Overcoming addiction is an incredible accomplishment and one that can leave us feeling empowered and liberated, if not exhausted. But as the return to the routine of life unfolds, there may be feelings of rage, depression, or unpredictable emotional states that leave us binge eating, binge-watching television, turning to sex, overworking, or engaging in other compulsive behaviors.
This is the aftermath of addiction, and even though the substance has been removed, we are left with ourselves, and any obsessive, erratic, or sad energy is still there to be dealt with.
And we might not even be fully aware of our inexplicable anger, or that we are numbing or checking out.
The term dry drunk is often used to describe this residue in recovery, meaning that although sobriety has been obtained, there is substantial emotional healing work to be done. These sober states provide us a beautiful and challenging opportunity to dig deep, face our fears and our feelings, and work to moderate addictive behaviors through healing action.
Ways to Moderate Addictive Behaviors
Stop the shame cycle– When we find ourselves engaging in addictive behavior, first fully notice what’s happening, without any negative self-talk, judgment, or hatred. Remind yourself that this behavior is showing you that there is still some pain or wound to be addressed, some trauma to be processed. You may even want to extend gratitude to yourself for showing you where healing is needed. It may be that you weren’t even conscious of it. Your mind thought you were fine, while your body and behavior are showing you the truth. Trust what your body tells you!
Scale back– Sustainable changes are hard to make and maintain instantly, so consider setting a timer for the activity, if you still want to do it. For example, you could set the clock to watch only an hour of television. Setting and honoring limits and boundaries can encourage permanent change. You may even enjoy what you are doing more since the time is more valuable.
Listen to yourself– Lean into difficult questions. What am I avoiding? What is my anger telling me? Are there other emotions I’m afraid of feeling? What am I unable to handle? What parts of my life feel like they are out of control? What are my actions telling me about what I feel? Is there any other activity that I could be doing instead, that would be better for me long-term?
Action Plan of Healthy Activities– Create an action plan of healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual activities and practices that can be turned to if you find yourself stuck in harmful behaviors. If one isn’t feeling right, go through your list until you find one that works and helps.
Physical– Stretch, practice yoga poses, play music and dance, take a 20-minute walk, or explore a sport. Taking a shower, a bath, or a nap is great for your physical health too!
Emotional– Take space to grieve, process, feel, cry, listen to or play music, or journal. The intention is to fully experience all of your emotions, especially ones that may have been ignored.
Mental– Connect to a recovery coach or peer support, call your sponsor, schedule a meeting with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Reach out to a family member or friend, call a helpline, or seek online support groups. Addressing issues of mental health can truly help lessen anger.
Spiritual– Explore and begin a spiritual practice or seek out spiritual groups or collectives in your community. A spiritual practice can mean anything; mediation, walks in nature, praying, writing.
Addictive energy can also be seen as creative energy. Where would you like that energy to go? What hobbies or activities have you always been curious about, or love doing? Now is the time to explore those things!
Do whatever it takes to engage in a different, healthier activity for yourself for at least 15 minutes. If you experience internal resistance or don’t want to do something else, try and push through. Commit and hold yourself accountable. If it is too hard to change the behavior, understand that it is okay, and try again tomorrow. Be patient and love yourself through this process. Maybe reflect on any barriers, and journal or write about them. You might be surprised about what your words reveal!
Remember, addictive behaviors or intense feelings are showing you new opportunities to practice moderation and improve your emotional wellbeing. Hold on, and remember how far you have come in your journey. It will get easier with time, try to trust the process.
For all the work, sacrifice, and effort you put into treatment or getting sober, it is imperative to give yourself the same amount of love, attention, and commitment once the substance is gone.
You have the power to transform your life!
If you are seeking support for substance use, and are wanting to discover ways to create a new life, contact us at Ashley Addiction Treatment. Our calm and serene campus is located on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, in Northern Maryland. We provide comprehensive and therapeutic support and will work with you, every step of the way. We know the importance of physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health before, during, and after treatment. You deserve to live a life full of healthy activities that brings you joy and happiness. For more information, or to take the next steps, contact us at 800-799-4673.