I didn’t realize that mood swings and alcohol abuse were so closely connected. The effects that alcoholism had on me lasted even through recovery. I became very aware of the damage my substance abuse had done to my mind.
It turns out that all the mental symptoms I was trying to fix with my drinking only became worse. I just didn’t know it because I was always under the influence.
I knew that if I didn’t learn to control my mood swings, I wouldn’t successfully recover. I wasn’t able to do it alone.
Alcoholism and Mood Swings
Alcohol effects people differently, dependent on how much and how long you’ve been drinking. People who drink very little will experience relaxation and a release of their inhibitions. For me, I drank a moderate to heavy amount. The underlying issue was my depression.
This came with a variety of feelings that lead to my mood swings. Nervousness, restlessness, irritability, and stress from the problems I was creating in relationships. I was also unable to sleep and felt paranoid a lot of the time.
Causes of Mood Swings
Mood swings can happen for a lot of reasons. It’s attached to mood disorders like Bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as anxiety disorders.
Mood swings, addiction and depression are quite commonly linked and this is what I experienced after I quit drinking. I thought I would feel happy to have the alcohol out of my system. I didn’t understand why my mood was so out of control.
I didn’t experience that much sadness, it was more an agitation towards everything. This made it hard to pinpoint that I was actually clinically depressed. Through recovery, I learned I was repressing a lot of past pain.
Sobriety Brought Emotions to the Surface
It’s a fairly common story. The addict drinks or uses to hide something painful. This is why if there’s ever been trauma or a mood disorder that’s hard to manage, people are more likely to turn to the bottle.
Once you go through the detox process, you’re sober and left to deal with the reason you started drinking in the first place. This is where things start to get real because you’re now having to deal with something you buried in yourself.
The things that surface when I became sober caused me to lash out. My friends and family tried to help me but they were ill equipped. The more they tried to help, the more I pushed away.
These mood swings were out of control. They would erupt in me like a volcano and I had no control over my rage. I would then begin to cry and feel terrible remorse directly after.
I worried that I would relapse because I couldn’t handle the guilt and shame I felt for my mood swings. I started going to group therapy to gain the tools I needed to cope with my mood swings.
1. How I Learned to Cope with My Mood Swings
They say it’s important to go through therapy when you get sober. I didn’t realize it would take so long to get past the problems that my drinking caused. I believe now that not knowing how to handle emotions in recovery was the breakthrough I needed.
I honestly believed I could just go through detox and begin my new incredible journey. Triggers would cause rapid mood swings within minutes and throw me emotionally off balance at every turn. I tried to avoid any triggers but I soon realized that was no way to live.
Through group therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and one on one therapy, I got the support I needed. I learned the right techniques to manage rapid mood swings within minutes that would otherwise cause me to react.
2. Mood Swings and Recovery
By learning how to control mood swings in a healthy way, I was able to gain the confidence that recovery was possible. Managing deep emotions that cause the mood swings is an essential relapse prevention method.
The techniques I learned on how to control mood swings naturally included.
3. Letting Go of the Victim Mentality
It’s human nature to blame others for our problems. It’s even more prevalent in addicts and a part of the symptoms of addiction. I didn’t want to address or make changes to my problems so I blamed others.
Being the constant victim takes away any power to change. Letting go of the victim meant looking at myself as the one to blame. Doing that made me realize my life was my responsibility.
4. Learning to Handle Resentments
I would get bad mood swings for no reason. The thing is, there was always a sleeping giant of anger living within me due to resentment.
I, like most addicts, hold onto injustices. It was just another excuse I would use to justify addictive behavior.
I knew that to stay sober, I would have to deal with these emotions. Therapy taught me to look at my part in things and learn to forgive. There were a lot of unresolved feelings at first which made it overwhelming.
As I began to deal with my feelings, it was easier to control mood swings because there was less inner turmoil and stress occurring.
5. Taking Ownership of my Mistakes
Fighting with my own psyche while trying to stay sober was exhausting. It would make me angry, sad, and anxious within seconds of each other.
I was half hearted about staying sober. I would play out that it would be okay to drink. The wiser part of me argued this.
Sometimes the ego part of me would win out. I would have a drink and feel awful about it. I was either not at fault or a terrible person. This was the internal battle I faced. I eventually found balance. I accepted that there is a shadow side to me that will always be there.
6. Being Honest
Any kind of lie we tell ourselves or others creates emotional disturbance because it goes against the natural way of things. This disturbance is one of many causes of mood swings.
By practicing honesty, I was able to see that life is better when you don’t hide yourself from others. It’s about living with integrity which keeps you at a higher level with your mood.
Not only did I radically strengthen my sober life, I felt better about myself. When I mastered an open heart, I no longer experienced extreme mood swings daily.
7. Being Grateful
Being grateful helped me open my heart up to life. Studies have found that positive emotions improve the minds perceptions to shift.
A powerful way to gain a different perspective is through gratitude. It changed how I thought which changed behaviors. I managed to push out the dark thoughts which was one of the causes of mood swings.
I was able to enjoy the smallest of things in life. This made me a calmer person with less emotional baggage when I practiced it every day. It was simple too. I would just write 5 things I was grateful for every morning.
8. Involving My Family in Therapy
While I did receive plenty of support and understanding from group therapy meetings, I needed my family’s help. I needed them to understand where the mood swings were coming from.
I know my addiction and irrational behavior had taken its toll on them too. We needed a safe place to talk where a therapist could lead the sessions.
Family therapy brought a lot to the table. We were all able to communicate our feelings and it gave us space to heal. By using the techniques I’d learned, I was able to be open to my family’s needs and accept their thoughts.
9. Replacing Bad Habits with Good Habits
The mind is responsible for our mood. Chronic use or alcohol and drugs alters our brain chemistry which is why our mood becomes erratic. Becoming sober is the most important step. Following up with healthy alternatives to fill the gap is important for long term recovery. Here are some of the new choices I made to help the mind heal:
- I ate oatmeal for breakfast and beans at least once a day. Complex carbohydrates that have soluble fiber slows down sugar absorbing into your blood. This increases serotine which makes us feel happier and decreases mood swings.
- I found something I loved to do. Being sober freed up a lot of time and hobbies are recommended to relieve stress, keeping us balanced.
- I started working out every day to release endorphins (also known as happy chemicals). This entails at least a half an hour of cardiovascular every day.
10. Medication for Mood Swings and Irritability
For some people, they are dealing with bipolar mood swings and trying to get past addiction. This co-occurring disorder can cause extreme mood swings daily. It is more challenging to control so they need medication for mood swings and irritability.
Medication should be taken until the addict gets a handle on their addiction and emotions. Holistic therapy should be a part of the treatment for overall recovery.
Antidepressants will be prescribed if a chemical imbalance is suspected. This allows people to get rid of the mood disturbances so they can get through recovery.
They also help with anxiety levels which is one of the most common reasons mood swings occur. A rise in anxiety causes disturbance in the mind which causes erratic mood behaviors.
I was caught off guard with my mood swings and depression when I abstained from alcohol. It took some time to learn how to deal with my out of control mood swings. With the help of professional therapy in rehab, one-on-one therapy, and healthy life changes, I replaced moodiness with happiness.