The benefits of emotional sobriety
It’s no secret that every addict struggles with the foundational inability to shift our thinking and successfully process emotion. The common theme for my upbringing was complete and utter avoidance. If I didn’t like the way I was feeling or the way a relationship was unfolding, I’d avoid any interaction altogether. Avoidance became a survival mechanism for me. This was short lived and left me feeling robotic and unsatisfied. Eventually I started searching for relief and chasing after complete oblivion. I was seemingly hopeless and emotionally bankrupt.
After years of self sabotage, indulging in my unhealthy coping skills, I finally surrendered to the process of recovery. This was only the beginning and continues to be a road I trudge down daily. I remember being in treatment for two weeks, sober, and absolutely out of my mind. I was sitting in a group therapy session when I was asked to talk about a traumatic experience from my past. Flooded with discomfort, I froze and then left the room announcing that I was leaving treatment. How dare these people expect me to talk about things I hadn’t talked about in over 20 years. The director of operations brought me into his office, asking if I had any clue as to why I was exuding complete defiance towards the process group. For once, I didn’t have the answer. The truth was, I hated how I was feeling and I wanted to run. Avoidance crept its way right back in. Sitting in that office was the first time I realized that I was the problem. It wasn’t drugs or alcohol, but rather my inability to connect to emotional maturity.
I spent the next year of my recovery celebrating every monthly milestone and priding myself on maintaining sobriety. Getting sober, everyone suggested I stay out of a relationship for a year. I think I waited one year and three days (typical addict). That’s when life showed up and practical application came into play. At first I struggled with engaging in genuine intimacy. I remember feeling empowered by my lack of response when my boyfriend would share his feelings for me. I would make an awkward self degrading joke or laugh in hopes of avoiding any further conversation. Then came conflict, and I had that ever so familiar feeling of Ahhh, I have arrived. I would insist upon hours of confrontational interrogations and follow it with self induced victimization. It was a hurricane of emotional disarray. I was unstable and I loved it. I found solace in creating chaos. This continued until it progressed to a place of no return. Eventually, he got physical and again I was met by inescapable misery. In the same way I found desperation in the peak (or pit) of my addiction, emotional instability brought me to my knees.
I had two choices: Continue to live in pain until I eventually got high again or do something to change it. I never would’ve imagined walking through that type of pain completely sober. At times it was messy and unbearable. By the grace of God, I never chose to pick up a drink or a drug. Honestly, I had too much to lose but the insanity was taking me down a dark path. The beauty of it all, there is always a solution. I had to completely abandon myself to my old way of thinking and reacting. I had to admit I was completely powerless to my emotional regulation.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is recovery achieved in one day. In fact, it’s a lifelong evolutionary process. A process that requires habitual practice and application. Once I was able to see that I was the problem, I was able to ask for help. I remember the women in my life rallying around me, calling incessantly and carrying me when I couldn’t carry myself. I decided to go through the steps again. This forced me to dance with my fears and walk through the painful growth of trying to utilize my defects as assets. I finally accepted and sought out resources and education on my dual diagnosis of PTSD/opiate addiction. Humility became the foundation of experiencing true freedom from the bondage of self. I became grateful again. Tapping into the darkest corners of my innermost self, I began to heal those old wounds. From total destruction came true rehabilitation.
I started meditating and this cultivated a platform for me to process my emotions then react. I spent years of my life doing the opposite. The obsession to revel in oblivion was finally lifted. Today, I live a life I never would have imagined. I’m comfortable in my own skin, I gravitate towards intimate interpersonal relationships. From pain to pleasure, I get the opportunity to take every emotion and grow from them. I am grateful to finally have the ability to truly experience the mountains and valleys of life.
Guest post by Maynard Colby