Can I be honest with you? I have over a year sober, and it is STILL hard for me to figure out what the heck it is that I’m feeling sometimes. The tricky thing about identifying feelings in early sobriety is that we are pretty new to a lot of them, and we don’t have our usual method of stopping them. It can get pretty overwhelming sometimes, but in my travels and journey throughout sobriety, I have picked up some pretty useful tips on figuring out what in tarnation is going on upstairs.
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Sobriety – First of All, Why am I Crying?
Jokes, but seriously, have you had one of those days yet? Where you wake up in a great mood, then one thing happens and you’re just emotionally down for the count. If not, it’s coming, but if so, you aren’t alone. It is so common for all of us to have a complete and utter breakdown at some point in our early sobriety because let’s be honest, it can really be a real pain in the butt sometimes. We are becoming new people, we are making an inventory of all of the crappy things we have done to others, and we have to take responsibility for our actions at all times. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows but compared to the way we were living, it’s a cake walk.
The issue here is that for so long I have suppressed my emotions, denied my feelings as important, and shoveled booze and drugs into my body to help ease the pain. Now that I don’t have the temporary fix, I am forced to face the facts that sometimes, I’m not alright. But one of the most valuable things I have learned so far is that it is okay to not always be perfectly, happy and carefree because in reality, that is not what life is. Our feelings in early sobriety show us that we are on the path to growth and freedom, we are becoming human again. While yeah, it sometimes scares the crap out of me when I actually care that I impulsively flipped someone off while driving, it shows me that I am actually making progress in this program (look up living amends).
How do we Learn What’s Real and What Isn’t in Sobriety?
I was once told by a very wise woman in the rooms, that while not every feeling that we have is rational, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Chances are when we feel some type of way, it is for a very good reason. Albeit, after we work a thorough fourth step and learn that everything is our fault anyways, we can start to differentiate if our feelings in early sobriety are brought forth out of fear and ego or out of love and compassion. Thus, we can take steps towards ensuring that we don’t react irrationally to situations, but instead, we can practice responding in healthy ways.
Trust me, this DOES NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT. I know dozens of people who are not an alcoholic or addict, completely normal people, who could still use an overhaul in this category. So don’t beat yourself up if you still catch yourself giving an old lady the bird because she is driving 45 in the speed lane. Instead, remind yourself that you are sober, and start using the tools you gain in the program. For me, the serenity prayer is huge.
“God, Grant me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change (OTHER PEOPLE),
The Courage to Change the Things I Can (MYSELF)
And the Wisdom to Know the Difference (Impossible vs Possible)”
A huge aspect of recognizing our feelings in early sobriety is bouncing them off another sober person. I don’t mean using someone else as an emotional punching bag, I mean confiding in sober supports on whatever it is that has got your undies in a bunch.
A lot of the times, we are unable to see exactly our role in a situation (again, until we do the fourth step) so confiding in another sober person with more experience will allow us to gain insight on WHY we feel the way we do about something, and just what we can do about it.
Now that we have that perspective, it is up to us to choose whether we want to live in the problem, or in the solution.
Feelings Aren’t Facts
We have probably all heard this in treatment or in a meeting somewhere. It used to really irk me when I heard it because I never really got what it meant. However, if we break it down, we can understand the importance of this simple mantra.
Think about it this way; pretend you are holding an ice cream cone. You are delighted because it’s your favorite flavor. As you go to take the wrapper off the cone (I’m thinking those kiddy cones) you drop the whole thing on the floor, and there is no five-second rule to save that dairy catastrophe. Think about how many emotions sweep over you. First, there is the initial slow motion “NNNNOOOOOOOO!!!!!” feeling as it falls to the floor. Then, there is the shock, as you stand there looking at what has become of your poor, sweet, innocent, little ice cream cone. Next, comes anger, followed by sadness, remorse, and probably anger again.
What do you do? You could storm back into that ice cream store and DEMAND that 15-year-old girl behind the counter to make you a new one for free, or… you could try and laugh about it (while crying on the inside, let’s be honest).
The long and short of it is this, we are the only ones who feel our feelings, we express them outwardly onto others- when we are happy we smile at passersby, when we are angry we might sulk silently or be a jerk to someone for no reason.
We can feel thousands of different ways at any given second, but the FACT of the matter is, the situation is completely outside of our control. The only thing we have control over is how we respond.
Drum Roll Please
This is where God, the 12 steps, and the other people in the program come into play. As we stated earlier, the best defense we have against our crazy feelings in early sobriety is the trust that everything is under our Higher Powers’ control, that we have learned enough from our steps to teach us that it was probably our fault and that we have another person to confirm that yes, it was my fault that I dropped the ice cream (this is a true story by the way, it was on my first fourth step).
It can be frustrating!!! Who on Earth wants to admit that every time they get upset it is actually their own fault? Literally no one, however, as recovering addicts and alcoholics, WE HAVE TO. These little lies we tell ourselves, that our feelings are more important than someone else’s, or, that our feelings aren’t important to ANYONE, are what will keep us sick and take us back out, every time.
Coping with and identifying our feelings in early sobriety is one of the most… annoying yet valuable aspects of getting sober and working a program. We have run from our feelings for so long, isn’t it about time that we get around to figuring ourselves out?
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