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Four Intense Emotions You Might Feel When You Get Clean

When you first get clean, there are a lot of things that your body and mind go through. Breaking free from addiction is a big deal, and you’ve given yourself a second chance at life. At the same time, many of the things you avoided through alcohol or drugs that may seem to “pop up” out of nowhere. Recovery is a journey, not a destination, and coping with these feelings is an important part of the process. In fact, your emotions are completely normal. Even when you feel overwhelmed or just “down”, it’s important to remember that this, too, shall pass. Here are some common feelings people encounter in (and throughout) recovery.

  1. Fear: You may feel fearful about different aspects of the future. There are plenty of things that can strike fear in your heart – the thought of relapse, life changes, or just the idea of living life as a person in recovery. When talking about fear as an emotion, it's often said that the greatest fear is that of the unknown. These feelings will become less intense as you learn to confront your fear and walk through it. Getting a new job will help your fear of being unable to support yourself, for example. Getting through a difficult day without getting high will make you feel more confident about staying clean. Just remember to live your life one day at a time.
  2. Anger: Anger can be a dangerous emotion if you don’t learn how to cope with it properly. Understand how anger feels when you start to experience – a faster pulse, breathing harder, shaking, or being sarcastic with others are all common symptoms of anger. Recognizing this feeling is important so that you can prevent it from taking over your thoughts and making you feel more impulsive. Don’t bottle up your anger – learn to express it. Whether it’s through talking with a friend or sponsor, taking a run, or creating art, anger can be used for positive things. Don't let your negative emotions drive you.
  3. Guilt: Guilt can be a strong emotion and is often justified when you’re in recovery. You probably missed out on a lot of opportunities to show your love and support for others and did things that you feel bad about. Remorse is a natural emotion, but you can’t fix it and make things “right” in just a few weeks or months. Overcoming guilt takes time as you build self-esteem through doing things you can feel good about. In the 12 steps, you’ll also take more actions to assuage this feeling. But you can’t start to make real amends until you’re ready – and that’s something your sponsor will help you decide. Otherwise, try to be a powerful force for good.
  4. Shame: Like guilt, shame is one of those emotions that can overwhelm and keeps us from experiencing the good in life and ccan quickly take over. Shame makes you feel as if your entire existence is wrong, that you are a terrible person and other horrible untruths. Be kind to yourself others. Practice self-care. Do service work like making coffee at meetings. And if you feel a constant sense of shame, seek help from a therapist. Sometimes shame can trace back to things that happened to us that are traumatic, and you shouldn’t confront those feelings alone.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by emotions. However, feelings are often a roller coast of the good and the bad, and that’s how life is supposed to be. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by different emotions, it’s important to let somebody know. Sometimes you may have an underlying condition that causes intense feelings of sadness or anxiety. Seeking the help of a therapist or psychiatrist can help you learn more about yourself and be assessed for any mental health disorders as well.

You deserve to e happy in recovery, but no one is happy all the time. Learning to take the good with the bad wuill help you build a strong foundation for your new life. And if you’re not sure what you’re feeling or why you feel that way, talk to somebody else in recovery. There are plenty of people who want to help you learn to make your way in this new way of life.


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Are you looking for answers to your substance abuse problems? Recovery is possible. We’d like to help you make decisions to better your life and get the help you need. Please give us a call at 619-363-4767.



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Mark G
Mark Gladden brings both personal and professional experience to his role as co-founder of Present Moments Recovery. Now in long-term recovery himself after struggling with addiction for years, Mark understands firsthand the challenges men face in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It was this insight, combined with a desire to help others, that led Mark to establish Present Moments Recovery.

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