One of the primary reasons people get hooked on drugs and alcohol is because they want to avoid the pain they’re feeling. When someone you love passes away, for example, or if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, it can be incredibly difficult to face the pain of grief, loss, or separation. And emotional pain doesn’t only include grief or loss.
Emotional pain can also include feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse. Sometimes the weight of past experiences can also stay with us and drive us to drink or use drugs.
But one of the most transformational steps you can take in recovery (second to putting an end to your addiction) is facing those challenging emotions that drove you to drink or use in the past. It’s no doubt challenging, which is why the following list includes ways to work with your pain in a safe way.
Work With a Therapist
A therapist or psychologist is someone who is trained to facilitate psychological change. If you want to face feelings that are challenging (especially feelings you’ve been running from for many years), you may want professional support in doing so. You may want the expertise of a professional to gently and safely guide you through a process.
Keep a Journal
One way to facilitate self-acceptance (including your feelings) is to keep a journal and write in it on a regular basis. Journaling is a way to track your behavior. Journaling builds self-awareness and reduces the possibility of getting caught up in self-delusions. The circumstances in your life become clearer when written out on paper.
Talk to Others
When you have others with whom you can share the same feelings, you feel validated for feeling the way you do. You might also feel supported versus feeling isolated in whatever feeling you’re struggling with. Sometimes, if emotional pain gets too heavy and your therapist or psychologist isn’t there right away, it’s nice to have a friend or family member – someone you trust – who you can talk to. Friends and/or family can provide support, connection, and validation in your process.
Join a Support Group
Having a group with whom you share a common struggle can be a powerful experience. There are support groups for all types of experiences, such as for losing a loved one, struggling with weight issues, self-forgiveness, or sobriety. A support group will provide you with other people to talk to about your struggle.
However, unlike family and friends, those in a support group will also be struggling with the same concern. Knowing that you’re not alone can make all the difference for some people.
Watch Movies on the Emotion You’re Trying to Work Through
This can be a tricky suggestion. You might want to watch movies to help yourself get in touch with the feeling that you want to work through. But at the same time, a movie might trigger you. And if you’re alone, being triggered might not be a good idea – especially if your tendency in the past was to drink or use drugs as a way to escape those emotions.
However, movies can help bring to light aspects of yourself you hadn’t seen before. Remember to take into consideration your history and emotional temperament when using this suggestion.
These are some suggestions to begin to work with heavy feelings. If you feel that the emotional pain is too heavy to bear on your own, contact a mental health professional.
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