Staying Emotionally Healthy In Recovery

Addiction recovery can feel like a constant battle with your emotions. As your brain chemistry adjusts to sobriety, you may experience moods swings and bouts of serious depression. You may feel anxious in situations that you used to handle smoothly. Embracing your emotions is a huge part of success in recovery.

Rather than trying to be positive all the time, be honest with your emotions. Focus on how you behave, and let go of trying to control how you feel. Put your attention on being compassionate to the people around you. Being a positive presence will attract healthy relationships. You’ll feel less lonely, more connected, and more motivated to stay sober.  Stonewall Institute Treatment Center focuses on not only your recovery from substance use, but also focuses on the importance of relationships and wellness as a part of your recovery plan. 

The Power of Embracing How You Feel

Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to emotional well-being. Instead of slapping a permanent smile on your face, be honest about how you feel. Judith Moskowitz is a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University. Moskowitz says that trying to be constantly positive is a poor strategy for long-term happiness.

Through h er research at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Moskowitz has discovered the benefits of embracing your natural emotions. When cancer patients are fighting through chemotherapy, it doesn’t help to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Addiction and substance misuse is a disease. To give yourself the best chance of winning the fight, be a realist. You set yourself up for relapse when you ignore how you actually feel.

One of Moskowitz’s programs teaches participants to experience more positive emotions by embracing the reality of their hardships. They meet stress head-on. From there, they can process their emotions and move on to feeling joy.

Focus on What You Can Control

Take a page out of the book of recovering cardiac patients. Individuals who are terminally ill or who are about to go into high-risk heart surgery have had great success with positivity training. They focus on what they can control. They can laugh at the show they’re watching. They can enjoy the conversation they’re having.

Dr. Jeff Huffman, a cardiac surgeon at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been able to improve patient outcomes through positivity training. If it c an improve survival rates of seriously ill patients, it can help you power through recovery. Following Huffman’s positivity training, patients are more willing to participate in physical activity. Physical activity helps recover from major surgery and is critical to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Positivity takes practice. When you’ve been in the habit of feeling depressed and thinking negatively, it can take a while train yourself to feel positive. Keep at it! Focus on what you enjoy and use them to build positive momentum. When you’re in a rut, vigorous exercise can help promote positive brain chemistry and get your thoughts back onto a productive path.

The Importance of Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

Your EQ, or emotional intelligence, is critical to developing new healthy relationships in recovery. High EQ is even more important than having a high IQ. Being smart may help you score high on a test, but high emotional intelligence will help you recover from addiction and succeed in life.

You can’t control your emotions, but you can control how you behave. Recovery is full of anger, frustration, and emotional turmoil. But guess what? Your family, friends, and the people at work aren’t the cause of your stress in recovery. Don’t pass negative energy onto the people around you! When you do, relationships suffer, and recovery can feel hopeless.

When you feel stress coming to a boiling point, turn that energy into making other people feel happy. Help make someone’s day better. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. You’ll start building an army of people for your team. Recovery is easier with a big group of people who support you.

Master Empathy and Master Recovery

Once you master emotional honesty, start practicing empathy. Empathy is the ability to experience another person’s emotions as if they were your own. Empathy is a priceless skill. When you can walk in another person’s shoes, you can anticipate what they need to feel happy.

When you can intuitively be there for your family, friends, and colleagues, they’ll want to be there for you. Developing positive friendships is paramount for a successful recovery. They’ll also be more forgiving when you mess up or lose your temper. Nobody’s perfect, but everyone can try to uplift the people around them with empathy. Practice empathy, and you’ll never be alone in your recovery.

The Cost of Loneliness In Recovery

Failing to be a positive presence in the lives of others can have devastating effects on your recovery and mental health. A ccording to a recent study, people who are chronically lonely have a 50 percent higher chance of dying early than people with healthy social lives. Compare that to obesity, where obese individuals are only 30 percent more likely to die a premature death.

Researchers in the U.S. just compiled evidence from 218 studies on social isolation and loneliness. What they found should scare you into being more empathetic if you aren’t already. They found that loneliness doubles the risk of early death.

Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, lead author and professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, says that “being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival.” In recovery, the added risk of loneliness can significantly increase the risk of relapse.

According to Dr. Holt-Lunstad, loneliness makes the adverse effects of illnesses like substance misuse worse. “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality.” She believes that chronic loneliness weakens the immunes system by altering the body’s chemical and hormonal response. Brain chemistry becomes less stable, and you become more susceptible to bouts of depression that lead to addiction relapse.

Emotional Health In Recovery

Emotional health in recovery begins with honesty. Emotional honesty can bless you with the ability to work through with your emotions as they happen. Only then can your master empathy and begin to lift up the people around you. When you can do that, you’ll build positive relationships to support you throughout recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center is available to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 602-535 6468 or email us at