Dealing with Feelings

In the past, feelings ruled my life. If anyone displayed an emotion, I quickly absorbed it as my own. Once triggered, I found it difficult to let go of anger and fear. Then, as if this were not enough, I piled my feelings on top of each other and muddled them together until I felt insane.

Working the Steps with a Sponsor has made a difference. She said something shocking—“Feelings are not real.” With this new perspective, I can observe other people’s emotions without them sucking me in. When I accept that feelings are not real, it is easier to say hello and goodbye to my feelings without clinging to them.

Once I started working the Steps with a Sponsor, I had fewer emotional meltdowns, fewer nightmares and fewer panic attacks. My recovery is a matter of working my program fearlessly. My focus has changed. I don’t want to feel better. I work to be better.

By Donna B., Bermuda

2017-09-12T14:01:14+00:00September 12, 2017|Categories: Alcoholic Friend, Alcoholic Sibling, Alcoholic Spouse or Partner, The Forum|


  1. J.S. March 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Feelings are whatever they are to each of us. The wisdom is in the recognition that if there are reactions or responses to feelings, there will be consequences. Therefore, the choice we make is worthy of forethought. ….. “How important is it?” or “Is it thoughtful, honest, intelligent, necessary, kind?” or can I “keep it simple”?
    When I was younger and had more energy, everything was very important and needed to be managed right then. My career required that I think fast and be willing to act quickly. Despite my age I have learned to use my God box literally and figuratively. At the beginning the pauses seemed inordinately long and awkward. Now I find the time is a sign of respect. My vocabulary is less catastrophic. I mean what I say and endeavor not to say it mean.
    The difference in me is that I am more the woman I want to be. I have benefitted from the process of Al-anon. I reawakened my compassion by attending meetings and reaching out to others. I take on service positions to keep my life in balance.
    I still have feelings.

  2. Patricia January 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Feelings are real, and cannot be judged as wrong or right. Facts are real, and weigh more than feelings in that they can be proven right or wrong. If feelings control actions, more than facts, take heart in realizing those feelings can change or be changed. A fact can never change, even by a lie. People can lie about how they feel, but facts, like alcoholism is a disease, cannot be disproved. How a person feels about it being a disease can change. Feeling it is not true does not make it so. Dealing with an alcoholic means coming to terms with the fact and no matter how one feels about this fact will not change a person. One cannot make someone feel guilty about having cancer. Having cancer is a fact. Feeling sad, angry, or hateful toward the person who has it does not make the cancer go away. Luckily, if a person who is an alcoholic wants that disease to be controlled, there is a way to make it, not disappear, but not control life or be destroyed by it.

  3. Patricia R. January 2018 at 5:50 pm

    This has to be my favorite part of the newcomers section. This is my first time here. But I need help. I’ve been married to my spouse for 7 years. And the behavior when he’s drinking is far fetched, to say the least. I know, I made my bed, now I must lay in it. I get so mad and angry with him, then more at myself for tolerating it. I’ve even given up on love. It’s just a farce. I’ve been in therapy, and he has as well. It’s started to hit us financially and once physically. But the most important one is emotionally. A roller coaster right now. So I’ll take everything I’ve read here today and try to apply it to my own life. I’ll start by locating Al-Anon groups near me and checking them out. Thank you for your direction.

  4. Julie January 2018 at 10:07 pm

    I am the wife of an alcoholic who I love dearly. I am angry knowing that alcohol took my husband and my sanity …I take antidepressants to control the fears and negative emotions I feel when I know he drinks. I am new to Al-Anon and I am trying to understand the twelve steps. I have been thinking abut the words “feelings are not real” and want to incorporate them into my life so I can shelter from the pain alcohol brings into our home. I try to always to remind myself not to hate the alcoholic but the alcohol…hard stuff! I pray my rosary every day and hope my god will shine his light upon me and my family.

  5. Lane December 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I used to wish God would take away all my feelings as they were too painful. He didn’t. My feelings were real, as my heart would race – I would sweat- my stomach would hurt. But I have learned that my feelings I take on when around others or just quietly thinking are NOT truth. Not factual. So if they are not the truth, why do I accept them?? I don’t want them but I take them. Why? Is it a way to control or people please? Is it a way for others to control me? I read a reading that said “feelings are a reaction to a reality, not a reflection of the reality.” I had to ponder this and still am. My life-long habit is to react and live with the shameful pain and anger. To isolate myself.
    Step 1. I am powerless over others and myself. So that means others are powerless over me. Why should I give them that power. Now I want my higher power to give me what He wants me to have. I want only His truth. Help me God to reflect on a feeling and hand it right to you for processing.

  6. Kathleen December 2017 at 10:43 am

    I had spent 15 years in Al-Anon, faithfully attending meetings weekly, and sometimes when I needed it, even daily. I have wandered off the path over the last four years, and am now trying to find my way back. And so, today, in search of some guidance on how to deal with some awful feelings, I stumbled across this website. From my time in Al-Anon in the past, I remember the quote not as “Feelings aren’t real”, but instead as “Feelings aren’t Facts.” For me, this always means things like, just because I feel ashamed does not mean that I truly have anything to be ashamed of, or just because I feel afraid, does not mean there is really anything to be afraid of. They are simply feelings. It is okay to have feelings, everyone does. This is what makes us human. It is what I do with those feelings that matters. I have been afraid for months now, with no evidence to support the fact that there is anything to be afraid of. So as I move through this, I acknowledge that I am afraid and let myself feel it. But I follow this up with a question to myself of what evidence do I have to support this fear. Usually, if I am really honest with myself, the answer is nothing. And then I pray for the strength to act accordingly.

