How Do I Manage My Emotions In Recovery?
Updated: Sep 14
Anyone in early recovery will tell you that there are times their feelings can 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. The good news is that 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 found in learning how to be in charge of our feelings, rather than our feelings being in charge of us.
Feelings are meant to be simple indicators of how the internal engine is running. Picture your emotions being like the lights on the dashboard that show what needs your attention under the hood.
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 affective neuroscience laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in an article about human emotions.
I remember being 100% clueless about 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 over 12 years into my recovery from a deadly drug and alcohol addiction I’m not perfect, but I’ve been able to live in peace and health in regard 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- Honest 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 tool.
I recall times when I wrote for hours. Still to this day I start every day writing about what God is speaking, how I'm feeling, my part in my current situations, and what I can do to bring positive change. This action step is a very healthy tool that when put to use can be like a weapon against stress, anxiety, and depression.
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 God for help! Many studies have been done and it is proven that prayer lowers blood pressure, stress, and can bring healing in various ways. 1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (NLT) Relationship and constant connection with God is our lifeline in recovery.
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 of your feelings.
4- Play the tape all the way through.
When I learned to pause and see the bigger picture of where that surfacing emotion was trying to take me, I was able to decide whether I wanted to take that ride or not.
For more simple, practical, and powerful insights into this topic check out this podcast from The Recovering Reality Podcast - "Understanding "Triggers" - 15 mins
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.
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