Happiness, joy, or love can make us feel more vibrant and alive. Anger, frustration, and resentment can leave us with feelings of being overwhelmed and create stumbling blocks to progress in our recovery. This is particularly true when we have extreme feelings that we cannot seem to let go. Feelings of anger, resentment, and shame often led us to use substances in the first place. Our substance abuse was often driven by the desire to control the feelings that we thought would overpower us.These feelings may follow us into our days in early recovery.
The miracle of getting clean & sober does not mean that we are suddenly relieved of all the feelings that lead us to abusing substances. We have gotten clean; we haven’t been transformed into saints. But now that we are in recovery, we cannot run and hide in substances whenever the tide of feelings threatens to overcome us.
In early recovery, it is most important that we develop the coping skills necessary for us to get through another day clean and sober. Why we are angry, fearful, sad, or resentful is important, but healing the things that drive our feelings will be the ongoing work of our recovery. Finding a way to deal with these feelings in the moment is a skill we need to start developing right away.
Useful tools for coping with our feelings are taught to us in addiction treatment. Putting these tools into practice is not usually something that we can do all on our own. The illusion of complete self-sufficiency that lead us deeper and deeper into addiction has no place in our recovery. We must reach out to others and ask for help in working through our feelings and implementing these tools in our day-to-day life.
How do we pray, how do we meditate, how do we take a step back in the moment, how do we gain perspective? These are all questions we need the help of others to answer. Getting help does not mean we are failing in recovery. The truth is that asking for help is proof that we are changing for the better. Asking for help is a significant step forward from the days when we thought we could always ‘handle it’ no matter how much of a wreck our lives became.
One cannot move forward with recovery if he or she can’t also move through feelings and make it to the other side. We can no longer rely on the false sense of relief that substances gave to us. Just like we could not get or stay clean on our own, we aren’t likely to suddenly be able to work through our emotions on our own. By asking for help and accepting the help that is offered we set the groundwork for growth and change that will carry us anywhere we wish to go in our recovery.