Many drugs are abused because they alter feelings and emotions. For example, opioids, such as Vicodin, cause euphoria and diminish anxiety and stress. CNS depressants, such as Valium, cause relaxation and drowsiness, while stimulants, such as Ritalin, produce increased energy and concentration. For these reasons, it’s easy to see why they are so often abused.
Sobriety presents a number of challenges, but often one of the biggest hurdles the newly sober person faces is learning how to manage what feels like an assault of unfamiliar emotions. In truth, you felt these emotions before you took drugs, but the drugs.the drugs blunted them. Now you may feel overwhelmed. Indeed, many experts believe the inability to handle difficult emotions are what lead many down the rocky path of addiction in the first place.
According to AlcoholRehab.com, early sobriety is often described as being on an emotional rollercoaster ride. This refers to the way people can experience extreme highs and lows from one day to the next — sometimes even one hour to the next. The good news is that these emotional swings will begin to settle down after a few months. However, they may continue to pose a challenge for years.
You will relearn how to manage your emotions sober and you will genuinely feel your true feelings, perhaps for the first time in years. However, a failure to understand what is happening at this critical stage could jeopardize your sobriety. Let’s examine what is going on and what you can do about it.
Be sure to see your doctor regularly for check-ups. Pay close attention to your diet and exercise. According to Addiction Professional, substance abuse and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand, with one issue exacerbating the other. These nutrient imbalances often can make cravings for alcohol and drugs intensify. They can also worsen depression and anxiety, especially in the early days. The magazine recommends a whole food diet and supplements. Read more about how to nourish your sober, albeit depleted, body here.
Whether you attend 12-step meetings, or any of the other secular support groups (such as SMART, LifeRing), it’s critical to make a commitment to regular meetings. Peer support will help you manage and understand the flood of often overwhelming emotions you are suddenly experiencing. Therapy is another excellent choice and an adjunct to group support. And while you don’t want to overwhelm family and friends, do reach out and try to discuss their lives and concerns (for a change!). Plan sober, healthy activities you can do together, such as seeing a movie or going for a walk.
Even if you can only drag yourself around the block, exercise remains one of the best ways to kickstart those “feel good” endorphins. Such endorphins increase a sense of calm and help with sleep, which is especially critical in the early days of sobriety. Why not try yoga? What was your favorite sport as a kid? Why not hop on a bike again, or pull out your old skateboard?
Listening to music or watching YouTube videos can be relaxing and distract you during times of heightened emotion. Coloring books for adults are the new rage. Such creative expression is a great outlet for your angst, and it is fun, too!