. Ask for help and be specific. I’ve always been able to tell the people that spend time praying, it goes hand and hand with being able to be in charge or your feelings.
4- Play the tape all the way through.
When I learned to pause and catch a glimpse of the bigger picture of where that feeling was trying to take me (which came through applying the first three tips) I was able to decide whether I wanted to take that ride or not.
A feeling starts with a thought, how you respond to that thought will determine if that feeling is taking you somewhere productive or unproductive. You are in charge of you, and you have the power to decide whether you will be in charge of you...or if your emotions will be in charge of you.
A balanced and healthy emotional life starts with us and ends with us.