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Navigating Feelings About Detox as a High-Level Professional

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Working as a high-level professional takes time, intelligence, and dedication. The role itself makes you highly respected by those you work with and whom you know. This level of respect and status can be wonderful. It can make you feel proud and important due to the amount of respect and admiration you receive. However, it can make navigating feelings around detox, addiction, and mental health issues challenging. 

Addiction impacts your mental and physical health. The process of going through addiction treatment includes addressing both. During detox and other aspects of addiction treatment, you will have to face head-on how you have been and continue to be impacted. This includes physical symptoms, mental ramifications, and how you feel about both. These symptoms can bring up feelings of shame and anger because your mental and physical abilities will be diminished as a result of detox. However, you can work through these feelings. Once you learn to navigate these feelings, you can better address addiction and mental health disorders. This, in turn, can help you to improve your success in your personal and professional life. 

The Experience of Detox

Detox or detoxification is the process of clearing toxins from your body. For those with addiction, detox is the process your body goes through when you abstain from using drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms occur when you have a physical dependency on a substance.

The experience of detox will vary for each person depending on multiple factors, including the following:

  • Type(s) of drugs 
  • Amount of time the substance has been used for
  • Age
  • Physical health
  • Mental and emotional health
  • Method of detox

While each person’s detox will look and feel different, certain symptoms are common with detox. They include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Quickly changing mood
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Insomnia 
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Cravings 
  • Hallucinations, shaking, and sweating 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Confusion or disorientation

When you are accustomed to feeling on top of things mentally and/or physically, these symptoms can feel daunting. However, it helps to remember that detox is important in addressing addiction. It is the first step that helps your body get used to being without drugs or alcohol. Detox does not last forever, and when going through detox in a treatment facility, many of these symptoms are managed by your healthcare professional.

Shame Around Detox

As a high-functioning individual, you are not used to the physical and mental issues that occur during the detoxification process in treatment. This is completely understandable. In your professional life, you are likely able to stay on top of things, think quickly, and function better than many others. Thus, during treatment, you have to see and address the physical addiction, which often includes the symptoms above.

Feelings of shame are common when you are accustomed to being very capable. Shame differs from guilt. While guilt is defined as the feeling you have wronged another person in a specific event, shame is not. When you feel shame, you expand the sense of wrong past a certain situation. Thus resulting in feeling like there is something wrong with you as a person. Making a negative evaluation of the entire self.

The feelings of shame can be a result of the physical and/or mental aspects that are found in addiction, the detoxification process, and mental health issues. While each person will experience this process differently, certain parts commonly cause feelings of shame.

Physical Changes

Whether you are a current athlete or not, you are likely used to a certain level of physical functioning. This may include being able to move certain items, walk a specific distance, or even play a sport. During the detoxification process and treatment as a whole, you will run up against many physical realities of addiction.

Addiction impacts our physical health, often in ways that you do not see until you abstain from drugs and alcohol. An essential piece of treatment is improving self-care habits that help you to stay physically healthy. However, admitting and feeling the physical changes during detox and beyond is challenging. It means acknowledging that you are not in perfect health, which often can bring up feelings of shame.

Mental Changes

As a highly respected professional, you use your mind throughout your work and home life. Solving problems at the office, maximizing profits, or simply adjusting things as needed all require you to be on top of your mental functioning. However, addiction and the detoxification process impact your mental capacity.

When you are valued as being very capable and good at your job, it is easy to feel your value as a person comes from this ability. You are constantly congratulated and shown respect for this ability. During detox and treatment, you will go through periods where your mental function will not be at its highest. Thus, it is common to feel shame and negative emotions due to the sudden change from what you are accustomed to.

Navigating Feelings Around Detox

One of the skills you will learn in treatment is how to navigate many emotions. As a working professional, you are accustomed to being very capable. Addiction and detox can both result in feelings of failure, shame, and anger. While these feelings are very normal, it is important to work through them. 

For many, drugs or alcohol are a coping mechanism for managing stress, emotions, and challenges. While detox itself is very important, learning improved coping skills around emotions is also a vital aspect of treatment and recovery. Due to drug and alcohol use being a maladaptive coping mechanism, certain feelings can trigger cravings. Learning how to work through them can help you to stay sober on your journey to long-term sobriety. 

Navigating feelings around detox will look different for each person. However, certain tools can help, like increasing your self-awareness and learning to work through your feelings. 

Self-Awareness About Your Feelings Around Detox

When you have had certain skills, abilities, and respected roles for a long-time, it is normal to grow accustomed to them. Just like you get used to a certain schedule, you have a set of expectations for yourself. This includes both physical and mental capacity. Addiction and detox, however, can throw a wrench in these expectations. When going through detox, admitting that your mental and physical capacity has changed temporarily can be hard to do. 

