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3 min read

Recognizing and Feeling Your Feelings

Many people in recovery struggle with emotions that make them feel bad from time to time. After all, life isn’t perfect, and neither are people in recovery from addiction. Especially now, in such uncertain times, it’s easy to get frustrated or afraid. These feelings in and of themselves are not a bad thing. To have emotions is to be human. When you were using drugs and alcohol, you were doing your best not to feel them. But as a sober human being (and being a human being, in general), having feelings is part of the journey.

Feeling Emotional? Here’s Why

Once you get sober, a lot of feelings may hit you all at once. Part of the reason you may feel emotional may be due to withdrawal symptoms that magnify what you’re feeling. Another reason you may be moody is that you've been drowning your feelings for a while.

Being moody is typical and usually short-lived when you first get sober. Feelings in the first few days of detox will probably be intense and sometimes contradict each other! This is all perfectly normal. You put your body and brain through a period of numbness where it could do nothing but “stuff” those feelings as you tried to keep yourself numb. Those emotions will eventually come back.

Some people have trouble when introduced to these emotions. You want to run away and hide from them! But please, don’t! You must give yourself a chance to live through them, experience them, and learn to cope with them. These are the emotions you’ve been silencing for so long. Just remember, feelings are transient – you won’t feel this way forever. This too shall pass.

Recognizing Your Feelings

Many people in recovery have trouble recognizing their feelings. When asked how you feel today, do you answer “good” or “bad”? Well, guess what? Good and bad are not feelings. There is no such thing as a good or bad emotion, either. All feelings are valid and should be examined. But here’s the kicker: feelings are not facts! You may feel guilty when you’ve done nothing wrong or angry when your underlying feelings are hurt. (Yes, there can be more than one feeling at a time!)

Emotions are neither bad nor good. They CAN be positive or negative. Negative feelings, such as guilt, can help us learn from our mistakes. The emotions themselves are something that you need to learn to cope with and sometimes have a lesson attached to them. For example, you probably will feel guilty if you steal supplies from the office or lie to somebody you love.

Describing your emotions will get easier over time. (Remember, none of these is bad or good; they’re just emotions!) In psychology, understanding how you feel is called "emotional literacy" -- and it's a skill that helps you communicate and decide your actions and reactions. (There is a great chart halfway through this article on emotional literacy you can use to recognize your moods.)

Negative Feelings

  • Lonely
  • Nervous
  • Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Afraid
  • Hurt
  • Bored
  • Disgusted
  • Disappointed
  • Rageful
  • Annoyed

Positive Feelings

  • Proud
  • Happy
  • Playful
  • Inspired
  • Hopeful
  • Fulfilled
  • Satisfied
  • Confident
  • Excited
  • Loving
  • Surprised

These are just a few examples of positive and negative emotions you may feel at any given time. Can you think of other things that you hate to feel or like to feel?

Coping With Emotions

Learning to name your feelings is the first step to learning to cope with them. Remember: feelings are not facts. You can feel guilty even if you did nothing wrong. Some people feel confident when they’re actually being arrogant. (Such as believing you will ace a test without studying!)

Keeping a feeling journal can help you sort out your emotions and what triggers them. You can also learn to cope with the feelings that make you want to use or act out dangerously.

Learning to cope can take time. Talking with others about how you feel and asking them for advice on their own coping skills can help.

In general, if you’re feeling a negative emotion, meditation or exercise are quick ways to become calmer and more content. However, if you’re feeling angry over time or having guilt about the past, sometimes you’ll need long-term therapy to overcome these feelings.

Getting Help for Addiction

Addiction is a disease of the mind as well as the body. Have you tried to quit using drugs or alcohol but found you can’t do it on your own? Treatment can help. Las Olas Recovery enables you to begin your recovery, focusing on the whole self – body, mind, and spirit – in a calm, professional, and spiritual setting. Learn more about how we can help by calling us at US (949) 279-1376 • MX (612) 153-5726.




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Hi! I’m Melissa Stailey, a freelance writer that loves to cook. I live and work in Washington, DC.