Renaissance Ranch

Learning New Ways to Navigate Emotions in Recovery

Jan 25, 2024

There are multiple reasons why individuals may turn to alcohol and other drug use. Yet, one of the most common reasons for perpetuating continued alcohol and drug use is self-medicating negative emotions. When seeking to establish abstinence and healing, individuals must learn new and healthy ways to navigate emotions. Building emotional management and processing skills will not only work to establish and sustain long-term sobriety but also improve one’s quality of life in recovery. 

At Renaissance Ranch, we understand that treatment and recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction can trigger a wide range of emotions. We believe that learning to healthily navigate emotions is one of the most critical components of the recovery process, as it ensures that individuals will not fall back into old habits of turning to alcohol and other drugs to cope. Further, at our facility, we offer substance abuse and mental health services across the entire continuum of care for men seeking support and guidance in achieving lasting recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. 

The Complexities of Emotions in Active Addiction

There is no question that chronic alcohol and drug use impairs an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Despite this, some individuals continue to engage in alcohol and other drug use because they perceive it to be an effective coping mechanism for negative or otherwise unhealthy emotions. Truth be told, however, with time, repeated substance use of any kind can influence emotional instability. In turn, this emotional instability can inform chemical dependency as well as interpersonal consequences, which will inevitably affect close family and friends. 

There are a few reasons why alcohol and drug use often trigger complex emotions for those in active addiction. One reason is that the perceived feelings of pleasure that result from alcohol and drug use are temporary. Once the effects of these substances wear off, an individual will likely experience psychological and/or physical cravings, as well as withdrawal symptoms, that can inform continued alcohol and drug use. After substance use is ceased in detox or early recovery, individuals must be prepared to fully face the (often intense) emotions they were attempting to escape while they were actively using. 

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

Another reason why active addiction triggers complex emotions is due to the link between SUD and mental health disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), of the 20.3 million adults with SUD in 2018, nearly 38% also had co-occurring mental health disorders. Although both conditions can develop independently, it is common for mental health disorders to develop as a result of substance abuse. This is because repeated alcohol and drug use can trigger changes to an individual’s brain structure and functioning that make them more vulnerable to mental illness and associated negative emotions. 

What Are Some Ways to Healthily Navigate Emotions in Recovery?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that emotional distress can be present before, during, and long after a stressful situation takes place. In recovery, emotional distress may be triggered by a wide range of situations and circumstances, from physically detoxing one’s body from the remnants of alcohol and other drugs to being offered a drink years into one’s sobriety. Fortunately, there are valuable ways that individuals can prepare to navigate emotions and triggers long before they surface in recovery. For instance, individuals can:

  • Prioritize self-care: In addition to getting clean, individuals can eat healthy, exercise, get adequate sleep each night, and take time to rest every day. 
  • Engage in creative expression: Using expressive outlets like painting, poetry, podcasting, writing, and other art forms can provide healthy outlets for emotional processing and management. 
  • Utilize support systems daily: Engaging with support systems, including trusted family members and friends, each day can help individuals reflect on their emotional status and lean on encouragement as necessary. 

Additionally, individuals can also consider:

  • Caring for an animal: Animals can provide a sense of joy, companionship, and emotional stability for those in recovery. Consider engaging with local shelters or utilizing equine therapy to reap the benefits of caring for animals in sobriety.
  • Meditating: Setting aside time to sit with one’s thoughts and emotions will help to build emotional tolerance as well as inform gratitude even during the most challenging of times. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also suggests taking breaks from news stories, continuing with regular health appointments, and connecting with others to effectively manage emotions (like stress, grief, or worry) in recovery. 

Utilizing Professional Support and Guidance to Healthily Navigate Emotions

In addition to the aforementioned suggestions, another critical way to healthily navigate emotions in recovery is through resilience-building in professional treatment programs. Working with professionals at Renaissance Ranch, for example, will ensure that family members have the professional support and guidance that they need to not only establish sobriety through detox but also maintain lasting recovery through a variety of treatment and aftercare services. Mainly, we utilize the 12-Step approach alongside the Therapeutic Community Model to help individuals effectively navigate emotions in treatment. 

At Renaissance Ranch, we offer treatment services for life. From detox to residential treatment to outpatient treatment and aftercare, we have the services to meet every individual where they are at in the journey to treatment and recovery to foster healing from negative emotions that will last a lifetime. 

Negative emotions are a common consequence of chronic alcohol and drug use. If these emotions are not properly managed in early recovery, they can pose immense risks for future relapse throughout long-term sobriety. There are many ways that individuals can learn to healthily navigate emotions in recovery. In addition to engaging with professional treatment services, individuals can prioritize self-care, engage in emotional expression, connect with friends and family, meditate, and even care for animals. If you or a loved one is struggling with active addiction and associated negative emotions, we at Renaissance Ranch are here to help. We provide substance abuse and mental health services to men seeking healing. For more information and support, call (801) 308-8898 today.