With change, it is common to try to pretend it is not happening and avoid the issues at hand. However, avoiding an issue does not make it go away. When you avoid your feelings, pushing them down farther and farther, you do not allow yourself the chance to work through these emotions. While this is important for decreasing the risk of relapse, it is also important for your mental health. Being honest about your feelings, even just to yourself, allows you to be with them. Ultimately, it also provides the opportunity to process and work through them, not allowing them to build up. 

Work Through Your Feelings Around Detox

Each individual’s feelings about detox will differ. Just like each person’s experience of detox will vary. However, when you stop using drugs and alcohol, your body does need time to recalibrate, which means that you will feel certain changes come up. Working through these changes starts with self-awareness of them. 

However, it also can help to work through them. Processing emotions means that you delve into your feelings, learning more about how and why you feel certain things. This can be done by speaking with a mental health professional, talking to a trusted family member or friend, or through peer support. Sharing your experience benefits your ability to work through your feelings as it both gets it out of your head while allowing feedback from another. 

While processing with others is preferred by many, there are also ways to work through your feelings alone if that is your preference. Tools such as journaling, meditation, or exercise can help you to improve your understanding of your feelings. As you do so, you may decide to share with others as a way to get support. 

Managing Shame and Anger

Detox frequently brings up both shame and anger. These are very normal feelings, especially when you are high-functioning and successful. However, addiction is a disease that impacts how your brain functions. While it is normal to feel shame and anger, addiction is not your fault. It is fairly easy to read or say that addiction is not your fault. However, it is more challenging to manage feelings of shame and anger.

Researchers have found that recovering from shame requires internal changes. This includes changes in how you view yourself and how you see yourself in relation to others. Therefore, working through how you see your value as separate and compared to others are both important aspects of managing shame. While self-awareness and processing can help, working with a professional is important. Mental health professionals can offer you tools that improve your ability to work through the feelings of shame you experience. 

Anger is an emotion that is common for those with addiction. While it is healthy and normal to experience anger, managing your anger will help you to keep yourself and others safe. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), managing anger decreases the risk of relapse and improves your mental health. Methods to manage your anger include relaxation techniques, cognitive processing changes, and communication skills. By improving these skills, you can process your anger around addiction and detox. 

Adjusting Mental and Physical Expectations Around Detox

The mental and physical changes that occur as a result of addiction and detox can be intimidating. However, when you learn about what these changes entail and how they might look for you, you can adjust your expectations. Expectations that should be honest and based on what is well-known about addiction, detox, and treatment. 

Creating realistic expectations for the process is helpful. By knowing what to expect, you can enter detox with confidence that what you are experiencing is normal. It is not a result of your shortcomings; rather, the symptoms of detox are a result of addiction as a disease that impacts the brain. The process of detox is well-studied and understood. Thus, using this knowledge will give you a clear and realistic picture of why and what changes can occur.

One of these expectations is how long these changes will last. While detox differs for each person, the physical and mental changes that occur during detox are generally not permanent. It is a temporary state as your body makes internal adjustments that are needed to return to normal functioning. Knowing that this is the case will help you in setting expectations for yourself in the short term. It is like sitting in a traffic jam; you know it won’t last forever. However, you still have to stay in the traffic if you want to get where you are going. 

While detox can bring up many negative feelings and symptoms, it does have the benefit of having a positive outcome. As a working professional, drugs and alcohol interfere with your ability to be as successful professionally and personally. Going through detox will result in you making changes that you need to to stop being physically dependent on drugs and alcohol. In conjunction, working on your emotional processing and learning healthy coping mechanisms will give you the tools that you need for long-term sobriety. 

Addiction is a disease that requires treatment, often including detox. The detox process is challenging and includes many physical and mental symptoms that can create feelings of shame and embarrassment. This is particularly true for those who are high-functioning. Being a highly respected professional can feel wonderful. However, it can create feelings of shame when you are not able to function at that level. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help working professionals who struggle with addiction or mental health issues. Our program is designed to suit each client’s individual needs. If you are a working professional in need of help, call us today at (949) 426-7962 to learn more. 


  • I would just like to share how Grateful I am with my experience through my addiction at this facility. I couldn’t possibly ask to be in such a “SAFE/COMFORTABLE” environment while receiving treatment for my addiction. I would just like to say Thank you sooo much to ALL the staff there from the Nurse’s to counselors and therapist all of you are a True Blessing in helping me through my journey of sobriety. I couldn’t feel more comfortable there on how they monitored my physical health and on dealing with my emotional health with there therapy sessions and groups I truly see them ALL as Family!

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