Anxiety is not necessarily a dual diagnosis in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. As a common symptom of withdrawal, anxiety is a normal experience in early recover. The brain is adjusting to not having drugs and alcohol in the system and realizing that drugs and alcohol will not be coming back into the system. Anxiety is experienced because the brain is trying to process the fears and emotions coming up from not being sedated by drugs and alcohol.
Ongoing anxiety can come and go. People who have never been anxious before in their lives are often surprised by the unnerving levels of anxiety they face in the early stages of recovery. The anxiety is the brain’s effort to create normalization but instead feels like upheaval. Since the addicted brain has not had to cope with uncomfortable feelings for quite some time, it struggles to make sense of the new anxiety.
Tools from therapy are more than suggestions. They are researched and proven methods for reducing the symptoms of anxiety, making anxiety more manageable, and creating opportunity to learn from anxiety. Treatment focuses on healing patients in mind, body, and spirit. Inherent in the healing practices are critical tools for managing anxiety. All of the treatment methods, therapy types, and healing modalities used in treatment have stress management, emotional management, and relaxation components. Each of these individually, as well as combined, are effective tools for coping with the anxiety presented in early recovery.
These tools can help manage the experience of anxiety:
Journaling: Writing out your feelings of anxiety will help take away some of their power. Anxiety thrives on chaos in the mind, stacking layers of feeling on top of layers of feeling. Journaling starts to separate the layers and make sense of some of the irrational thoughts anxiety is presenting.
Talking: Sorting through the irrational thoughts is supported by separating fact from fiction. Talking with a trusted therapist, sponsor, parent, loved one, friend, or recovery peer honestly about your anxious thoughts will help you discern fact from fiction, which will then take away some of the power of the anxiety.
Acceptance: Acceptance is a primary theme in recovery. Anxiety might feel like something you readily or willingly want to accept. You cannot change the chemistry of your mind in this instantaneous moment in a way that will rid you of your anxiety. What will make an impact, however, is moving into acceptance. Accept that in this moment, you are anxious. In this experience of early recovery, you will feel anxious time and again. This too shall pass in good time. Be in acceptance of the natural order in which your experiences arriving and you will find peace.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | August 29, 2017