Emotions can be odd, to say the least. Sometimes there are tears during happiness and laughter during sadness. Days can be filled with endless joy or bottomless sorrow. In early recovery especially, emotions and feelings are curious new/old experiences that can be at once exhilarating and overwhelming. Positive feelings can feel really fantastic. Less positive feelings, or negative feelings, can feel not so great. As the body and mind begins to recalibrate, like a scale that’s off center, the pendulum may swing in extreme directions at times. Taking into consideration the many days, weeks, months, and years spent in active addiction, one can see that with the ever-present distraction of substances, time wasn’t allocated to the experience of emotions, least of all any emotional maturity or regulation. Therefore, when all those emotional experiences begin to occur, the brain is literally fighting against itself as it feels things it doesn’t even know how to define anymore.
When substances such as stimulants, alcohol, synthetic drugs, methamphetamines and opiates are abused, experiences of depression may start even earlier in the recovery process during detox. Most substances that are abused cause addictive relationships with the user because of how they affect the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Substances tend to activate dopamine in surplus. Dopamine is a communicator of happiness. It’s a feel good transmitter, meaning that when it gets created, the brain is told that whatever is responsible for creating this feeling should be experienced more. Eventually, the dopamine begins to change the way the rest of the brain works, causing tolerance and eventually full chemical dependency.
So much of that good stuff for so long makes feeling hard feelings even more difficult in early recovery. Not only is the brain not fully recovered, but the memories of those feel-good experiences are still nearby. The recency of using substances in memory recall can make unpleasant emotional experiences even more uncomfortable. All too easy to remember is the convenience of simply taking drugs to avoid emotional experiences. Learning to manage these situations takes time but will happen.
Remember to stay present. Emotions and feelings, though oftentimes it seems the contrary, cannot actually kill someone. Each moment will pass in time, both good and bad. Stay mindful and aware of emotional experiences. Take moments to describe them to a counselor, house manager, sponsor or trusted recovery peer. Discussing the situation will take much of it’s power away. One day at a time, remarkable changes are being made. Getting through each emotional experience is getting one step further away from addiction and one step closer to life long recovery.
The staff at The Villa Treatment Center know what recovery is like. We are here to guide you through your experience of rebuilding your life, one day at a time. Detox, residential and extended care services are available. Call 1-818-639-7160 for more information today.