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+00:00 September 12, 2017|Categories: Alcoholic Friend, Alcoholic Sibling, Alcoholic Spouse or Partner, The Forum|


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.!

  4. 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.

  5. 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. (:

  6. 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.

  7. 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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