One of the reasons why people will abuse alcohol or drugs is that they want to escape their emotions. Substance abuse can provide a temporary release, but it comes with a heavy price. Addiction can destroy everything that is good in people’s life so that in the end all is left is the addict and their drug. Their emotions become so numb that they hardly feel anything anymore. They not only escape the unpleasant emotions but also the positive ones as well – this is when addiction really starts to feel like living in a personal hell.
When people make the decision to give up their addiction it means that they will no longer be able to hide from their emotions. In early sobriety they can experience an emotional rollercoaster as their perceptions become unfrozen. It may take a bit of getting used to but eventually the individual learns how to better manage their emotions. Once this happens they will be able to enjoy life to the fullest.
A mood can be defined as a state of mind or emotion. A psychiatric view of mood would be that it is a sustained and pervasive and sustained emotion that colors the perception of the world. It is a subjective experience. It is usual for the words mood and emotion to be used interchangeably. There is a slight difference between the two in that moods refer to something that can be longer lasting than an emotion. It is also sometimes easier to describe emotions than moods. Sometimes people will struggle to find words to explain their current mood.
The typical examples of extreme moods that people can experience in recovery can include:
* Feelings of boredom
* Antsy is when people feel a bit restless or fidgety.
* Symptoms of depression
* Pink cloud is when people in recovery experience extremes of happiness.
* Anger and resentment
* A sense of loneliness
* A sense of foreboding due to fear about the future
* Feelings of extreme guilt
Early recovery is often described as an emotional rollercoaster. It is standard for people to feel like their emotions are all over the place. They can move from feeling on top of the world to very low in a matter of hours. There are a number of reasons for why people experience these extremes in early recovery such as:
* People will be expected to make many changes in early recovery. They will be saying goodbye to old friends and old habits and this can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable emotions.
* The individual has been using chemicals to numb their emotions for many years. Now that they have freed their emotions it means that these feelings can be experienced as quite intense.
* The withdrawal symptoms created by giving up alcohol or drugs can have lingering effects for many weeks. It is usual for the individual to experience extremes of mood as part of this process.
* Those who have been abusing alcohol or drugs for a long time will often be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. This can impact their mental state and mood.
* When the individual becomes sober they will be faced by the actions of their past. This may mean that they feel a great deal of remorse and guilt.
* The individual will no longer have the option of turning to the bottle or drug when they are experiencing an uncomfortable mood. This lack of a chemical escape can take a bit of adjusting to.
* When people first become sober they may find it difficult to sleep at night. The resulting fatigue can impact people’s mood during the day.
Extreme emotions can be treacherous for people in recovery because:
* Extremes of mood are a common relapse trigger. The individual can use these as an excuse to relapse.
* When people are caught in an intense mood it can affect their judgment. This means that they make choices that they may later regret.
* The individual may allow these extremes of mood to impact their social interactions. This can alienate friends and family who may have already put up with years of poor behavior from the recovering addict.
* If people are constantly dealing with extremes of mood it can make life uncomfortable. If this continues into long-term sobriety the individual may decide that it just isn’t worth staying sober.
* If people are constantly experiencing extremes of mood it may be a sigh that they have a dual diagnosis. This means that they have another mental health problem, such as depression, alongside their addiction.
* In order to progress in recovery the individual will need to learn new skills and ways of thinking. It can be hard to manage such personal development when constantly dealing with extremes of mood.
If people struggle with extremes of mood in recovery it may be a sign that they are dealing with a dual diagnosis. This means that they are suffering from a mental health problem and until they get this treated the individual will struggle to be comfortable in sobriety. The most common dual diagnosis that people experience in recovery includes depression or anxiety disorders. It may have been the symptoms of these conditions that drove the individual to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place – this is referred to as self-medicating. Other people develop a dual diagnosis as a consequence of their addiction. In many instances the individual with not even be aware that they have this other problem. They may begin to believe that they are doing something wrong or that the sober life is just not satisfying. It is vital that people with a dual diagnosis get this treated because otherwise they may relapse or fail to find happiness in recovery.
When people manage to escape an addiction they will understandably feel good about their achievement. The sober life can be far more satisfying than anything the individual will experience while abusing mind altering substances. People should expect to be happy in recovery and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Pink cloud syndrome refers to a situation where people are so happy that they lose touch with reality – this can be a problem.
The dangers with pink cloud syndrome are that it can lead to relapse. The individual feels so good that they no longer see the need to put any effort into their recovery. If they are in early recovery this decreased effort can weaken their sobriety. They may even begin to feel like they have been cured and that it is safe to drink or use again. Another danger with this type of high is that it is unlikely to last. When people come down from the high of a pink cloud they can feel very disappointed and may use this as an excuse to drink or use drugs again.
The way that people in recovery escape extremes of mood is by developing emotional sobriety. This can be defined as the willingness of people to feel their feelings. Signs of emotional sobriety include:
* This type of individual will usually escape extreme emotions
* They have the coping skills to deal with whatever life is sending their way
* They find it easy to live in the present moment and don’t seek refuge in the past or future
* They suffer less from mental and physical problems that result from stress
* Such individuals will find it much easier to regulate their own behavior. They no longer see the attraction of using chemicals to escape uncomfortable feelings.
* These people will tend to be positive about the future most of the time.
Extremes of mood can really knock people off course in recovery. Suggestions for how to deal with uncomfortable emotions include:
* Learn mindfulness meditation. This allows people to observe their moods and feelings in a more objective way so that they can gain some mastery over them.
* Keeping a journal allows the individual to track their moods over time. This will allow them to see patterns and possibly even triggers for these intense emotions.
* Those individuals who belong to a 12 Step group will be able to talk about their difficult emotions with their sponsor or at a meeting. Sometimes just talking about extremes of mood can be enough to shift them.
* If these extreme moods are getting in the way of sobriety then it may be advisable to speak to a medical professional. This is to rule out the possibility of a dual diagnosis.
* Some people may find that therapy is a great way to strengthen their recovery. The therapist will be able to investigate extremes of mood to find the underlying cause of them.
* If people are dealing with excessive mood swings it could be a sign that they have taken a wrong turn in their recovery. Getting back on track will often be enough for a return to more stable moods.