In my early sobriety, on certain days, I felt like I could jump right out of my skin and on other days, my body felt like a heavy, wet wool blanket, weighing me down inside a cocoon of scratchy, pungent depression. I could snap at a perceived insult or threat to my fragile ego and I cried more in my first year of sobriety than I ever had before. The appearance of my emotions was unpredictable and sometimes entirely unwanted.
We fool ourselves into believing that mood-altering with drugs, booze, co-dependence, or other substances and behaviors is really having a lasting effect on our underlying emotions. No, the underlying trauma and dysfunction remain. But the illusion that we can escape the causes and conditions of our dis-ease can feel good for quite a while. Unfortunately the consequences of avoiding our uncomfortable emotions can be devastating – lost spouses, jobs, homes and sanity.
In the beginning, as we warm up to our feelings like a reluctant virgin bride to her new husband on their wedding night, there is some coaxing to be done. Here are some simple guidelines to getting comfortable with discomfort while staying sober.
1) Don’t put a value judgment on your feelings: Put a sign in your mind. “All feelings accepted here.” Too many times, we have been brainwashed into believing that certain feelings are not okay, while others are fine, without realizing these judgments have been handed down from one dysfunctional generation to another. We are now the grown-ups and we can choose to make all our feelings valid. Feelings are not behaviors – they are the precursor to action. We can feel something without acting on it. So we needn’t judge what we’re feeling.
2) Relax: Relaxation of any kind will help soften the hard edges of our most intense emotions. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, listen to the sounds of water, or, if you can, get into some water. Take a bath or go for a swim. Do some meditation, or if your mind can’t stay quiet long enough, do a little stretching and bending. Sit quietly in the feeling.
3) Get friendly with your feelings: They are your friends, whether or not you can believe that now. They are part of your “reality” testing mechanism. My feelings, my “guts” tell me so much of what I need to know about most every situation I’m in. My emotions allow me to “feel” other people without even touching them. They are invaluable in relationships where we must continually navigate the emotional waters of those around us as part of our commitment to love them.
4) Go with the flow and release: Cry, scream, shout, get angry and apologize for getting angry, tell them exactly what you think. Ask for forgiveness or give it. Hold someone’s hand or let someone hold yours. Say no. Or say yes. Ride the tide of your emotions wherever they take you-unless your emotions will psychically or physically hurt someone else.
5) Most importantly, TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE FEELING. You don’t have to this alone. Forget that idiotic notion that we have to “tough” it out. We did that already and it didn’t work.
I offer a free chapter & free workbook section from my book “12 Steps for Recovery & Recovery Companion Workbook” on my website at http://www.12steps4recovery.com
May you enjoy an enlightening and empowering sobriety.