Dealing with Emotions in Sobriety
Something unexpected happened the other day. I was writing a piece about my sober journey and past drinking days and all of a sudden I started crying, I was shaking, sobbing, there was snot and I was totally overwhelmed. Where did that come from? I thought I was pretty good at dealing with emotions in sobriety but this took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting such strong feelings to come out of nowhere.
When we think of sobriety, two main emotions come to mind. Happiness and sadness. Happy that we are doing this amazing thing, happy not to have hangovers anymore yet sadness at the thought of never being able to have fun again or sad that a little piece of ourselves is lost forever.
However, it is way more complicated than that. I am sure you have experienced what is known as the ‘pink cloud’ that feeling of pure joy and elation which can come out of nowhere and you feel super high and happy for no apparent reason. It might be watching your kids sleep or walking along the road, cleaning your house – whatever, and all of a sudden you get this mind blowing surge of joy! It is an awesome feeling which can take you by surprise.
Then there are the moments of what seem like doom, you are just blown away by how crap everything appears to be or you feel extreme anger at something trivial which is not like you at all.
I didn’t know anything about emotional sobriety until I embarked on my own journey. Like many of us, I thought that once I gave up the bottle everything would be fine and dandy – It isn’t. I often say that I am surprised by all the feelings and emotions that suddenly pop up. These feeling aren’t anything new but they do catch us off guard because we were so used to numbing all our feelings with alcohol.
Like so many of us I was all over the place in the beginning. The first few months are a bit like a rollercoaster, you’re up and down, crying, laughing, feeling euphoric one minute and then sooo depressed the next. A big part of being successful and happy in sobriety is learning how to cope with these emotions instead of running away from them, no more burying your head in the sand or blocking them out.
Emotions are part of who we are, we feel them both mentally and physically which can be a shock when all you’ve done before was drown them out. Because everything is so raw and new, it can take a lot of getting used to when you are suddenly hit by a range of emotions out of the blue or you start feeling things so much more intensely than you did before.
For me, emotional sobriety is about understanding that there will be ups and downs and learning how to handle or control the full range of emotions that come with life. It is about being in the moment and not letting your feelings and responses run away with you. If you wake up in a bad mood, that doesn’t necessarily mean the whole day will be off. Similarly, if you are in a moment of pure joy, then go with it, enjoy it don’t start worrying that it will pass or that something bad is going to happen next.
It takes a lot of practice and patience but I am slowly learning how to use my emotions to help me and to work with my feelings instead of running away from them.
How to deal with your emotions in sobriety
Mindfulness is not some scary concept or complicated practice. It is simply being aware. Aware of your surroundings, the people around you and yourself. It is about being wholly and completely in the moment whether that be baking a cake or going for a walk. Being aware and mindful of your feelings and emotions is the best way to start to get a handle on them. Question everything instead of just blindly reacting. Always ask yourself why you are feeling a certain way. Just as emotions can bring about physical reactions, physical states can lead to intense feelings. Remember to check in with yourself regularly throughout the day and notice what is going on and how you are feeling.
Acceptance is a big part of dealing with emotions. Accept that life happens both good and bad. Learn to accept that you will sometimes feel angry or sad or happy, and learn where these emotions are coming from, how to honor them and use them to your benefit. If you can learn to accept that you are going to experience negative feelings from time to time and learn how to sit with them or work through them, then they won’t be as scary or overpowering.
Learn how to deal in a healthy way
This is where your sober tool kit becomes so invaluable. Instead of reaching for the bottle to just shut off your feelings and emotions it is important to learn new alternative ways of coping. Some practices I regularly turn to are writing in my journal – this is especially good if I am feeling anxious or guilty or ashamed of my past.
Having a good cry is soo therapeutic, just let it all out. You will feel better afterwards, I promise! Meditation is an essential tool for me for destressing, relaxing or just taking time out.
Exercise is proven to have so many wonderful benefits including lifting your mood or clearing your head. If you ever feel stuck, a walk outdoors is the best therapy.
Be kind to yourself.
We beat ourselves up all to often and listen to negative self talk about our past, leading us to feel regret and guilt. Try to let this go and be nice to yourself. Remember that by stopping drinking you are doing a very brave, positive and powerful thing. Put yourself first, always. If you need a break, take it. If you need to cry, do it. If you want to be silly then do that too. Listening to yourself and doing what you can to make yourself feel better is a huge part of the sobriety journey and you should be including self care into your daily routine.
Never be afraid to ask for help. I know that many of us think we can do this journey by ourselves but the more people I speak to, I discover that we never really go it alone. And, you shouldn’t have to because there is so much wonderful support out there and beautiful people who are there for you. Phone a friend or get together with your mum and have a chat, go to a meeting if that’s your style, send an email or message somebody.
I receive messages from people just like you all the time who need some extra support or just want to share a positive moment so don’t be afraid – send me an email now and let me know how you’re getting on!
Always remember that however you are feeling, it is completely normal and gradually your ups and downs will start to feel less extreme as you get better at dealing with them. The bad days won’t feel so bad and you will come to love each and every wonderful moment without the fear it won’t last or the guilt that you don’t deserve it. You absolutely do.
How are you feeling today? Let me know in the comments below.