Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the strong link between emotions and addiction. The elephant can be strong and big, so much so, that it seems as if certain emotional states cause the substance use. In theory, if you were to avoid feeling those emotions you would never relapse. Yet, we know that in real life we will experience our fair share of loneliness, anger, or feeling deprived. For many regular uses, drugs, and alcohol become their way to cope with daily stress, bad news, or even manage loneliness or social anxiety. On the other hand, positive emotions can also trigger cravings, and that’s when people often turn to substance use to celebrate important events such as birthdays, a work promotion, or sports games. The reality is this, we live in a society that enables and promotes alcohol consumption. Did you notice how in many states liquor stores are considered an essential business? Case in point, it is imperative to learn how to regulate your emotions, so you are the one who decides what is essential and what is not.
Regulating emotions is far from easy. It takes a lot of practice and consistency. It’s like going to the gym the first time. Your muscles will be sore, your body will reject the activity, but with time, practice, and repetition, your muscles adapt, and becomes second nature. First, you need to address the elephant in the room, acknowledge it, and give the validation it deserves. Becoming aware of your emotions reduces their power, and more importantly, it gives you permission to actively work with them. As emotions arise, label them, and accept their temporary presence in your mind and body. This will grant you the opportunity to decide how to respond to your feelings instead of falling prey to the automatic thoughts and behaviors they can provoke.
Here are a few exercises you can practice to regulate your emotions:
- Keep a journal. Tracking your emotions and triggers can help you determine your patterns and become more aware of your recovery process.
- Practice breathing exercises. This practice can help you relax and regulate the physical response to triggering emotions.
- Use the STOPP technique. This technique designed by Carol Vivyan will greatly help you manage your emotions. Here’s how it goes:
S – Stop
T – Take A Breath
O – Observe – your thoughts and feelings
P- Pull Back – put in some perspective – what is the bigger picture?
P – Practice What Works – Proceed – what is the best thing to do right now?
Lastly, accept that it is ok to need help and it is ok to reach out for help. Know that you don’t have to go through recovery alone. Please feel free to reach out and we will gladly help you even out your way to recovery.