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  • Writer's pictureChoice Recovery

Feelings Are Not Facts

What are feelings anyway? And how do we tell if our feelings are born out of imagination/rationalization or if they are real and valid? The definition of feeling is “an emotional state or reaction.” These “emotional states” are part of the human experience and a benefit to being clean and sober. If properly engaged in life, emotions like pleasure, euphoria, sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, anger, hostility, and calm can be motivating life moments. They can provide the energy that fuels our lives and our recovery. However, discussions about our emotions are often approached negatively because we have failed to express them in a healthy manner. 

On our journey in life and recovery, our emotions are activated by three primary sources:

  • Actual events like a conflict at a sober living home, not getting the job we wanted, or being denied a car loan due to poor credit.

  • Through thoughts and perceptions that are based on biases, past trauma, or failures.

  • “What if” thinking that drives us to believe that life would be better if “I never got arrested” or “I didn’t crash my car” or “I could have a do-over?”

Regardless of the origin of our emotions, the negative and harmful thought patterns they can produce impairs our judgment, affecting our decision-making. As addicts, the result of a poor decision or irrational emotional response can lead us off our journey in recovery and into a relapse.

A part of recovery is learning how to differentiate between feelings that are born out of imagination/rationalization and those that are real and valid. Feelings generated from imagination/rationalization are typically nothing more than our old habits trying to gain control again. Without the tools to identify which emotions are being made-up versus generated by real-life experiences, we can be tricked into making the wrong decision. When we are tricked, we tend to return to impulse or reactionary decision-making, rather than purposeful choices centered on our core principles.

This is why we talk about how “feelings are not facts.” Feelings are nothing more than an emotional state or reaction to events that we have put expectations or meaning on. When an event sparks an emotional response, we often allow that emotion to take control of our actions. The idea is to distance the facts from the feelings, so any made-up stuff is identified for what it is. The goal is to split the facts and emotions, so we see ourselves and our feelings as separate entities. This bifurcation allows us to determine whether we are using the appropriate information to make decisions. By pausing, separating, and analyzing, we can make purposeful decisions rather than react solely based on emotion.

Next time you experience an overwhelming feeling try the following:

  • Notice the feeling

  • Observe the feeling

  • Describe the feeling

  • Identify “why” you have this feeling

  • Accept the feeling without judgment

  • And then act based on your core principles, not the emotion, so purposeful decision-making continues.

Feelings are not bad, but they can become harmful if we allow them to dictate our lives and overwhelm our sense of reason. In the moment, it can be challenging to separate the fact from the feeling and not act based on emotion. However, with the tools learned in IOP and by using your recovery supports, you have the skills to use emotion, and the energy it creates, in a manner that strengthens your life and recovery. FOR CONSIDERATION: Another trick the addictive mind likes to use is selective honesty. This occurs when the mind is assessing an emotional state, but only uses a select group of facts in determining the appropriate action. It starts by selectively looking for facts that back up its objective and disregards any evidence contrary to its agenda.  It then uses this select group of facts to built its case as to why a specific action is the appropriate one. When separating the feelings from the facts, be honest and take all the facts into account, even if they are ones you would rather not admit to.


Choice Recovery is an intensive outpatient treatment facility in Mesa, Arizona serving individuals battling substance abuse including opioid addiction. We are MAT friendly and offer support services like housing, employment, and many others. Our clinical approach is focused on the person rather than solely on the disease of addiction.

We offer IOP at night, in the morning, and online through a unique tele-health program. We accept AHCCCS insurance plans including Mercy Care, Banner University, Care 1st, and others. For more information about our program and master's level clinicians please visit or call us at 480-527-0337.


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