Early recovery can be a particularly challenging time. It is sometimes described as a rollercoaster ride because people’s people can experience such great highs and great lows. It is a time of great change and people may feel like their emotions are out of control. Learning to manage these emotions is vital because failure to do so could lead to relapse. The emotional landscape does flatten down after a few months of recovery, and things do become easier.
Causes of the Emotional Rollercoaster
The extreme emotions of early sobriety can be attributed to a number of different factors including:
* Withdrawal symptoms can continue for weeks after the individual has given up abusing the substance. These symptoms can impact the individual’s mental state and their feelings. The aches and pains of withdrawals can make the individual feel irritable.
* When people abuse alcohol or drugs then numb their emotions. In fact one of the reasons why people turn to substance abuse in the first place is to escape these feelings. Once the individual manages to escape their addiction it means that their emotions come alive again. If people haven’t really had to deal with these feelings in many years it can feel a bit overwhelming.
* Early recovery involves making lots of changes. It usually means saying goodbye to acquaintances who are still drinking or using drugs. It also means making new friends. Addicts will revolve their life around drugs so when they get sober they have a big hole that they have to fill with new activities. With so many changes going on it is hardly surprising that people become emotional.
* Escaping an addiction usually comes as a relief. They may have been battling with this problem for many years. It now seems that they have finally put the problem behind them so there is good reason to experience emotional highs.
* Some people suffer from insomnia during the early days of their recovery. Sleep is needed for good mental health so lack of it will cause problems to the individual’s emotional state.
* Sobriety usually means facing up to the past. The individual can feel guilty about their previous bad behavior. Too much guilt can drive people to relapse so it is vital to keep things in perspective.
* People who have abused alcohol or drugs for a long time will tend to suffer from nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies may not be noticeable while the individual is still abusing but as soon as they become sober they may be impossible to ignore. Nutritional deficiencies can cause all type of mental problems including the foggy headed feeling that a lot of newly sober people complain of. The good news is that once individual starts eating properly they should be able to resolve these problems.
The Pink Cloud
A part of the emotional rollercoaster that a lot of people tend to experience in early recovery is the pink cloud. This is an AA term that refers to people who are so intoxicated on sobriety that they have lost touch with reality. Such individuals are so high on life that they may be putting their recovery in danger.
Feeling good is what recovery is all about, but the pink cloud is where people are too high. Feeling such emotions is dangerous for a number of reasons. It can make people over-confident so that they neglect to do those things that are needed to maintain recovery. There is also the risk that when the individual comes back down to reality they will feel disappointed. In many instances the pink cloud can work as a fast-track to relapse.
There are some criticisms about this idea of a pink cloud. It is the case that people do experience great highs in early recovery, but the worry is that the dangers of this may be overstated. The fear is that by focusing on the dangers of the pink cloud it may make the individual feel guilty about feeling good.
Mental Health Problems in Recovery
There are many people who give up addiction but still have an undiagnosed mental health problem like depression or anxiety disorder. The symptoms of this condition might only become obvious once the individual has entered recovery. They may try to ignore such symptoms by putting them down to the transition to sobriety. If people are experiencing emotional problems that don’t seem to be resolving they will need to seek proper medical advice.
Dealing with the Emotional Rollercoaster in Early Recovery
The emotional rollercoaster can be treacherous in early recovery but there are things that the individual can do to make the ride easier including:
* Attendance at a recovery group can be a great way to get support and advice during the early months of recovery. Here the newly sober individual can spend time with other people who have dealt with same challenges. Not only will they find support but also practical advice.
* Regular attendance with a therapist or addiction specialist can help the individual to talk about their problems and learn new ways of dealing with strong emotions.
* Guilt can be extremely destructive in early recovery. The most important thing is to focus on the future and not on the past. The fact that the individual is putting their addiction behind them means that they are on the right track. Once the person has made it through early recovery they can then start thinking about making amends. They have the rest of their life do this. Guilt is one of the main relapse triggers so it should be avoided.
* Medical advice should only be taking seriously if the person giving it is qualified to do so. If people are concerned about their emotional or mental health they should speak to a professional. It could be that they have an undiagnosed mental health condition. They will only be able to resolve this situation by getting the proper medical treatment. Failure to do so could be putting their recovery in jeopardy.
* Attendance at rehab gives people the opportunity to learn coping strategies. These can be used to deal with the emotional rollercoaster of early recovery and beyond.