Top 5 Emotional Difficulties of Early Recovery

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Top 5 Emotional Difficulties of Early Recovery

The topic at a glance

  • One of the most common obstacles to lasting recovery is our inability to handle emotions.

  • Early recovery is often referred to as an ’emotional rollercoaster’ because one minute we can be dancing with the joy only to fall into a pit of guilt and despair a few minutes later.

  • We use drugs to hide from our feelings, and this means we never get the chance to develop emotional maturity.

  • We become better at dealing with our emotions by developing self-compassion.

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Happy Ever After?

Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do was give up alcohol and drugs so we could then walk off into the sunset to live happily ever after? Unfortunately, life usually doesn’t work this way, and all getting sober/clean does is give us the chance of a better life. There is still more work to do.

One of the biggest obstacles to living happily ever after in recovery is learning to deal with our emotions. Here are five of the main emotional difficulties you are likely to face:

1. Emotional Immaturity

We tend to be emotionally immature when we begin our new life in recovery. This is because rather than developing effective coping strategies for dealing with our feelings, we have relied on escape through alcohol and drugs. The only way we can now develop emotional maturity is through a willingness to face our emotions, but there is usually some initial resistance to this.

2. Emotional Rollercoaster of Early Recovery

Our emotions tend to be all over the place during the first few weeks and months of early recovery. There are several reasons for why this happens such as:

  • Addiction withdrawals.

  • Chemical changes in the body as you adjust to clean living.

  • The stress involved in making significant changes to your life.

  • Unfamiliarity with fully feeling your emotions.

  • Concerns about the future.

  • Consequences of our addiction that we now need to face.

The fluctuations in how you feel during this stage in your recovery is likened to an emotional rollercoaster. It can be an uncomfortable ride at times, but it is important to understand that your emotions will settle down eventually, and this gives you a great opportunity to develop effective coping strategies.

3. Stress Due to Avoiding Emotions

Avoiding our emotions may make sense to us when we are caught up in addiction, but what we don’t realize is this becomes major source of stress. This is because there is no real way to escape how we feel – all we are doing is temporarily suppressing these emotions. This turns us into human pressure cookers, and the stress involved in keeping the lid on things has a negative impact on our physical and mental health. If we want to reduce this stress, it is vital that we find a way to deal face our emotions.

4. Lack of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion gives us the strength to deal with uncomfortable feelings and other challenges in life. Those of us who have been caught up in addiction will often be lacking in compassion for ourselves due to low self-esteem and a highly critical inner dialogue. The lack of self-compassion makes it harder to cope with our emotions, so it is vital we develop it during early recovery.

5. Poor Anger Management Skills

The inability to control our anger can get us into all types of trouble. This is because when we are caught up in this emotion, we are no longer able to think rationally. It is a common cause of relapse, and it can mean we continue to cause suffering for ourselves and other people even though we are clean and sober. Therefore, picking up some effective anger management strategies needs to be one of our priorities when we quit drugs.


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