It’s natural to experience strong and difficult emotions in early recovery, and it’s normal to be unsure of how to deal with these emotions. Because many of us have used drugs and alcohol for so long to suppress our emotions, we aren’t naturally equipped to deal with feelings– both positive and negative ones. One of the strongest emotions that may surface in early recovery is anxiety. Facing anxiety without the use of drugs and alcohol can be challenging at first, but luckily, there are effective ways to deal with anxiety clean and sober.
Because self-medication is no longer an option, you’ll need to discover which tools work best for for you in terms of dealing with anxiety. Different coping skills work for different people, so don’t be discouraged if, say, journalling or yoga doesn’t work for you. In some cases, it may be necessary to see a psychiatrist to discuss non-narcotic medications that may be beneficial. Although the very addictive benzodiazepines are frequently prescribed nationwide, there are non-narcotic medications that can help with anxiety when combined with other coping skills.
When I first sobered up, I had absolutely no tools to deal with my anxiety. I was accustomed to turning to drugs and alcohol to temporarily calm my nerves. The beautiful thing about learning to healthily cope with difficult emotions is that the reprieve is longer lasting and it gets easier each time. Benzos would help temporarily, but then my anxiety would become worse and worse each day. Once the effects wore off, my emotions became too much to bear and I was compelled to keep using with more frequency to achieve the same effect.
There are countless tools that can be used to deal with anxiety in recovery and the disease model of addiction. Some of the options include meditation, prayer, seeking support, physical exercise, journaling, and distraction. I find that distraction, setting up structure in my life, talking it out, and challenging my cognitive distortions work best for me when I’m feeling particularly anxious. Although prayer is incredibly important in my daily routine, I have a difficult time remembering to pray when anxious. Most of the time my anxiety appears during idle time, i.e. before I go to sleep, or when I’m sitting at home binge watching Netflix in bed. When this happens, it’s best for me to distract myself with writing lists or making plans with my sober supports. While focusing on my future goals helps me, it may make you more uncomfortable and spike your anxiety. Thus, it’s important to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.
It will probably take you a few tries to figure out what works best for you in dealing with anxiety. Just remember that we have all been there and that it is very possible to cope with your emotions without turning to drugs and alcohol. The more you do it, the easier it will get, and you’ll learn a little bit more about yourself along the way.
Are you looking for an outpatient LGBTQ treatment center to help you get and stay sober? If so, Recreate Life Counseling can help. We offer a variety of addiction programs and services to help you achieve long-term sobriety and recreate your life. All of our treatment methods are proven and effective. We offer individualized treatment plans tailored to your unique needs and recovery goals. At Recreate, we are dedicated to helping addicts and alcoholics maintain their sobriety and live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life in recovery. Call us today at (844) 463-3968.