When you first get clean and sober, it feels like you have entered a whole new world. There may be a lot of emotional ups and downs, especially when you are first detoxing. Many of these emotions may feel new – people often talk about feeling like it’s the “first time” they’ve felt feelings so deeply or felt emotionally “raw.” These profoundly emotional first days are often the hardest to get through.

What about the feelings that linger even once detox ends? Yes, these feelings are normal as well. Once you detox from drugs and alcohol, you’ll be able to remember things better and think more clearly than you once did. And in the midst of this, you’ll probably experience feelings as well.

Common Feelings in Early Recovery

Some feelings that you have may be related to the time you spent using and drinking, and a sense of regret. It’s normal to mourn the life you were living and acknowledge the damage done. These feelings will pass, but first, you must admit them.

Some emotions may come to you in unexpected ways, such as:

  • Feeling bad about yourself/low self-esteem: You may want to beat yourself up for all of the times you made a wrong decision or all of the time you lost. When these feelings come around, remember that you’re in recovery now. There are many tomorrows to make your life better and become a good citizen of the world. For now, take it one day at a time and talk to somebody when you’re feeling down.
  • Racing thoughts: You’ve been out of it so long, you may find it is unfamiliar to be thinking all the time. Your thoughts may race and you may even experience insomnia. When you have trouble focusing, try to close your eyes and practice mindfulness – pay attention to your surroundings, the noises and sensations you feel, and breathe deeply.
  • Ups and downs: Emotions may seem to change quickly – you may go from elated to angry in just a few moments, especially if something “bad” happens in life. Remember that these moments are temporary. You’ve been avoiding emotions for a long time – now your body and mind need to learn how to process them. It gets better the longer you stay drug-free.
  • Fear and anxiety: Fear is one of the most compelling emotions, and once you’re in recovery you may have a lot of doubts, especially when you think of the unknown. When you were using, you may have known that most days were going to be the same; you would spend them trying to get high and then getting high. When you are clean, there are so many more possibilities for the future. It can be scary, especially when there are decisions to be made. You don’t have to make those decisions now. Soon that fear may turn into excitement at the possibilities in sobriety.
  • Grief: You’ve given up an old life, but there are many other things to grieve. You’ve lost precious time to addiction, and you may have missed other things, such as your home, family members, and your sense of self. It’s okay to grieve over the things you’ve lost. Time can help you heal, but you have to give yourself a chance. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, pick up the phone and call somebody in recovery. Sometimes it helps to make sure you’re not alone.

When you’re in recovery, you never have to cope with your feelings alone. You can always pick up the phone, call your sponsor, or go to a meeting.

Getting Help

Having intense emotions in early recovery is normal, but sometimes you may have feelings that are more intense than usual. If you’re worried that you are having trouble regulating your emotions in recovery, you may want to talk with a therapist and get screened for mental health conditions.

Usually, if you are in a treatment program, you will be screened periodically for mental health disorders. If you want to get help or learn about your recovery options, please give us a call at 1-877-228-2401.