Survival Guide for Navigating Your Feelings when you Stop Drinking

If you’re anything like most of us here at This Naked Mind, one of the reasons you drank was because navigating your feelings can get messy. When you drink enough, you stop feeling anything – good or bad – so you start living life indifferent and numb. So when you stop drinking, you’re forced to feel all the things you’d been suppressing before. That is scary and often overwhelming.

navigating your feelings

Navigating Your Feelings When You Stop Drinking

First off, whatever you’re feeling right now – it is normal. You’re probably feeling it all. An emotional mess from one moment to the next. Happy, sad, anxious, angry, apathetic, depressed – it seems like every emotion under the sun comes out each and every day in the beginning. That’s normal and due to a combination of things.

On one level, it is your brain trying to regulate again. Drinking takes a heavy toll on our brain chemistry and really messes with the levels of dopamine and other chemicals in the brain. So while it is readjusting and searching to find what levels are normal for you, you’re going to be on a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

What Is Still Missing

Secondly, this is all new. You haven’t allowed yourself to really feel and be present in your emotions in a long time. Your coping mechanisms for happiness, sadness, joy, stress, anxiety, etc. just aren’t developed yet. So yes, navigating your emotions before you’ve fully developed the tools to deal with them can be overwhelming. It’s like needing a hammer and only having a screwdriver in your toolbox!

Borrow Our Toolbox

Ever tried to DIY a job and realized you should have called in an expert or at least a friend with better tools instead? The Alcohol Experiment is that expert or friend when it comes to not only navigating your feelings but reshaping your beliefs and behaviors around alcohol. Over 386,000 people have turned their lives around with The Alcohol Experiment and you can, too! Join us for not only a 30-day break from alcohol but an opportunity to create your own toolbox as well!

Don’t Fight It

No matter how overwhelming these feelings seem to be, do not fight them or try to numb them. Instead, be brave and allow yourself to feel them. Sit in the emotions and try to observe how they make you feel physically and emotionally. How do they make you behave? How do you feel about that? Why were you numbing those feelings before?

By getting curious and observing what you’re feeling and why you can appreciate your feelings and begin developing the tools you need to cope with them.

Start Building

The next step is to begin developing some coping mechanisms around your triggers and feelings. For many of us, that means learning to set boundaries. We often drink because certain people and the way they treat us trigger our feelings. Numbing ourselves seems to be easier than dealing with them and the emotions they dredge up. Practice some self-love and dictate what your boundaries are. You won’t allow that person to treat you a certain way and if they do you or they will leave. They do not have the power to make you do something that steals your joy along with your sadness.

Even with boundaries you’ll still feel triggered at times. Decide what tools you need in your box – exercise, therapy, reading time, journaling, meditation, etc.

It’s Not A Sprint

Navigating your feelings when you stop drinking is not a sprint. It is a marathon that will extend throughout your entire life. As humans, we are on a neverending journey learning to work through our emotions, love ourselves, and grow. The great thing is that when you’re alcohol-free, you’re present, aware, and in charge of the journey during the entire trip!

More on Navigating Your Feelings

How do I navigate my feelings?

We suggest you navigate your feelings the same as you approach everything else here at This Naked Mind. Do it with curiosity, compassion, and self-love. Equip yourself with science-based information so that you have the knowledge needed to change your emotions and the meanings you assign to them.

What are the 4 steps of dealing with feelings?

  1. Recognize – Take a moment to identify what you’re feeling. Name the emotion.
  2. Allow – Remember that which we resist, persists. Don’t fight the emotion. Allow it to be there and remember that this too shall pass.
  3. Explore – Tune into the emotion. The sensations it produces in you. What triggered it? How are you responding or reacting to it?
  4. Own it – Take the emotion and own it. Decide whether your beliefs are valid, whether the emotion is rooted in truth, and whether it’s an emotion you’d like to keep.

What are the 8 basic feelings?

The 8 basic emotions are generally recognized as –

Anger: fury, outrage, wrath, irritability, hostility, resentment, and violence.
Sadness: grief, sorrow, gloom, melancholy, despair, loneliness, and depression.
Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, dread, fright, and panic.
Joy: enjoyment, happiness, relief, bliss, delight, pride, thrill, and ecstasy.
Interest: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affection, love, and devotion.
Surprise: shock, astonishment, amazement, astound, and wonder.
Disgust: contempt, disdain, scorn, aversion, distaste, and revulsion.
Shame: guilt, embarrassment, chagrin, remorse, regret, and contrition.
All our other emotions are created by combining these 8 basic emotions.