Dealing with Raw Feelings During Early Stages of Sobriety


You have to empathize how incredibly frightening it is for an addict to quit drugs, especially if they’ve used for a long time. The best way to explain the state they’re in immediately post-drugs is like a turtle walking around without its shell, with no armor to shield his or herself from the world. You know when you listen to a song you used to play over and over again that just transports you to a certain phase of your life? Whether it’s a good or bad song? Quitting drugs can induce a similar time-transport shock with your newly recovered partner, as feelings and thoughts that were repressed during their drug use may emerge.

So just so what you know what you can expect, be prepared for raw feelings of shame, anger, guilt, regrets, sadness, depression, fear, and projections, especially of old family dynamics to be played out if they haven’t been resolved internally by your partner.

This isn’t going to be easy, and in fact, it may be incredibly frustrating. Maybe you’ve already gone through tons of strife and drama just trying to get them to quit using, so you may be scratching your head, wondering why it’s gotten worse. The good news is, it’s only temporary. As the old quote goes, sometimes things have to get better before they get worse, and this is especially true as it pertains to healing.

The most common family dynamic an addict will have experienced in their own nuclear family growing up was being the “bad” one or the “black sheep”. With their brain chemistry now temporarily scrambling to stabilize and all these old feelings resurfacing, do not be surprised if they try to project this dynamic into YOUR relationship. You may feel as though YOU are now walking on eggshells, but there is hope. One of the greatest ways you can help an addict through this is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE, and the example you should set is to not be overly reactive or intolerant to uncomfortable feelings.

(Note: This does not mean you should accept abuse of any kind. If there is abuse, get out, for that means respect for your well-being has gone out the window).

I hope this piece of insight will assist you in being able to take a more objective perspective as your partner struggles towards sobriety. It’s meant to serve as an explanation as to why your partner may initially seem like a completely different person once they’ve quit drugs, but it’s a time of intensity that will likely be TEMPORARY as long as they continue on their path towards sobriety without too many relapses that will set back their progress. When they’re going through their hardest, gently remind them that the only way out is through.

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