There's a bummer therapists, psychologists and life coaches don't like to tell. It's this:
Recovery hurts. It is not all Zippity Doo Da, Zippity Yay. My, Oh my, What a Wonderful Day!
Whether we're recovering from drugs, alcohol, overworking, gambling, perfectionism or codependency (which is the inability to have and/or maintain healthy relationships), Recovery kind of sucks at first.
Because we've been very busy using our addictions to stay distracted from the Real Problem.
This is what Addiction Distraction kind of looks like:
As long as we're juggling the alcohol, drugs, gambling, perfectionism, workaholism and/or our addiction to toxic relationships, we don't have to feel our real feelings, we can numb out.
These distracting addictions help us keep our real feelings shoved down in some deep dark well from whence they can never emerge.
And let's face it, that feels pretty safe.
Because if we stop using our addictions, compulsions and obsessions, what we're left with is our rage. And beneath our rage is our sadness. And beneath our sadness is our shame. And beneath our shame is our grief.
And for some of us anger, and especially, sadness, shame and grief can be terrifying. We're afraid if we let these feelings out they just might obliterate us off the face of the earth.
That's why starting Recovery is such a brave thing to do, because it asks us to begin to feel our feelings.
If your feelings are too big you may need a safe person to help you navigate them in a safe place.
You also don't have to let them out all at once. Pace yourself. Let your feelings come forward just a little bit at a time, day after day, week after week until they've had their day in the sun and can finally begin to dissipate
Because our feelings will guide us to the Real Problem, which is that somewhere in our childhood we were damaged.
- some of us learned that we weren't good enough. Others learned that the world wasn't safe.
- Some of us learned that we were shameful, or that our bodies weren't our own, or that we couldn't trust the people we loved.
- Some of us felt painfully helpless, or that all we could expect from life was abuse.
- Some of us learned we could survive if we didn't show our emotions, or have any at all.
- Some of us survived by learning to have no needs and to fill the needs of others.
And the Real Problem with learning these things in childhood is that we were too young to understand it wasn't our fault.
And even though, as adults, we may intellectually understand it wasn't our fault. That angry, scared, shamed, sad inner child still believes it is.
And this is where the work begins.
We must solve the Real Problem by grieving our childhood and reparenting our inner child by allowing him to have his emotions. (Caveat: However, we must never use our emotions to inflict pain on another.)
And grieving hurts, but it absolutely does lead to Zippity Do Da, Zippity Yay! I know, because after many years of diligently working my Recovery program, it happened for me.
So lower your expectations when you first begin Recovery.
Know that it's common to feel much, much worse before you start to feel better. I tell my clients they might feel like crap for the first six months and to be assured that's normal.
And it's best if you don't do Recovery alone.
There are many people who feel exactly the same way you do. Whose secrets, pasts and sense of shame are very similar to your own. You can find them in 12-step programs and recovery groups.
Know too that you can begin to step out of your comfort zone by developing a relationship with a kind, unconditionally loving and patient Higher Power of your Understanding.
Your fabulous HP is an essential partner on your journey to emotional health.
I repeat. You do not have to do it alone.
Isolating and hiding impede Recovery, because they allow Shame to run amuck like a pillaging Hun. Or an attractive but scary Viking.
No matter where you are on your journey, remember to take it "One Day at a Time," and that Recovery is about "Progress not Perfection."
(I recognize there was a boatload of annoying Capitalization and italics in this post, but this is some Serious stuff.)
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.