Dimension of Recovery - Part Two
How do feelings affect the addict in the early
stages of recovery?
This second installment on the role of emotion
the recovery process will focus on the first 30-90 days of sobriety. The
truth is, most addicts return to drugs and drinking when sobriety
becomes too stressful for them. Therefore, teach them to deal with their
feelings in a healthy manner greatly improves their chances of achieving
The physiological impact on emotions.
The first few days without drugs and alcohol are
characterized by disjointed thinking and emotional upheaval. Newly sober
people tend to be very anxious and uptight. This is due, in a large part
, to the fact that alcohol and drug use have caused their bodies to be
depleted of many important neurochemicals, like endorphines, that
contribute to a normal state of well-being. Crack and cocaine users
especially, experience anxiety, abnormal fears and difficulty sleeping.
They can be short tempered and they have short attention spans.
It is helpful for new residential program
residents to know that these are mostly physical symptoms. They need to
know that, as they remain drug-free, their bodies will get back into
balance and their emotional states will surely improve. Physical
exercise, good diet, and participation in support groups are all
important aspects of this process.
A word of caution:
Be careful not to pile too much work and responsibility on newly
recovering addicting this time of physical and emotional readjustment.
While the actual mind-altering substances are discharged from the body
in 72 hours, it takes the brain at least 30 days to begin to function in
a relatively normal fashion. Besides the emotional struggles during this
time, addicts also experience fatigue and loss of coordination. Too
much, too fast, can be discouraging and even place them in physical
Returning emotions - a sure sign of progress!
As addicts remain free of mind-altering
chemicals for a longer period of time, they begin to feel feelings
again. This is an important sign of progress. It is also the signal that
they are moving into a dangerous time, since many of these new feelings
are not pleasant ones. Pain and anger that has been pushed down for
years may rise to the surface. As their minds clear, newly sober people
often experience real grief as they begin to connect with the losses of
their lives - especially the relationships that have been damaged
because of their addiction. Many feel extremely depressed, lonely, and
afraid. As a result, they are greatly tempted to use in drugs or alcohol
to drown out their emotions.
Having an environment where emotions are OK
Recovery program staff members need to work hard
to maintain an environment where people can begin experiencing feelings
and where they can express them freely. In these early days of sobriety,
it is absolutely essential for addicts to surround themselves with
supportive people. They need people who are non-judgmental listeners.
They need to be reassured by learning that the eruption of emotions
described above is a normal part of the process of recovery.
There is genuine therapeutic value in the free,
verbal expression of feelings. Yet, for people who have lived on the
streets, this is no simple task. When you are homeless, you cannot
afford to appear vulnerable. Rescue mission staff members who have
learned the art of real listening assist newly sober addicts to share
what is going inside of themselves It is one of the greatest gifts that
they can give to program participants. But, this will not happen by
accident. Such experiences must be a planned aspect of a recovery
Learning emotional self-care
Living life "from the neck up" is a
very sad survival-oriented way of life. In a very real way, to be
emotionally disconnected is to be disconnected from won self. Emotional
freedom is essential for developing meaning relationships with others.
Learning emotional self care is necessary for long-term sobriety.
Fortunately, there are some counseling strategies that can be used to
teach this skill to recovering addicts We will deal with this topic in
our next installment in this series.
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Copyright 1996-2012 by Michael Liimatta. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Liimatta is the past President of Christians in RecoveryŽ
and currently serves on its Advisory Counsel. He is a Social Entrepreneur, Consultant
to Nonprofit Organizations with OneAccord, Chief Academic Officer at City Vision College
and has been involved with drug and alcohol counseling and recovery education for 30 years.
Visit his web site