As a heroin addict in long-term recovery, you may have been stigmatized and shamed by numerous, uneducated individuals – including some less than encouraging friends and members of your own family. Though others may not understand the disease of addiction, no one will understand its devastation more than a recovering drug addict and those closest to them. Many suffering from addiction also experience depression. In this article, we help you understand the purpose of emotions, how to overcome feelings of depression and how to develop a positive attitude about addiction treatment, recovery and life in general.
It doesn’t always feel like it, but life is full of balance; day is to night as night is to day. If you are lucky enough to have found a community to support you in your sobriety (like our heroin addiction and recovery forum) then it’s likely easier to cope with those who fail to understand what you’re going through or those who are just plain ignorant. Remaining positive inside the realm of negativity is crucial for your success. However, you will likely experience emotions that were foreign to you in active addiction. This includes sadness, anxiety, anger, jealousy and other “negative” emotions that you may have been trying to avoid by using drugs. It’s crucial that you learn to accept and experience these emotions without running from them all without letting them consume you. Improperly dealing with negative emotion can and often does lead to depression, a long-term anxiety disorder or other conditions that often require treatment
To feel emotion is to be human. In most cases, there’s legitimate reason why we feel a certain way. If we lose someone, we will feel sadness. If we get a raise at our job, we feel happiness. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we feel anger. Certain emotions are perceived as positive while others are considered negative. Nonetheless, these are normal and they are all part of and necessary for normal functioning. Given our innate tendency to escape from and/or eliminate negative emotion however, this is often hard to accept. But in most cases, when we try to escape from or eliminate a certain emotion before it runs its course, it turns into some kind of condition. For instance, depression (a condition) often comes from not appropriately dealing with sadness (an emotion). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (a condition) often comes as a result of not properly dealing with anxiety (an emotion). Unresolved anger (an emotion) can and typically turns into hatred (a condition), etc. How we escape (our actions) can also lead to problems. For a relevant example, many turn to drugs and alcohol to escape perceived negative emotion, which (as we’ve already explained) not only may create a condition like depression or a long-term anxiety disorder, but can turn into a full-blown drug addiction or alcohol problem.
Emotions are always temporary. Conditions are semi-permanent and typically required treatment for change to occur. This is why it’s important to allow yourself to feel each emotion and let it run its course.
Learning to Stay Positive in Recovery in the Midst of Negative Emotion
Negative emotion is normal but there are certain, constructive things we can do to help us properly deal with these emotions in a healthy way as they naturally run their course. These include calling a friend, going to the gym, working out, taking a walk, hugging a loved one (including your loving pet), breath control exercises, listening to music, etc. These activities or exercises can promote the healthy processing of emotion and an adequate handling of them.
Properly Rationalizing Experiences and Emotion Can Eliminate Depression and Other Mental Health Conditions
Emotion is the mind’s natural response to a circumstance or situation. However, our rational mind also tries to make sense of each situation as it processes each emotion. If we try to escape from a perceived negative emotion rather than adequately deal with it, we are likely to conjure irrational thoughts and/or false belief about ourselves or our world. For instance, if someone criticizes you and calls you a “worthless junkie”, you are likely to experience several perceived negative emotions. Some of these include anger and sadness. If you inadequately process each situation and the emotion it created, you may falsely conclude that what the individual said is true, especially if multiple people said something similarly horrible. Now there are dozens of other factors at play here, but most of them include how you already feel about yourself from other conclusions you’ve drawn based on previous circumstances and emotions to follow.
So how come two different people in similar circumstances will draw two different conclusions? And is there a correct conclusion and a wrong conclusion? For instance, one may rationalize that they must be a worthless junkie because a lot of people have said it while another may conclude that the individuals attempting to shame and stigmatize them are just uneducated jerks. And yes, one of these is the correct conclusion and one is wrong. Can you guess which is true? Some say that truth is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some governing principles that can help determine and process which beliefs and conclusions are considered “normal” and which ones aren’t. For those who aren’t aware, concluding that you are “worthless” is pragmatically false, even if you have a drug addiction problem.
There are dozens of factors regarding why individuals draw various conclusions in similar circumstances. However, it all has to do with how they already perceive themselves and their world based on a plethora of previous circumstances and emotions that were created by them.
