How to cope with negative feelings

When I first entered into recovery for codependency, my emotions were all over the place. It was challenging because for most of my life, I’d contained my emotions pretty well. I suppose looking back I can say that I stuffed them and did not allow myself to feel them or act upon them. 

Then, when I hit a rough patch in my 30’s, emotionally I crumbled. I felt like the dam had been busted and all these emotions came gushing out like a tidal wave and I had NO IDEA how to contend with them. “Keep it together”, I’d tell myself, but I was ill equipped. I had never really learned how to deal with emotions. 

I wanted to numb out. I wanted to drink. I wanted to latch onto a “love object” (aka. New relationship). Anything to numb the pain and emotions. Yes, early recovery was brutal emotionally.

But, I was fortunate to learn about support groups. I got myself a sponsor and called her a lot. Crying, babbling about a lot of things. Confused. Angry. Sad. You name it.

And slowly, over time and with some work on my part, I began learning how to cope with negative emotions. I began learning to feel them. Talk about them. Understand them.

Granted, it has taken years, and I’m still learning and so can you.

In recovery, and life in general, emotions will come. Some will be due to things happening now and some will be old, stuffed emotions that you’ve buried from years before; maybe even as a young child. 

What do you do? 

Here are 4 things I did when I needed some help for my emotions. Perhaps if you’re struggling, you will glean something from the path that is working for me:

1. Get some support

Regardless of what addiction you’re in recovery for, getting some form of support can be so helpful. Whether it’s a 12 Step group, community support group, counselor, or friends, that face-to-face support can help immensely. Also, online forums such as this one can be a great way to combat the confusion and loneliness you  may be feeling. When you can feel supported, it can help emotionally. You can also get some great advice from others who have been in your shoes.

2. Begin an inner, spiritual journey

I began practicing meditation and mindfulness, as I’d learned that this technique helped people manage emotions. I began with just a minute or two at a time and tried to do it consistently. It was hard at first. And boring. But I kept it up and really felt that it was helping me process and integrate my emotions that I’d stuffed for decades. There’s plenty of people who will state that meditation helps them emotionally. Others will state that prayer does the same. It’s whatever works for you.

3. Get a counselor

I waited a couple of years before going to a counselor. I didn’t want to invest the money, but looking back I wish I would have. It could have saved me some misery. A good counselor can help us in so many ways, especially with learning how to contend with negative emotions. 

4. Do things that make you feel happy

When I found myself in early recovery, single and broken, I had no idea what made me feel happy. I remember my friend telling me to make a list of things I like to do and make myself do them to get some forward momentum going. I literally had 2 things on my list: walk and read. So I started doing those things and sometimes I would walk two or three times a day just to get those happy feelings to grow. Later, I added to the list, but it was a practice and a commitment to engage in things that helped me feel happy even when I didn’t feel like it.

As we walk our path in recovery, we’re going to have to deal with negative emotions. Some may be from the past and some may be due to things going on right now. How are you dealing with them? Are you even feeling them? Are you losing it? Flipping out? A basket case? 

Know that you’re not alone. What helps me is to know I am not my emotions. Not the real me. The real me is beneath the emotions. Call it a soul, spirit, consciousness, etc.; I just know that my emotions are “energy in motion” and I don’t have to let them control my life. It’s a daily practice for sure.

What are your thoughts?

How are you coping with emotions?


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