The Mind-Body Connection: Coping With Negative Emotions For a Positive Recovery

Maintaining your emotional health is tough enough as it is–but for someone who has looked addiction right in the face, it can be an even harder task. You have sprinted through the gamut of emotions over and over again, and now that you’re in treatment, you’re not sure how to cope with those that are left. Experiencing extreme emotions during this time is normal and natural, but they are not things you want to cope with your whole life: not only do they take a massive toll on your mental and physical health, but they can prevent you from a positive recovery experience.

The mind-body connection is something that everyone has, but not everyone knows how to listen to. Negative and destructive emotions and thoughts breed physical ailments, pain, and stress; positive and radiant ones can enhance overall health. A fascinating example of this connection is from a study performed just over ten years ago: people with varying personality disorders or schizophrenia who were allergic to a specific food or were insulin dependent exhibited those symptoms only when in one of their specific “bodies.” When negative emotions seep into our minds and hearts, physical recovery and health can become even more difficult.

Guilt vs. shame: What is the difference?

Guilt is a feeling of remorse or personal responsibility for something gone wrong, a crime, or offense. We feel guilty after arguments where we say unkind things to another person. Shame is something deeper. It’s what we feel when we are conscious of something said or done that is dishonorable or improper. They are very similar, but think of it this way: guilt is something we feel in relation to something or someone external; shame is something we feel in relation to an intrinsic flaw within ourselves–and both can be experienced at the same time.

After seeing the hurt you’ve caused a parent or spouse with your substance abuse, you may feel guilty–which might lead you to feel shame that you would be the type of person to not only abuse a damaging substance, but one to cause pain to someone you care about. In order to prevent these negative emotions from holding you back from successful treatment, you must address guilt and shame at the same time. At a place like Alta Mira, the help and support of a knowledgeable staff will allow you to begin healing from both.

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Addressing your guilt with the support of others

The first step in addressing your guilt is to recognize it without pushing it away. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to think about hurting someone else, but it requires a lot of self-love to be able to bounce back from those tough feelings. This is why it is crucial you have a support system around you as you go through treatment, because you will be uprooting a lot of negativity. There are probably many things you feel guilty about because of your addiction, and in order to move forward you must give attention to them. Recognizing that perfection does not exist and that you must let go of the past are two key components of this process.

Letting go of shame means embracing yourself

When understanding and coping with the guilt you have over how you have made yourself and others feel in the past, intense feelings of shame may accompany it. You feel ashamed that you are an addict, that you have caused others pain–intentional or not. Feeling shameful as a result of your addiction, while a normal reaction, makes you feel unworthy of love and immensely flawed, which can wreak havoc on your mind and body.

After continually telling ourselves something is wrong with us, we begin to use it as a protective shield against other negative feelings. This type of experience can cause severe self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression–co-occurring disorders to your addiction–and can be even more difficult to deal with the longer shame persists. Because you’re ready to face yourself on this journey, it is important that you can look yourself directly in the eyes. Exploring spirituality in recovery can allow you to self-reflect, while therapies like guided meditation and equine therapy will help your mind and heart come to a place of calm as you heal.

Maintaining emotional health into recovery

Treatment at Alta Mira will prepare you for a healthier and happier life, so you can begin your recovery with an open heart and mind. After coming to terms and beginning to cope with the residual guilt and shame that remains from your addiction, it is important that you put up a different shield–one built of love and acceptance this time, to shield you against those negative emotions if and when they arise again. Journaling, music, and outdoor therapies and activities, mindful breathing, and finding a hobby that fills you with happiness: these are all things that you can do to maintain a positive and understanding sense of self as you continue to heal. Painful emotions like guilt and shame are difficult to reconcile, but once you do, you will feel a sense of freedom and lightness that will keep you positive and revitalized.


Guilt and shame are things that people feel every single day: you are not alone in your struggle. Dealing with the emotional aftermath of an addiction is difficult and can be daunting, but by letting Alta Mira help you on your journey, you are making the commitment of a lifetime. Our compassionate and qualified professionals will ensure that you make the most of your treatment and recovery as you learn how to face difficult inner conflicts and develop a lasting self-love.