  7. Katherine D. November 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I have read that, “feelings are not facts.” As I see it, feelings are real and important because they give us valuable information about what’s going on inside ourselves. While the feelings are real, they are often based on something that isn’t real or true. The challenge for me is to feel and accept my negative emotions, without “freaking out” about them. When I am able to detach from feelings enough to examine them, I come to understand myself more deeply, and sometimes I discover that my feeling was based on an erroneous idea or belief.

  8. Serenity November 2017 at 11:25 pm

    As a person in recovery from alcoholism and new to Al-Anon I need both and I hope not to offend anyone in Al-Anon with anything I say due to the duality of my condition. I am simply seeking help to understand who I am and pray that I may be of service to someone else who is suffering. I struggle with being able to even identify with how I am feeling. I seem to have adapted some sort of survival mechanism that causes me to want to fast forward through any “feelings” I may experience. When I saw that post “feelings are not real” my instant reaction was like awesome, I really would like not to process feelings anyway so if they aren’t real why bother with them. But then I reflect and am reminded that it is important for me to feel so that I can then pause, pray, and choose how to react. Especially when it is anger that I feel. Some of my feelings are on autopilot and I cannot control them. For example, when someone is confronting me about something. Even if the confrontation is well meaning and supposed to be constructive, my heart begins to race and and I feel like I need to get away. I don’t feel safe, I am uncomfortable and anxious when I have no “real” reason to feel like that. In that regard I am responding to a conditioned fear for my life that is not real. I am uncomfortable being open and honest if I feel someone could become upset. I have become a master at keeping the peace for everyone else and only beginning to learn how to do that for myself. I wish I had found Al-Anon before I needed to find AA but God had different plans.

  9. Shelley November 2017 at 9:56 am

    I, too, stumbled across this post – just a few minutes ago. Like a wise friend said, you always hear what you need to hear when you go to a meeting, or pick up your daily reader, or even, as evidenced today….stumble across a new website when you are feeling desperate and seeking comfort & guidance. Whether feelings are real or not is not the point I, personally, took from the original post. How I REACT to my feelings does cause a very real physical and mental affect. What struck me so hard in this post was “if anyone displayed an emotion, I quickly absorbed it as MY OWN. Once triggered, I found it difficult to let go…… and I piled MY feelings on top of each other and muddled them together….” Until now, I didn’t recognize this about myself. Perhaps with some prayer and meditation on this reading I will more easily recognize when this starts to happen to me, and then I can better determine how important something actually is, and handle it mindfully. This may help me to curb the chaos in my mind in certain situations. Wouldn’t that be a blessing! Thank you for your share D.B.B.!

  10. Cindy November 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I just stumbled across this and I’ll have to say, I love it. Feelings are not real! They may feel real and even devastating but real, NO. If my husband drinks again it will make me feel horrible and question what is wrong with me that he won’t stay sober even when he knows I will leave him, but the real is that he drinks because he is an alcoholic not because he doesn’t love me. My feelings are just that…feelings. If I feel sad, hurt or (most likely) angry that is how I am handling the real thing: the drinking problem and the fail of my marriage/family. I will say that even knowing a feeling isn’t real doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt but it may help me make better decisions about how to move forward.

  11. Rae October 2017 at 12:06 am

    WOW, thanks for sharing. Earlier this evening I was googling…”what is a right response to some one that says “you make me feel”….” didn’t get an answer that was helpful…these are. Feelings, emotions are experienced, not necessarily true (the idea of not real). I can choose to stay in the emotion, to react to my feeling or what I perceive another is feeling. Or I can put our program to work and set my mind in a different direction. I can choose to let go and let God…to tell myself don’t take it personally, to breath and say the serenity prayer over and over until peace comes…and the feelings are put to rest. Some days are easier than others. Today was particularly difficult to shake “Feelings” but look where I landed. (:

  12. Melissa October 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Feelings are real indeed, otherwise we wouldn’t have been given them. Our responses and reactions are what we need to deal with. Although we cannot change people, nor can we change how others respond to us, we can change how we respond. Using the gift of self-awareness and discernment are useful tools that can be applied to how we channel and develop our emotions and feelings in life.

  13. Elizabeth J. September 2017 at 1:59 pm

    I am a newcomer to Al-Anon and I am trying to read and research everything I can to start learning and applying the 12 Steps to my own life. I came to this site today in hopes of a better understanding of Step 8 and I stumbled on the above comment with some surprise. First, I would like to say that if this sponsor’s words have helped then that’s all that matters and I support any idea or suggestion for someone if it is bringing them a more positive outcome for their lives. That being said, I personally disagree with the opinion that, “Feelings are not real”. I can only speak for myself when I say this but feelings are most definitely real! One of the most important life lessons, I have always tried to teach my two daughters, regarding feelings is this: Feelings are just that, feeling, they can’t be right or wrong because you do not have control having them within you, BUT what you can control and what can turn out either right or wrong is how you ACT on those feelings. To say someone’s feeling are not real or don’t exist is stripping someone from their identity because how we feel AND how we act about those feelings define our character. I want myself and the people I love to experience each and every feeling an individual was given the gift to feel when they were created….

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