This weeks blog is from Rose Lockinger, a frequent guest blogger on my site. I always get something out of her articles and find them extremely helpful, and this week is no different. Thanks Rose on sharing your advice with me and others on how we can take care of ourselves in recovery.
Throughout my active addiction I used drugs and alcohol in order to soothe myself. I had learned that for my disease of addiction any substance effectively worked to address my anxiety, that is for a time. Whenever my emotions started to run too high or I was experiencing a high level of stress or anxiety I could just throw back a couple of drinks or take a pill, and instantly feel more relaxed. The thing is that once alcohol and drugs stopped working for me and began producing the opposite effect, I lost the only way that I ever knew how to soothe myself.
Even though I am now sober a couple of years I still find it difficult sometimes to self soothe. I have been taught to take a step back, breathe, pray and meditate if necessary, but there are certain times that this just doesn’t seem to work. If I am facing a particularly stressful situation or am very much so caught up in my emotions, doing these things may help to take the edge off, but I am often still left feeling anxious and in disarray.
This may be because abusing drugs and alcohol gave me an unrealistic expectation of how to deal with life. For a large portion of my adolescence and adulthood I was completely numb and I would run from anything that even resembled emotional discomfort. This caused me to never really learn how to soothe myself or deal with my emotions. I sort of operated under the assumption that emotions were optional and that if I didn’t want to feel I didn’t have to.
Once I entered into recovery I was then coming from a place of less than zero when it came to dealing with life and my emotional states and so learning how to properly handle these things has been a process with a fairly high learning curve.
The one thing that I can say for certain, and it always surprises me when it works, is that getting out of myself is always a great way for me to self soothe. I tend to forget this fact on a semi-frequent basis though and especially when I am very agitated, thinking of others or helping another person is about the last thing that I want to do. Yet I have found that in certain situation it is the only thing that calms me.
If I am completely worked up over something and I just can’t seem to shake it, very often placing a phone call to someone else and asking them how their day is going will help to bring my emotions back down to a manageable level. Just the act of breaking the constant thoughts that are causing me dismay is extremely helpful in self-soothing.
Though getting out of myself doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to call someone, or go out and help them, it just means that I have to, for a period of time, get out of my head and think about something else. This happens quite a lot when I go to meeting and more than once after leaving a meeting I have felt a lot calmer then before hand.
In fact, just last week I was full of anxiety over a number of different things in my life. I got in my car to go to a meeting that night and my mind was spinning with thoughts. On the way to the meetings I tried to pray, but my prayers seemed jumbled and disconnected, as I couldn’t really concentrate long enough to put together full thoughts.
Even once I got to the meeting I still found it difficult to sit still for about the first 10 minutes or so, but about half way through I found that my mind had quieted down a bit and I was feeling a lot more relaxed. I reflected on this later and realized that it was because once the speaker started talking I stopped paying attention to the voices in my head and began to listen to what he was saying. Doing this allowed me get out of my head for long enough to gain perspective and this allowed me to calm down.
I have had this same thing happen when going out to dinner with a group of friends. There have been a number of times when I left my house in a tizzy, not wanting to be around people or even socialization, but after laughing with friends and enjoying some good food, I almost always find that my emotions subsided and I feel a lot better.
Another thing that I have found that really helps me self soothe is exercise. Whenever I am stressed out and really feeling emotionally worked up, if I go to the gym or do yoga, 99% of the time I feel a lot better afterwards. I also notice that after working out the thing that was bothering me so much doesn’t seem so big anymore and I have a feeling of confidence that I can make it through whatever it is I am dealing with.
The thing about being sober is that we do not have the option that a lot of the rest of the world has when it comes to soothing ourselves. We can’t, at the end of a long and stressful week, sit down with a glass of wine and unwind. In some regards this is a positive thing because we are forced to deal with our emotions and learn to process them, but it can be overwhelming at times.
There are some days when I just don’t want to deal with the emotions of my life and since I am a high anxiety person anyway, I usually only make things worse for myself. Being sober though has taught me how I can go about dealing with strong emotions or anxiety and I hope that the longer that I stay sober the better I will get at this.
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. You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram