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Negative Emotions to Look Out for in Early Recovery

A common reason why individuals relapse in early recovery is that they were just unable to handle their emotions. These early months of sobriety are often referred to as an emotional rollercoaster because this period can involve such intense mood swings. If people are not prepared for these mood swings then they may end up using them as an excuse to relapse. One of the benefits of going to rehab, or joining a recovery fellowship program, is that it can provide the individual with the tools they need to handle these emotions.

Causes of the Emotional Rollercoaster in Early Recovery

Before we look at the emotions to be watchful for in early recovery, it may be helpful to first consider why emotions can be so troubling when giving up alcohol or drugs. Some of reasons behind these feelings of being on an emotional rollercoaster have been listed below.

  • Many affected individuals will have been addicted to alcohol or drugs for many years, meaning that they have been numb to their emotions – they are just no longer used to feeling.
  • Early recovery tends to involve many challenges and a good deal of stress, so it is understandable that folk will feel a bit emotional at times.
  • Some will experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms that can last up until a year, which can affect their mood.
  • Many will have fallen into addiction during adolescence, before having time to develop effective coping skills. This means they do not have the tools for dealing with emotions.

Emotions to Look Out for in Recovery

The emotions that can cause most trouble in recovery are listed in the following paragraphs.


Feeling bored is an emotion that can easily lead back to addiction. Most people will have periods of feeling bored, but this type of emotion is particularly precarious for those recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction. These feelings of boredom therefore need to be avoided as much as possible. It does take a bit of work to find interesting things to do, but it is vital that individuals in recovery make the effort to find hobbies and interesting things to do. One of the benefits of joining a fellowship is that it gives folk in early recovery something to do with their spare time. Even going for a walk can be enough to help the individual escape this negative emotion. If people wallow in their boredom, it will just sap their energy and make the problem worse.

Anger and Resentment

Anger and resentment tend to go hand in hand, and these two emotions can be like poison for people caught up in addiction. The most common reasons why people will become angry and resentful in recovery include:

  • having unrealistic expectations for recovery can mean feeling disappointed with slow progress, which can lead to resentment
  • feeling angry at other people for trying to tell us how to live our life
  • not liking the fact that family and friends are not giving us enough praise for our efforts to build a new life
  • finding that old grudges start to reappear in our life when we are sober
  • beginning to blame other people for all the things that are wrong in our life
  • feeling angry because there are people who refuse to forgive us even though we are making an attempt to change our life
  • feeling angry about all the things that are missing from our life – the good job, the money in the bank, the nice partner, etc.

Anger is one of the most dangerous emotions to feel in early recovery as it means being unable to think rationally. Those out of control because of this emotion will have no problem finding justifications to relapse. Anger is like a cancer growing inside, and allowing it to get out of control will have devastating effects.

Anger and resentment is a common problem for people in recovery but plenty of tools are available to bring these emotions under control. Sometimes just talking to other people who understand can be enough, but if this emotion is really getting in the way then it will be beneficial to see a therapist or take an anger management class.


Breaking away from addiction will usually entail walking away from drinking and drug-using friends. This means that the affected individual can be losing their social support network, which in turn can lead to feelings of loneliness. The key for dealing with this negative emotion is to spend more time around other people. One of the other benefits of joining a recovery fellowship is being able to build a new social network. It can take a bit of time before strong friendships develop, but if the individual makes the effort to be sociable, this is almost certain to happen.

Symptoms of Depression

It is common for people who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs to suffer from depression as well. This dual diagnosis may be as a result of the substance abuse, but in many cases the individual will have been dealing with depression before they fell into addiction. This means that the person will have turned to these substances as a way of self-medicating – even though the individual may not have been aware that this is what they were doing.

When people become sober, they can continue to experience symptoms of depression. This may indicate that they have some type of underlying condition that needs to be treated. If these symptoms are persistent, the individual should go and speak to their GP. Depression can suck all the joy out of recovery, so it is vital that this problem is dealt with.

Pink Cloud Syndrome

It is not just negative emotions that can get people into trouble when they become sober. Another thing to look out for is pink cloud syndrome. This is where the individual becomes so high on life that they begin to lose touch with reality. Newly sober people do have a great deal to feel happy about but pink cloud syndrome can be dangerous for a number of reasons, including:

  • feeling so good about life they decide that they no longer have a problem with alcohol or drugs and it will be safe for them to relapse
  • stopping doing the things that have been keeping them sober up to this point
  • when the pink cloud period ends, which it always does, the person can feel very disillusioned, and they may use this as an excuse to relapse.

It is important that individuals are able to enjoy themselves when they become sober, but it is also important that they keep things in perspective. The best advice is to enjoy the good days but to keep working to prepare for any bad days that might be ahead. It is often when people take their recovery for granted that they are at most risk.

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