Rejection can be painful, and even sometimes feel intolerable. When you’re first getting sober, it can sting even harder. If drugs and alcohol were the things you wanted most, you’re used to being able to meet a need (however maladaptive) whenever it arises. Many of us in recovery previously used substances to cope with difficult feelings; rejection can be hard to sit in if you don’t have the tools.
If you’re new to recovery, you may fear being rejected for your sobriety. You may worry that your friends won’t want to hang out with you anymore, or that someone in your life won’t forgive you for your behavior during active addiction. These are normal and understandable fears, but they shouldn’t hold you back from getting sober.
If friends leave you behind because you got sober, that means they weren’t real friends; that doesn’t mean you won’t grieve them, but it does mean there will be space in your life for people who support you. But if you continue to drink or use drugs, you are more likely to continue alienating people.
Rejection shows up in many ways: dealing with a breakup, being turned down by a potential job, losing a friend. There are also times we may feel rejected when perhaps that’s not what’s truly going on. Either way, feeling rejected can be a catalyst for many other feelings: confusion, anger, sadness, low self-worth.
In that way, you can look at rejection as a crash course in sitting with difficult feelings. Try to resist the impulse to run from them. One of the most helpful ways I’ve found for sitting in any challenging feeling is to pay attention to the physical sensations it creates. Do you have that “stomach drop” sensation? Do any of your muscles feel tight?
Notice the feelings in your body and allow yourself to ride them out in the present, rather than prolong them by attaching a story. When you focus on the physical sensations, it also reminds you that no difficult feeling is going to kill you. In fact, most of the time, the bodily sensations accompanying even some of the hardest emotions are milder than you might expect.
A therapist can help you cope with feelings of rejection. They can also figure out if you have a fear of rejection that is getting in the way of your life, and give you tips for working through the fear.
If you are feeling rejected, have compassion for yourself. Sometimes feeling rejected can lead us to tell negative stories about ourselves, when it often has nothing to do with us. Remember that if you are living life, you are going to experience rejection at some point—and that it’s an opportunity to learn.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you the skills to cope with any difficult feeling sober. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.