Let’s talk about feelings – a dreaded or celebrated topic depending on who you talk to, or perhaps even more dependent on when you’re talking to them. Our emotions are constantly shifting, and for many of us in recovery, it can seem like our feelings change sometimes before we can even finish a sentence. You know, a sentence about how we’re feeling?
That being said, emotions are actually good things, believe it or not. They provide us with inspiration, they motivate us to get out of bed in the morning, and they allow us to feel good and relish in joyous occasions. On the flip side, our negative emotions are responsible for exactly the opposite. Feelings like depression, fear, and worry can rob us of inspiration, cause us to feel paralyzed, keep us from getting out of bed, and also from enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Such a drag, right?
Ok, but in all seriousness, this is actually serious, and for those of us who are prone to addiction, our negative thoughts can be dangerous. They can occasionally lead to relapse even, and in very extreme cases, to suicidal thoughts, so please don’t ever discount your emotions. Do, however, try to keep something important in mind when you’re experiencing heavy emotion: feelings aren’t facts. Yes, we mean that, and it’s one of those popular little cliché slogans that gets thrown around in twelve step programs and other recovery support groups that’s sometimes hard to grasp early on.
Many of you will know what it feels like to be stuck in a depressive episode, or overwrought with anxiety. It’s extremely unpleasant when you’re in it, and it really does feel like there’s no end in sight. But it’s a near guarantee that these feelings are going to pass, and one of the best things to do is to become an observer of whatever emotions you’re experiencing rather than try to suppress them. Suppressing our feelings, particularly in regard to specific triggering situations, is almost invariably going to mean that we’ll continue to experience them every time we have a similar trigger. Facing them head on and asking ourselves why we’re having certain reactions to certain events, on the other hand, allows us to observe them without judgement. This is when we can begin to uncover the root cause of our feelings, which helps us to recognize the emotions for what they are. And this is great news because it means that you can actually shift your perspective. This isn’t always easy, and sometimes therapy and other practices beyond recovery programs are recommended, but it can absolutely be done.
Here are some ways that you can take on the delicate task of shifting your perspective when it come to fragile emotions:
Meditate: Meditation is a great way to gain perspective over your thoughts, and there are so many different types of meditation practices, from mindfulness, to transcendental meditation among others. Find one that works for you, or try switching it up. With mindfulness as the basis of your meditation, for example, you’re actually practicing keeping your thoughts in the present moment and observing them for what they are, without judgement. With transcendental meditation, on the other hand, the goal is to transcend thought and experience a state of pure awareness, but without an object of thought. And if this all just sounds way too woo-woo and out there, just try sitting and being silent for ten minutes while paying attention to your breath to begin. Sometimes it helps to have an ambient track playing in the background, or through a good set of headphones. The point is really just to get you to a place of acceptance over your thoughts – just be with them. The moment we stop running from uncomfortable feelings is the moment we stop giving them so much power. It’s in this space where we can truly start to recognize that they are just feelings – feelings that are ever-fluid and changing. And, you guessed it, NOT facts.
Exercise: Getting active is a great way to stop fixating on what we like to call our monkey minds. Our thoughts can become restless if we just sit around and stew in them, but exercise gives us something to do besides fixate on our thoughts, and it has the added benefit of boosting the happy chemicals in our brains, like serotonin and dopamine. This advice might seem counterintuitive to meditation, but we’re not suggesting that you run away from your thoughts. Acknowledge them, of course, and then start moving. This helps you to shift your perspective because, as mentioned, you’re boosting those happy brain chemicals while also not allowing your thoughts to control you. This doesn’t mean you need to go run a marathon, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might only be up for a walk around the block. And guess what? That’s totally cool! Anything to get your heart rate going and your body moving is fine. Start with baby steps and see where your body takes you. You may find that once you get up and start moving around, that you’re able to do more than you’d originally intended. And if you really do only make it around the block, that’s a great start.
Call Someone who Cares: One of the worst things that we can do when our thoughts start getting the better of us, particularly as addicts in recovery, is to isolate. And, yet, it’s so very easy to do. Wallowing in self-pity can become a dangerous indulgence in and of itself. Sure, if you’re having a bad day and you just want to sit in bed, watch romcoms on Netflix and eat ice cream, go for it. And enjoy it! But recognize when your thoughts start to turn sideways and it feels like you’ve been under the covers for too long. If your Netflix, ice cream, and potato crisp marathon start moving beyond the 24 hour mark, it’s probably time to make a phone call. Try calling someone who knows you well and has your best interests at heart – a close friend or family member, or someone else in recovery. Those who love us are almost always happy to listen when we’re having a hard time, and by connecting with another human being, we’re bringing our negative thoughts out into the light. Once again, we’re moving away from letting those thoughts control us.
Go to a Recovery Meeting: Whether you’re in AA, NA, SLAA, SMART Recovery, or any other recovery group, one of the very best ways to get out of your head when it starts to turn on you is to go to a meeting. Meetings are where we get to connect to others who are often experiencing a similar range of emotions to our own. It’s also where we get to access recovery tools that are proven to work, like those contained in the twelve steps for example. We’re firm believers in the power of connection, and meetings are great places to go when we’re feeling sad, lonely or out of sorts. Then again, they’re also great when we’re feeling good and by maintaining a solid recovery program, you might find that your head goes sideways less frequently because you’re always plugged into the solution.
About Kembali Recovery Center
Kembali Recovery Center is a luxury rehab located in the heart of Bali, Indonesia, and provides one of the most affordable inpatient treatment centers in the region. We also offer a Recovery and Beyond program for individuals who have some recovery time under their belt and are beginning to dig into some deeper issues. Contact us today to learn more about our programs. You never have to do this alone.