The Emotional Rollercoaster of Getting Clean and Sober

In January 12, 2015

The road to sobriety and recovery can be exceptionally a difficult one. As your body cleans out any remaining drops of liquor and you begin to force your mind to stop relying on alcohol to cope with problems, intense emotions will quickly arise. You’re probably wondering why that is. Sobriety compels you the break the habit of running away from your feelings.

You’re trying to deal with problems and emotions without alcohol, and that can be frustrating at first. The same triggers are still there and now you’ll need to learn how to address your problems in a sober state, that alone naturally brings anxiety and anger.

In early stages of recovery, there tends to be a senseless feeling of confusion. Overwhelmed by the world around you and even the intensity and depth of the emotions you experience. The opinions of normies towards you, your old friends who feel abandoned by the “new you”, and even leaving behind many aspects of your former lifestyle. All of these things are weighing in on your stress levels, making you apt to extreme mood swings.

This stage is often described as a ‘rollercoaster ride” because people can experience intense highs at one moment and suddenly the intense of lows the next moment. This phase is a time of great change and people may feel like their emotions are out of control. These emotions may stem from various number of factors.

Agents of emotional rollercoasters

These intense emotions can sometimes be seen as withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks after one had quit the given substance. These symptoms can affect one’s mental state as well as emotional. The withdrawal aches can make someone emotionally unstable and irritable.

No matter how long one had a substance abuse problem, coming to sobriety still requires you to deal with your emotions. People drink and use drugs for different reason, but most people it’s used to avoid reality. Now that one is choosing a sober lifestyle, they are forced to deal with real life emotions. If they haven’t dealt with them in a long time, it can be quite overwhelming.

Change can also cause one to feel these mood swings. Letting go of old friend who are still drinking and using drugs, even old habits that revolved around some sort of substance abuse, now leaves a big gap in your life that needs to be filled with something positive. With your whole world flipping upside down, it makes sense to be so emotional.

Often times, coming to sobriety means dealing with your past. In most cases, people feel guilty and even shameful of what they have done. Deep guilt and even shame can be triggers for relapse. It’s important to understand that you aren’t that person anymore and those things are behind you.

Insomnia can be found in early stages of recovery. Sleep is vital for a good mental state, so a lack of it may cause harm to one’s emotional state.

Leaving behind addiction comes as a relief for most people and this emotional rollercoaster isn’t just for the negative feelings. This feeling of overcoming such a huge obstacle, will make you feel high on life. Be sure to not be so overconfident because that may be a trigger for relapse.

One part of the emotional rollercoaster that most people experience is the “pink cloud”. The “pink cloud” is an AA term that refer to those who are intoxicated on life itself, too a point that they have lost touch with reality. People who are in this stage, may be more prone to relapse. Too much of a good feeling might cause someone to feel over confident, to a point where they neglect the things they need to do to maintain recovery.

Emotional rollercoasters are far by normal when it comes to early stages of sobriety. As time goes by, it’ll only get easier. Maintaining recovery in the midst of these extreme emotions are a hard task. Everyone can bear fruit, but when it comes to the longevity of the fruit is for WINNERS.

“Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Early Sobriety” Journey Centers November 20, 2014 [accessed January 7, 2015]

Kent. “Extreme Mindsets During Early Stages of Sobriety” Spiritual River [accessed Januray 7, 2015]

Fransway, Rebecca “Glossary of 12-Step Terms” More Revealed [accessed January 7, 2015]

“The First Year in Recovery: What to Expect” Elements Behavioral Health December 29, 2010

By Dr. Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor

Primary Therapist