Another great post by my friend Rose Lockinger – I so related to this one and I love how she captures all the nuances for emotional sobriety, because that for me is the backbone of my sobriety today!
If you had asked me when I first started drinking and using drugs I am not sure that I would have been able to tell you that I was using to numb my emotional pain. I don’t know if I would have been able to express that I drank and used in order to not think about my eating disorder or the fact that I was sexually abused as a child. I don’t know if I really knew on a conscious level that the drugs were medicating my psyche, helping me to cope with my world. All I knew is that I liked the way I felt and that when I was under the influence I didn’t think or feel as much.
For a long while drinking and drugging were my answer to a question that I didn’t even know I was asking, and it was why do I hate myself so much? See all of the emotional pain that had been wrought on me throughout my life, some self-inflicted, some out of my control, was all turned inwards and a hatred sprung up that only drugs and alcohol seemed to quell.What recovery has brought me is the journey down a road to emotional sobriety, because once you take away the drugs and the alcohol I was left with the emotions.
Now I am not saying that I became an addict and alcoholic because of the things from my past, I believe I have the disease of addiction and that is why I am an addict, but what I do know is that my emotional pain fueled my using, escalating it to greater heights. The problem is that what I thought to be a solution was actually solving nothing, and in fact, it only made my emotional pain worse.
That is one of the worst parts of alcoholism and addiction, the lie we believe that the substances are actually helping. I believed for so long that because when I drank and drugged I didn’t feel, this must have meant that something was working. That’s because I could “sleep” at night and not revisit the most painful events of my life that everything was okay, but the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The reality is that numbing out emotional pain is very different than dealing with it. Throughout all of the years that I was in my active addiction that pain rested right under the surface, waiting for my blood alcohol level to decrease to the point where it could rear its ugly head. When this happened I’d have to reach for the bottle, or another pill or a line in order to stuff it back down and numb out again.
One of the problems with living like this is using substances to deal with the pain, I inevitably created more pain for myself. The very thing that I used to help me turned on me and in my wake I left devastated relationships, which only brought further pain. I remember towards the end of my drinking and drugging. I would use to numb the pain but it just wouldn’t work anymore. I would think about my children and the guilt would wash over me that was crippling. I would drink more in order to try to get rid of it but I couldn’t and when I reached this point I knew I was in trouble.
I knew that the only thing that I could possibly do at this point was seeking help and a part of me knew that this meant that I’d have to deal with all of the issues I had been skirting for so many years. This really scared me because I didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. I didn’t know if I was strong enough and I kind of just wanted to run away.
When I finally sobered up all of the pain that I had numbed out came flooding back in and in total honesty, I didn’t really know what to do with it. Sifting through years of repressed emotions was just a tad bit overwhelming, but thank God I had a good support group in AA and a therapist to help me work through these issues. They helped me to stand up and take a look squarely at the pain I had been avoiding and because of this, I was able to work through it.
I learned the difference between how I had dealt with my emotional pain in the past and how I could actually work through it. I learned that by attempting to stuff my emotions through substance abuse I never actually allowed myself to feel the full weight of this pain and because of this, I was never really able to heal. As soon as I became uncomfortable I would reach for something to make me comfortable and by doing this I didn’t allow the natural healing process to take place.
I also learned that the deceit that occurred in my addiction did nothing but keep me hurting. Since I had to lie about almost everything I also constantly lied about how I felt. I never talked about my problems or issues because I didn’t want the attention and I also didn’t even really know how to do this. This was just another way of avoiding the healing process and once I got sober I learned that talking about my problems and pain, getting them out into the light of day, was one of the only ways I was actually going to heal.
In retrospect, I guess a part of me always knew that the way I was living was unsustainable. I think I always knew that I couldn’t keep running from the pain and that my Band-Aid proposal of using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain was really just a temporary solution. Since getting sober I have finally started to deal with and overcome many things that plagued me for years. I was able to look that darkness in the eyes and work through it, rather than wish it away with my head in the sand.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.