How to Embrace Emotions When Sober

How to Embrace Emotions When Sober

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

It can be difficult to embrace your emotions when you are recovering from an addiction. You may have used substances to suppress the negative and painful emotions you were feeling. This can make it feel harder to cope with life without substances. However, it is possible to learn how to handle your emotions in a healthier way while remaining sober. In this blog post, we will explore how to embrace your emotions while sober and create new, healthier coping mechanisms.

Understanding Your Emotions

While not always comfortable, emotions are a natural part of the human experience. Therefore, it is important to take the time to understand how to deal with them. Smaller emotions may be easy to handle, but when big emotions come up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This is a common reaction. The first step to becoming better at handling big emotions is to identify exactly what you are feeling.

To help you identify how you are feeling, it may be helpful to keep a journal and record your reactions. It also could be helpful to express your emotions through art or writing. Once you become more aware of your emotions, try to give them space and observe them without judgment. Try to recognize that these emotions are valid and allow yourself to experience them without needing to change them or act on them.

When you look at the root causes of your substance abuse, you may find that substances helped you numb yourself so you didn’t feel certain emotions. To try to change this pattern, acknowledge the pain and discomfort you feel, but don’t allow those feelings to consume you. Instead, work toward replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthier ones.

The Role of Substances in Numbing Emotions

Addiction plays an important role in numbing emotional pain. According to an article published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, people struggling with addiction may use substances to achieve a state of intoxication, in which they experience a sense of euphoria or relief from negative emotions.

This positive reinforcement is thought to drive the cycle of addiction, creating a reward system that reinforces substance use. Additionally, drug use can lead to a decrease in negative emotional states such as anxiety or depression, providing further reinforcement of the behavior. The cycle of addiction can become increasingly difficult to break as you rely more heavily on substances to cope with emotional discomfort and pain.

Learning to Tolerate Discomfort

In recovery, one of the most important skills you can learn is how to tolerate discomfort. It requires you to practice a nonjudgmental and curious approach to your emotions and physical sensations. This is something that the mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) program teaches.

According to a research review published in the journal Psychology in Addictive Behaviors, those struggling with substance dependence benefit from becoming more aware of their emotional, physical, and cognitive states. Instead of trying to suppress or diminish the discomfort, clients in MBRP programs are encouraged to observe it with curiosity and acceptance. This approach-based coping helps individuals recognize and handle uncomfortable situations in a healthier way.

Finding New Ways to Prioritize Emotions

It’s important to remember that these techniques can be used for any type of negative feeling or state of being. Whether it’s due to acute withdrawal, drug-induced mood disorder, or depression, learning to tolerate discomfort is an essential part of recovery.

Some tips on learning to tolerate discomfort include:

  • Remember that feelings pass: Remind yourself that feelings come and go and will pass eventually
  • Acknowledge your feelings: Acknowledge them without judgment and understand that it’s okay to feel this way
  • Reframe your thoughts: Instead of asking “Why do I feel this way?” ask “What do I need right now?”
  • Take some deep breaths: Deep breathing can help regulate your body and mind
  • Connect with your support system: Let them know how you’re feeling and ask for help if you need it
  • Practice self-care: Find healthy ways to distract yourself from difficult emotions

Creating a Support System

Having a strong support system is essential in your recovery journey. Emotions can often be too difficult to handle alone. Having people talk through your feelings with you is important. These people can provide a true perspective and help remind you of why you’re working hard to maintain sobriety.

Whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist, make sure you have a solid support system. You don’t have to go through recovery alone. Talking to someone who understands your struggles and has been through a similar journey can be incredibly helpful. It can also make it easier for you to take the steps necessary to achieve lasting recovery.

Encouraging Long-Term Sobriety

Long-term sobriety requires ongoing effort and commitment. Developing strategies to cope with stress and emotional distress is essential for maintaining sobriety over time. One of the first steps in encouraging long-term sobriety is to identify a support system that can offer understanding and guidance. A support system can be made up of friends, family, counselors, and peers in recovery. This can help to provide a sense of connection and accountability that can keep you motivated to stay sober.

It’s also important to remember that recovery isn’t always linear. There may be times when setbacks occur and the urge to use may become overwhelming. Recognizing these urges and having the tools to deal with them in a healthy way can help to prevent relapse. If you ever feel like you’re struggling with staying sober, reach out for help. First Steps Recovery is here to support you.


The idea of facing emotions while sober can be frightening. This is especially true if you have never proven to yourself that you can. Yet, it is not only possible; it is imperative. That is why at First Steps Recovery we offer therapies and programs that foster your emotional awareness. We also offer tools for dealing with the highs and lows that accompany the recovery process. We want to assist you in escaping the grip that addiction has on you and your loved ones. We assist with detox, inpatient care, and outpatient programs here at our facilities. All we require is that you make the choice for a better tomorrow. For additional information, call First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836.

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