As an active addict or alcoholic, you avoided experiencing a lot of emotions. You found that you were much more comfortable if you felt numb. In sobriety, you find that sooner or later you have to feel your feelings. You have to face things that make you uncomfortable, and you have to experience emotions without picking up a drink or a drug. It will take time and practice to learn to feel your feelings. Although you can’t necessarily will yourself to turn negative feelings off, you should pay attention to what you are feeling and whether you are exaggerating your reactions to some of what life sends your way. Some emotions can be damaging to the recovery process.
Suffering From Shame
There are few recovering alcoholics or addicts who don’t feel some degree of shame and regret for actions taken while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You may have stolen money or possessions from people you love or from strangers. You may have participated in reckless behavior such as violence or drunk driving, and you may have embarrassed yourself or your loved ones with some of the things you did. You probably did a lot of things that you never would have done had you been sober, and you wish you could undo some of them. Part of recovery involves making amends to people you have harmed, and in doing that you start to make peace with your past. It’s natural to regret the things you have done that have hurt other people. But it isn’t helpful to your recovery to continue to wallow in shame and the mistakes you have made that you can’t do anything about.
Do you spend a lot of time worrying about what lies ahead? Worrying is one of the most useless emotions you can experience. When you worry, you put a lot of effort and energy into things you can’t control and that haven’t happened yet. You imagine scenarios that may never happen and you dwell on possible disastrous outcomes. Life is going to unfold the way it is meant to unfold, and sometimes you won’t get your way. If you are disappointed or get hurt, it won’t be the end of the world. You will be able to handle whatever comes up as long as you get in the habit of facing just one day at a time and stick close to others in recovery. Take the energy that you’ve been putting into worrying and use it to change the things you can.
When you feel anger or bitterness toward another person, you are nursing resentment. While you’re dwelling on the hurt or injustice that you think the other person has done toward you, that person is probably not worrying about a thing. When you are feeling resentment, you want to direct negative energy toward someone else, but the person you’re probably hurting the most is you. From time to time, people will treat you unfairly. Some may hurt you very badly, but holding onto hurt and anger doesn’t do you any good, and it doesn’t hurt them at all. Work on letting go of the hurt and forgiving the other person for your sake, not for hers.
Stop Blaming Others
One of the most important steps you can take in recovery is to recognize that you are responsible for the actions you took that led to your addiction problem. You may want to blame others for some of your problems. You might think that if other people had your boss or your spouse or your problems, they would drink and drug, too. But that is only an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for your own life. As long as you blame others for your problems, you can’t work on making new choices. As long as you dwell on worry, shame or resentment, you are living in the past, wallowing in negativity and not moving forward. To recover, you have to live in today and let go of the negative feelings that might be holding you back. You won’t be able to do this perfectly, but you can strive for progress, not for perfection.