One primary deterrent which provides people from committing to treatment for recovery from addiction is feelings. Addiction isn’t partial to feelings, except one. Pleasure, and more specifically, avoiding pain, is a primary function of addiction. Drugs and alcohol can act as numbing agents as well. People drink and use drugs to escape, numb out, check out, or stop “feeling”. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol don’t stop the emotions. Events in our lives which beg us to feel something don’t just pass. Drugs and alcohol can act as a numbing agent to get through those times. In recovery we find, we have to confront and feel through all of them. We find safety and security in a structured clinical environment where we can feel feelings, face difficult memories, and heal, without having to turn to drugs and alcohol to get by.
We avoid feelings in our addiction because we are avoiding pain. This sentiment is two fold. First, our brains become chemically hardwired to seek pleasure, limiting the tolerance it has for pain. As a result, everything that isn’t pleasure, i.e. drugs and alcohol, is pain. Second, we don’t want to feel our own feelings. Emotions are chemical reactions in the mind, yet feel completely independent like they have a life of their own. For example, anger can feel like it is going to consume us. Sadness and grief often feel like they might break us.
There’s an important philosophy in recovery when it comes to making the choice between feeling feelings and learning to cope or continuing to run away: Feeling your feelings won’t kill you. Drugs and alcohol will. Getting through it is easy. Getting through it is hard. Again, there is a paradox. In order to let go of our feelings, we have to feel them. To process sadness, you have to experience the sadness. To process anger, you have to allow yourself to be angry. The only way to let feelings go and learn to live with them is to let yourself have them.
Many an addict and alcoholic have convinced themselves that drugs and alcohol are the answer to their pain. Each day, the addict is tasked with continuing to stay high or drunk so as not to feel. The problems don’t go away, in fact, they worsen. Like ignoring an infection, they continue to fester and worsen. Not expressing emotional pain can result in sickness, disease, and the fatal possibility of relapse.
You can be victorious in the fight against addiction. Everyone is capable of recovering. At Design For Change, we provide treatment programs which encourage clients to learn how to take action in their lives and create real change. For more information on our treatment programs and recovery services, call us today at (877) 267-3646.