Dealing With Negative Emotions in Recovery

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Negative feelings and emotions are a common part of life. They happen to everyone. Sometimes there’s a legitimate reason, but other times they just happen. Maybe we’re just having a bad day, or we struggle with mental and emotional health on a regular basis, or perhaps something serious has happened to us. Whatever the cause or duration, negative feelings are a natural part of life.

For many of us who struggle with alcoholism and addiction, these negative emotions can present a significant danger to our recovery. Addicts and alcoholics like us are often prone to getting carried away by negative emotions, hurt feelings, or other types of depression. Too often, we fail to keep ourselves safe from common pitfalls and the desire to escape negative feelings can push us perilously close to relapse.

This doesn’t have to be the case for us anymore. There are many in the recovery community at Jaywalker Lodge and elsewhere who struggle with depression and other mental health issues. There are also countless examples of people who have maintained their sobriety and grown in their recovery, even while healing from a traumatic event or navigating a series of rough circumstances. If they’ve done it, so can we. If we can keep just a few simple things in mind when the inevitable “tough times” come, we can not only ease the burden, but we can grow and learn and lessen the impact that negative emotions have on our lives, our recovery, and our happiness.

Keeping Our Perspective Clear

We all know that sometimes life is less than ideal, especially now during the pandemic. As many poets have shared before, life seems to have seasons. Sometimes there’s a lot of sunshine and flowers blooming, other times it’s cold and rainy. But we must remember that just like the seasons of the year, the seasons of life don’t last forever either. It can be hard to keep this in mind when we feel low. But it can really be comforting to remember that hard times aren’t permanent, bad days don’t last forever, and circumstances can always change.

Whatever negative emotions we experience, they won’t be around forever. They may not even be with us tomorrow. Instead of trying desperately to escape the bad feelings or hard times with our old behavior that will only make things worse in the long run and prolong our suffering, it might help to remember that old cliche, “This too shall pass.”

Whether it’s grief, trauma, depression, or any other negative emotions, there are steps — both in and out of the 12-Step program — that we can take to begin to heal and right ourselves. When we are stricken with negativity, we might not have the energy at first to do what’s necessary. But remembering that the bad times won’t last, and that we might not survive another relapse, might give us enough energy to pray for grace and patience until we are strong enough to act.

Stick Close to the Program

When alcoholics like us feel negative or sad or we’re going through a tough time, we tend to isolate and withdraw. This is a dangerous tendency. It is at those moments when we feel our lowest that we need to make the effort to stick closest to the 12-Steps, and to our community of sober support at Jaywalker Lodge.

Maybe all we can do is send a few text messages or make a few phone calls. That’s a fine start. Hopefully some of that reaching out results in being invited to a meeting or out to coffee. We won’t want to go because of how we feel, but going to a meeting or meeting a sober friend is exactly what we need to do.

Perhaps they’ll give us helpful advice or a fresh perspective. Maybe they’ll share how they used the 12-Steps to get through a similar experience or deal with similar emotions. Maybe they’ll just provide a listening ear. Either way, the toughest times in our lives are the times when we need other people the most. Given how much negative emotions can jeopardize our recovery, it’s especially important that we don’t cut ourselves off from our recovery community.

It’s also important to not withdraw from the people in our life because they may need us. What a shame it would be to discover a friend needed our help, but we were feeling low and isolating ourselves. Being available to help others, even when we feel low, may be the very thing that helps us process and overcome our own negative emotions. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions that working with others is often the thing that works for us when nothing else seems to do the trick.

Even more than this, staying close to our recovery community at Jaywalker Lodge will likely provide a useful nudge to do some 12-Step work at a time when we feel too low to engage in the program. Keeping those sober voices near us can make it easy to find someone, if not our sponsor, to work any or all of the 12-Steps with. The 12-Step program is full of useful tools, exercises, practices, and actions to help weather the storms of life, continue to grow (even in hardship), and break free of the negative attitudes and emotions that stop us in our tracks. When we most need to work any or all of the 12-Steps is usually when we feel like doing it the least.

It can be hard to keep a clear head when we are beset by negative emotions, but it would serve us well to try and keep these few things in mind. The Jaywalker program that worked to get us sober and keep us sober in recovery will surely provide us with help, guidance, and healing, even in the midst of troubling times. Our lives are worth more than escaping one bad day. As long as we keep hope and stay sober, there’s a good chance that tomorrow will be a better day.

If you or a loved one is struggling to get or stay sober, having difficulty maintaining long-term recovery, or dealing with addiction and mental health issues, please know there is help. At Jaywalker Lodge, we have been in your shoes. We stand here ready to help you, as soon as you’re ready. It’s never too late to start a new chapter of your life. To learn more, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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