Managing Emotions in Recovery

Managing Emotions in Recovery

“The Hair of The Dog That Bit You – Managing Emotions in Recovery Part 1”

This is the first post in a three part series that examines the connection between emotions and addiction. I will discuss managing emotions and how 12-step programs deal with the emotions that lead to substance abuse.

A Recurring Theme

Let’s get right to the point.  Addicts and alcoholics have trouble controlling their emotions.  It’s safe to say that emotions usually control the addict, not vice versa.  Driven by a thousand forms of fear, anger and self-hatred, the addict is on a path of disturbing behaviors which, untreated, end in emotional explosion and collapse. This is true during active addiction.  Think about how weepy or enraged alcoholics get.  Think about the mood swings of cocaine, heroin and pill addicts.  The inability to regulate emotions is the defining characteristic of most alcoholics and addicts. This problem doesn’t stop when using stops.  Addicts and alcoholics have a hard time managing their emotions in recovery, too.  The entire recovery process hinges on the addict’s ability to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The 12 Step Approach to Managing Emotions in Recovery

In addition to support found inside and outside the meeting rooms, the 12-steps are a great way to learn to manage emotions that can end in relapse. Look at the 1st step.  It talks about intense, negative emotions that lead and result in substance abuse.  Right off the bat, we see evidence of the connections between emotion and addiction.

The “moral inventory” of the 4th step also deals with painful emotions, especially resentment and fear.  The AA Big Book calls resentment “the number one offender.”  It says that fear is an “evil and corroding thread” which influences every moment of the alcoholic’s life.

At one point, the 4th step tells us that the outside world dominates the alcoholic. It exercises this dominance through painful emotions.  The goal of the 4th step is to release these painful emotions. This allows alcoholics and addicts peace necessary for their recovery.

Steps 8 and 9, “ammends”, work to relieve an addicted mind from particularly hard emotions. These steps involve admitting the harms that an addict or alcoholic has caused to the lives of others.  They suggest that you approach the people that you harmed to do what you can to repair damages.  The goal is to rid alcoholics and addicts of the guilt that accompanies their disease.  This is one of the most effective ways to help sever the connection between emotions and addiction.