Life is full of ups and downs. While there can be streaks of incredible moments in daily life, there are also the inevitable days of feeling low. Recovery works the same way; the ebb and flow of life will most certainly wear on us as we push forward in living sober. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to admit when we’re having a hard time during this process.
Feeling Our Way Through the Hard Things
Getting and staying sober is a tall order to ask of someone who’s been using substances as a way to cope. Having to learn things about ourselves that we’ve buried for so long and sitting in the emotions and the discomfort of a past we’re no longer living is difficult. Perhaps this is why we prioritized substance use, to avoid looking at what we’ve done or what we’re afraid to feel. Owning our mistakes is a difficult practice in sobriety.
The deep emotions of hurt, shame, and guilt are scary enough because of their weight, but sitting in those feelings and processing them without an escape is a challenging step of recovery. If you choose to work a 12-step program, this will be the brunt of the work. Steps four through nine consist of looking back into the past, seeing who’s harmed us, and recognizing where we contributed to the pain and hardships. How terrifying.
Here is an excellent example of when it’s okay not to be okay: if we choose to follow a 12-step recovery program or participate in any addiction treatment, we work with a trusted individual we feel safe confiding in. They will tell you it’s okay to feel down on ourselves, and that the desire to return to using substances to escape is a normal experience. Staying honest, recognizing your feelings, and asking for help while pushing forward through the work are crucial in these moments of pain. Feel the feels.
Life on Life’s Terms
Guilt and shame aren’t the only hard feelings we experience that can offset our whole day. Anger, irritation, or stress can pop up at any given moment throughout the day and make it nearly impossible to stay on track. These intense feelings can also cause us to want to turn back to substance use. “Numbing out” is a way to control what we do or don’t want to feel.
If you are entering recovery for the first time, you’ll begin to pick up on key phrases that are the foundation to living clean and sober. “Life on life’s terms” and “radical acceptance” are two of the most common phrases you’ll hear from a therapist or a sponsor. You may also hear the term “control is an illusion.” This can be challenging to hear when you’re used to feeling in control of your surroundings and life’s situations.
Simply put, it’s out of our hands. We cannot control every moment of our lives, nor can we control those around us and how they will behave. However, we do have control over how we respond to situations. Through therapeutic intervention, we’re able to learn new coping skills that teach us how to sit in the discomfort we feel.
The importance of recognizing when we’re not okay is to normalize those feelings and have the tools to work through them. Feelings of irritation, anger, and stress ought not to be demonized. With the support of therapeutic practices, there is a constructive way to work through those moments of emotional dysregulation.
How to Recognize Emotional Dysregulation
Emotional dysregulation is an umbrella term for when we’re experiencing feelings that affect our nervous system. Every person has a “window of tolerance” in which they can function most effectively. It is the optimum baseline where we can receive and process information before responding to situations. When we’re outside of our window of tolerance, we experience emotional dysregulation.
Feelings occur naturally and shouldn’t be categorized by “good” or “bad.” It’s vital to recognize the emotions happening and know how to work our way through them. We are whole in every phase, and we must know how to regulate ourselves through all of them. Our emotions can be present, but they cannot be in charge.
Emotional dysregulation can occur visually through a display of emotions, or it can come through physical symptoms. Some examples include:
- Body or muscle aches
- Increased levels of fatigue
- Becoming withdrawn or isolating oneself
The Importance of Emotional Recognition
Recognizing when we feel ourselves leaving our window of tolerance. Starting to feel emotionally dysregulated, is an advantage to our overall wellness. Having the ability to pause in situations of stress or anger and naming the feelings allows us to move forward in a situation with more control over how we will react to the distress.
Allowing ourselves to become aware of the emotions we’re experiencing, naming them, and sitting with them is a powerful tool in our recovery. Not only can we pinpoint what caused us to feel the emotions we experience and feel them in a safe and healthy way, but we can also remind ourselves that the emotions will pass after we sit with them.
Feelings of distress aren’t negative attributes. Your feelings are valid, all of them. Having the ability to experience them for what they are in the ways that we do is a part of growing and healing. It’s okay not to be okay.
Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is challenging. After our bodies have gone through detox and found baseline, we often experience emotions that may not be familiar. We may experience feelings so strongly that we’re not sure how to handle them alone. Sometimes, the harder feelings may get so intense. It will trigger the desire to use again to stop feeling those emotions. These feelings and the thoughts they bring up are normal to experience in recovery. Name the emotions, honor them by sitting with them, and think through the scenario before reacting. It’s okay not to be okay. Asking for help in these moments is vital to continue the journey of sobriety. Is you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction? Let Twilight Recovery Center help you begin the life you want to live. Call us at (888) 414-8183 to get started.