Have you ever been asked, “How are you doing?” but you didn’t really know how to answer? Sometimes people do not expect you to answer the question, because it is conversational shorthand for “hello.” Other times, someone who knows you and cares a great deal about your health and wellness will ask this question. Maybe it comes from a friend or family member who knows that you recently finished inpatient treatment and is wondering, truly, how you are doing. However, regardless of the intent of the asker, one of the most important recovery skills you can master is knowing how you feel at any given moment.
For addicts, one of the primary roles that drugs play is to prevent feelings. Emotional discomfort is one of the primary ways the disease of addiction keeps people using drugs, because addicts learn to mute their emotions by getting drunk or high. Drugs and alcohol become short-term medicine for physical or emotional discomfort; many addicts administer this medication even before they are conscious of any negative feelings. One of the foremost skills of an addict is avoidance of feelings, but this skill only makes negative emotions worse. In time, no drink nor drug will adequately numb your pain.
Learn how you to identify your feelings for the following four reasons:
What do Your Actions Say About Your Feelings?
One reason it is important to know how you feel after addiction treatment is that your feelings impact your actions, which can hurt you and the people you love. Your actions may suggest the following ideas about your feelings:
- Do you lose your temper quickly?
- Are you avoiding activities you previously enjoyed?
- Are you avoiding people?
- Are you eating significantly more or less than usual or healthy?
- Are you making reckless choices?
- Do you find yourself on the edge of tears frequently?
Your actions indicate your feelings. If you find that you are generally positive, helping others, staying engaged in your life and making good choices, then you are probably feeling pretty good! However, the kind of “good” that healthy living makes you feel will seem much less intense than the kind of “good” that getting high makes you feel. On the other hand, if you are exhibiting the negative actions listed above, then you are probably feeling pretty bad. That is OK, though, because feeling bad is a part of life. The most important thing at this time is how you choose to respond to those feelings.
What do Your Circumstances Suggest You Might Feel?
If you are unsure of your feelings, then you might be at risk for acting out in ways that harm yourself and others. Consider, for a moment, the circumstances going on around you. What would an appropriate emotional response be to them? If you suffer the loss of a loved one, then it is perfectly appropriate to feel pain, sadness, regret or even anger. Are you feeling those things or trying to numb yourself to those feelings? Is a condition such as clinical depression preventing appropriate feelings for your circumstances?
Some people feel miserable amidst positive circumstances. Perhaps a family member is getting married, but all you can think about are your relationship struggles. Maybe a loved one has passed away, but all you can feel is confusion. Take some time to consider what is happening around you, and then ask yourself if you are feeling the appropriate emotions for those circumstances. Afterwards, allow yourself to have those feelings. Do not try to numb or avoid them; do not get caught up in a wave of self-destructive behavior by them, but do not try to avoid them either.
Your Feelings Drive Your Behavior More Than Your Intentions
It is critical to be aware of your feelings, because the emotional part of your brain directs behavior much more than the conscious or rational part. For this reason, many people cannot stop using drugs even if they decide mentally to do so; the psychological power of the disease is just too strong. However, once you understand your feelings, you can learn to control them instead of allowing them to control you. The simple truth is that you are always feeling something, or a combination of emotions. If you truly do not know how you are feeling, then you remain blind to the triggers and cravings that are certain to come your way.
Mindfulness Is Your Strongest Weapon Against Relapse
It is important to know how you are feeling, because the skill of mindfulness is one of the strongest weapons against relapse. Mindfulness is something more than mere knowledge – with the proper training, you can learn not only to be conscious of your feelings, but also to be in control of the way you process and respond to them. A mindful person can feel a wide range of emotions, label them accurately and describe how they are working in her brain. This skill allows you to break out of the seemingly endless cycle of pain, seeking relief, feeling shame and then feeling more pain. Mindfulness can also help you identify aspects of life that cause pain, which you can then change. It will take significant work to develop these skills, but the effort is worth it.
24 Hour Helpline for Mindfulness and Recovery
If you would like more information about mindfulness and how your emotions affect you, then call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now for instant, professional support.