Using Rational Thought to Control Our Behaviors in the Midst of Stressful Situations
Knowing how to recognize negative emotion and irrational thought is necessary in order to adequately deal with them. While it is impossible to eradicate the world of the negative, it is possible to control our rational and volitional response to them. Controlling behaviors is easier when you can obtain and keep the right frame of mind.
First, it is important for you to know your self-worth. No one has the right to make you feel ashamed. You are not your disease. Distinguishing the two is crucial. If the people you associate with cannot understand addiction then don’t let their opinions weigh heavily on you. As you are regaining your freedom from substance use, do not allow yourself to become imprisoned by others. Your path in your recovery is yours and yours alone. No one possesses a right to force you into situations where you do not feel comfortable. Set boundaries for yourself. Remind yourself often of how far you’ve come.
You have a right to feel love and to be supported. If you are rejected by anyone, remember that this supports their mindset, not yours. People can only express how they feel related to their own opinions. While some of these opinions may be directed towards you, what they say isn’t necessarily true. Understanding yourself and the progress you’ve made in your recovery and as an individual is crucial to creating a positive mindset and behaving accordingly.
Overcoming Negative Situations: Being Judged by Friends and Family
Family members and friends may still accuse you of using. If your active addiction caused you to lie and steal and manipulate, as most active addictions do, then the truth of who you are becoming will be hard to see at first by others. If you find that these attitudes are remaining a constant, then keep yourself around those that support you. Often, time is the best remedy for others to see a change.
If you feel that someone else is constantly attacking you because of your disease or in general, you may try educating them about the disease of addiction and reminding them how it no longer controls you. Just because others remain skeptical of your changes, you should not be made to suffer emotionally from someone else. People often fear what they do not understand. Keep learning about addiction. Trust the person you are becoming. And if necessary, leave an ongoing negative person or situation behind.
Promoting Healthy, Long-Term and Lasting Recovery
Keeping yourself focused is important as you continue your recovery for you. If you relapse, remember that you are only human. Falling does not equal failure. See “Why Relapse Isn’t a Sign of Failure“. Use the time to reflect and to remember the reasons why you chose addiction treatment and recovery. A relapse could potentially reinforce false beliefs others have of you as an addict. This is why it’s crucial to correctly process emotion, rationalize and remember that you are not your disease and that everybody makes mistakes. Inevitably, maintaining your sobriety will eventually demonstrate to others that you are now in control of your disease and are changing for the better.
Be careful not to let any outside negativity suffocate you. Instead, process the circumstance and your emotion and use it as motivation to prove others wrong. And if for some reason the opinions of a select group don’t change, then they were never good friends nor were they ever in your corner in the first place. These kinds of people simply aren’t worth your time..
Remember, you are not alone. A lot of people suffer from addiction and many others are in long-term addiction treatment and recovery. Attending recovery related groups such as 12 Step Meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), SMART Recovery, etc. can provide community. Online recovery websites and communities such as our heroin and drug addiction forum can also help. Getting involved at your local church or in your community can also help you become a part of something bigger than yourself and provide you with a sense of community and purpose.
Accept What You Cannot Change and Change What You Cannot Accept
There will always be certain circumstances that are not within our control. It’s important that we learn to accept and make the best of these situation. Develop and maintain a positive attitude and employ coping mechanisms that are healthy and constructive. There will also be situations and circumstances that are within your control. If you’re not happy, use problem-solving skills as necessary to change what you cannot or refuse to accept. Don’t be a passenger in the journey of your own life. Control where you go by sitting in the driver’s seat.
Remember that a bad day does not equal a bad life. The opinions of others are only as valuable as we allow them to be. You decide who you are. You are not a product of other people’s opinions. No one has the right or is entitled to make that decision for you.
Prove your worth to yourself before trying to prove it to others. Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. Remember that it is always the ones that see us for our faults that know us the least.
No one else’s emotions have to be yours. Holding yourself to lower standards is a self-inflicted punishment. Finding an outlet for our stressors is crucial. Ways to alleviate stress can include walking, listening to music, writing, talking, cleaning, etc. Occupy your mind. Learning to let go is not easy, but it is unhealthy to accumulate negativity. Overthinking leads to worry. Remember that every problem has a solution and keep yourself moving forward.
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Written and Published by William Charles and Krist Tullis – Founder/Publisher and Blogger for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.