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Coping with Difficult Feelings in Addiction Recovery

Dealing with strong emotions can be challenging. This is often a contributing factor for those struggling with substance abuse issues. What starts as a way to blow off steam after a tough day can become the only way you know how to handle anger, stress, or fear.

When you enter an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, you’ll begin dealing with these complicated feelings in newly found sobriety, which can pose additional challenges and risks.

Struggling with Anger in Recovery

One of the most powerful emotions you might experience is anger. Anger has the potential to elicit incredibly self-destructive behavior. When anger is repressed, it can erupt suddenly or build up slowly, eating you up inside and leading to physical ailments like headaches, neck pain, and back pain.

Anger doesn’t just affect you personally. It manifests differently from person to person and affects those around you. While some lash out verbally, others may struggle with the urge to escalate things to physical confrontations.

Buried resentment, family issues, and unresolved trauma are often explored in addiction recovery, and you could find yourself struggling with anger you thought was put to rest long ago.

While uncomfortable at first, facing this anger and working through it during addiction treatment will help you heal and avoid powerful relapse triggers in the long run.

Dealing with Other Difficult Emotions in Recovery

Some other emotional challenges you might face in recovery can include:


When you return to the workplace or your home after treatment, it’s common to have some fear or anxiety about others’ reactions.

What will people say about you? Will they treat you differently? Fear can paralyze you—keeping you from making progress on your recovery journey.

Treatment aims to address your fears and help you learn ways to cope with them when returning to your routine.


You will likely have strong feelings of remorse as you come to grips with your behaviors while addicted. Part of addiction recovery includes facing the guilt you feel about any physical, emotional, or financial damage you caused.

Forgiving yourself and trying to make amends with loved ones will allow you to start fresh with a clean slate after treatment.


Shame is a powerful feeling that can make you feel like something is wrong with you. You might isolate yourself from another human contact because you feel unworthy of love. Shame damages your self-esteem and can cause you to retreat from support when you need it most.

Addiction treatment helps you confront that shame and develop techniques to put an end to it once and for all.

How to Manage These Feelings in Addiction Recovery

When you notice these feelings, try to be mindful of what’s triggering them. Are they related to behaviors or situations you have the power to change? Are you reacting to loneliness, hunger, or a toxic relationship?

Emotions are part of living. They’re natural. But feelings like guilt and shame are also temporary. How you react can have far-reaching consequences, so try to keep everything in perspective. Drugs and alcohol don’t actually help you deal with these feelings; They only push them aside temporarily.

Activities like these can help focus your mind and strengthen your resolve to face complicated feelings head-on:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Music
  • Physical exercise
  • Playing with a pet
  • Talking about your feelings with a friend, family member, or therapist
  • Walking
  • Yoga

Get Help Dealing with Emotions at Cycles of Change

When you need help with addiction recovery and coping with complicated feelings, Cycles of Change is here for you. In our treatment programs, we work with clients to understand the underlying causes of addiction, identify emotional triggers, and protect themselves against relapse.

Our compassionate team understands that no two people or situations are alike, so we customize our treatment plans to meet your unique needs. We also work with families to begin the healing process for those impacted by addiction.

Talk to one of our experienced addiction specialists today and take the first step towards a healthier life.


Not sure if our treatment program is right for you or your loved one?

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