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When I first tried to consider what sobriety would look like in my life, one idea that kept popping up was the image of me being in a constant state of zen. Literally, this image would arise of me sitting cross-legged and floating in the air, glowing, meditating, and generally unbothered. No worries, only positive emotions, and cruising happily above the day to day that bull that comes with life. Sounds sort of silly, I know, but this was my attempt to visualize a happier version of myself without alcohol…and this is what I came up with!
I believed that freeing alcohol from my life would allow me to reach that state of calm, balance, and other ideals that couldn’t be achieved by continuing to drink. I wanted that sense of constant calm and mindful awareness that was beyond the alcohol, the very things I had unsuccessfully searched so hard for at the bottom of a bottle but could never find.
As I got sober however, my emotions were like a raging storm. Instead of easily sliding into that elusive state of constant zen, my emotions hit me head on like a train wreck. Feelings and emotions I had numbed with daily excessive binge drinking became big issues I had to deal with, especially with my quick tempered personality. Dropping alcohol caused me to experience my emotions and truly feel them as opposed to avoiding and numbing them.
The emotions of…
What do I do with all of these big emotions that I can no longer drown away with alcohol? And let’s be honest, drinking didn’t make anything actually go away, and at times it made things much, much worse!
So I found the tools below helped me tremendously in processing my feelings and emotions during early sobriety. And to be honest, with over 3.5 years of sobriety I still rely on them almost daily.
Write It Down
Even if you’re not the journaling type, writing is so therapeutic. Stating what you experienced, or what brought you to the place you are now can help you begin to come to terms with your emotions. And it doesn’t take writing a novel, either. An idea to get started is to simply write down the emotion(s) you experienced, or to perhaps draw the emotions you felt that day.
You can also take a few minutes to write about that one thing that happened that you need to come to terms with, or need to process. If you feel like you are only writing about negative things (and that is okay! We all need to vent.) try to also identify and write about something positive that happened as well.
Talk It Out
Maybe you are less of a writer and more of a talker. Talking through your feelings with a trusted friend or family member can be so helpful. Talking through what happened can give you clarity. If it is a situation that ultimately needs to be addressed with another person this can also be a great way to brainstorm ways to work through it with them.
Another great resource is therapy. This deserves its own post because many of us can benefit from it, yet for years it has been considered a taboo topic. I am so glad that therapy is becoming normalized, as working through feelings is key to healing from past life events. Finding a mental health professional that you can easily vibe with is crucial to healing and learning to work through and with your emotions everyday.
Another note on therapy: Don’t feel bad about moving on from a therapist if you don’t like their vibe! I once saw a therapist whose office was so cluttered and messy that it heightened my anxiety and sent me running out the office as soon as the session ended. Another one agreed with everything I said….and there is a difference between validation and acquiescing! Do not feel like you have to stick it out if something is not working. Keep working until you find one that you really like and feel comfortable with!
Read About It
I like to read. I wouldn’t consider myself a bookworm, but I enjoy do enjoy reading. This Naked Mind, written by Annie Grace, helped me tremendously to get sober. From there, I was hooked and kept finding different books and blogs to help me through early sobriety. Any book I could read on someone else’s experience with alcohol and getting sober, any medical research I could glean on the topic, any insight into why I drank the way I did, I was reading and absorbing it.
Podcasts were also a big help too. Hearing someone’s experiences straight from their mouth, and being able to identify with those experiences, despite not knowing that person, really allowed me to not feel so alone in my struggles. There were other people from all over the world, working hard to get and stay sober….just like me.
Sweat It Out
This one isnt for everyone, but I have always been an active person. I find my brain functions differently after a good cleansing sweat. My mood is better and I’m overall in a good headspace. Sweating for me is another type of therapy where I am able to clear my head. I am able to think through and process things in a way that doesn’t happen when I’m just sitting around and overthinking everything.
While I can’t recommend something specific here since everyone has different interests, start with something that has no to low costs involved, like going for a walk. If you own a bike, get out for a ride. Start with 20 minutes and see if you don’t end up looking forward to your therapy sweat session each time you get out there for your “me-time” activity.
To recap, I have found that writing, talking, reading, and sweating has helped me to process the strong emotions that come out during early sobriety and beyond.
What tools do you use to process your feelings during early sobriety?