How to Slow Down When You’re Overwhelmed in Recovery

When we get sober, we straighten out mentally, spiritually and physically. We learn to handle our problems with a different attitude.

However, life continues to happen, and life at times can be downright overwhelming. Even the most spiritual people on the planet go through trials and tribulations, and it’s no different for someone working on recovery from a substance use disorder.

What happens if we don’t take care of our overwhelmed feelings?

The book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that when we are in active addiction, resentments can be like a brainstorm. It consumes our entire mind and we cannot think of anything else.

The same thing can happen when we feel overwhelmed. These thoughts consume us and we cannot get rid of them. While discussing Step 4, the book states what these thoughts do to us.

“The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”

Poison causes a chain reaction in our body. For the alcoholic and addict, poisonous thoughts do the same thing to our mind. If these thoughts are left unchecked, it can lead to relapse.

What Should We Do While Overwhelmed in Recovery?

There is more to being overwhelmed in sobriety than simply trying to better balance your workload or breaking tasks into manageable chunks. It’s difficult to just tell yourself to “slow down” and suddenly be able to do it.

That’s like telling someone one of the A.A. slogans, “Just Don’t Drink.”

It’s our attitude towards the stuff that overwhelms us that needs to change. Otherwise it consumes us.

The book of Alcoholics Anonymous lays out a simple method to pause when agitated or doubtful. When discussing step 10 in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous has the following suggestions.

Five Actions You Can Take Right Now to Slow Down When You’re Overwhelmed in Recovery

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.


You first must be mindful of the fact that you are overwhelmed. When we get into a place where we are in the middle of a “brainstorm,” it’s difficult to think of anything else. It’s also difficult to think about what we are thinking about objectively!

It’s difficult to comprehend that we are in the middle of one of these brainstorms. Sometimes hours can be squandered thinking about our thinking.

The last time you were very angry or scared, how long did you think about it?

In Burning Tree’s mindfulness-recovery program, we teach clients how to be more aware of the thoughts that they have in their mind.

When we are agitated or doubtful we pause. There are many ways to pause and slow down.

A key to identifying the thoughts is pausing and meditating.

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How to Pause

There are an infinite number of ways to pause and meditate. One is simply setting a timer for three minutes on your smartphone.

Another is to do a mindful exercise. Take a deep breath in and when you breathe in, say to yourself “feeling.” When you breathe out, count your breath. Count up to 10 breaths and do it again if you need to pause more.

Pausing is even in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They knew way back in the 1930s how important it is to pause and meditate.


Say a prayer. Ask your higher power for help. Ask your higher power for the right thought or action. Ask for the overwhelming feeling to be removed so you can continue to be useful to others.

Millions of recovered people will tell you from their experience that prayer works. But even research has found that the act of praying helps manage negative situations and emotions.

Talk to Someone

If you are working the steps in Alcoholics Anonymous you should call your sponsor. Talk to them about feeling overwhelmed. They will help you see where your blindspots are in your thinking. It’s always good to talk to someone who understands the program and where you are in your life.

We Turn Our Thoughts to Someone We can Help

This is the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our entire addicted and active alcoholic life we are only thinking about ourselves. Doing the steps produces a psychic change, spiritual experience or attitude adjustment.

The adjustment lets us focus on others. It helps us build better relationships with others and helps us feel useful.

The book instructs us to help and think of someone else, instead of ourselves.

About Burning Tree

Burning Tree is here to help you get through your overwhelming feelings in your recovery. We have many programs that can benefit you. Call us today, 866-287-2877


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