Welcome to the 6th segment of a nine part series on the big areas of life that addiction/alcoholism and recovery can and need to have(for the recovery part)on our life in general. Please go into whatever archives exist on the site you are reading this to find the article from May of this year so you can get caught up on the main four areas. For the sake of bringing some people up to speed and for a quick reminder for those who read last month’s article, the main or fabulous four areas of life are: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Again, see the archives for a detailed breakdown of these areas. This month, we are going to take a closer look at some of the ways that addiction affects the emotional part of our life. Of course, there is so much information on this that it would literally take us at least a few years of daily articles to cover it all. Since you have no desire to spend that much time reading and ditto for me typing, we will cover some basics. As with all articles, I encourage you to do as much further research as you can/want on the subject.
How does addiction effect the emotional part of our lives? The emotional part of addiction may very well be the most talked about part of the addiction, human effect cycle. Almost anyone who is themselves an addict or alcoholic, or has a family member who is an addict or alcoholic has heard that when your using or drinking heavily, your emotional growth stops. But just how and why does this happen? I aim to answer that as simply as possible in this piece.
Think about it like this. There are many entities that tell us when we become adults. The government says 18, the vice industry(drinking, gambling)says 21, rent a car companies say 25. Psychiatrists and psychologists say somewhere between 26-28. This is when we reach full emotional maturity as evidenced by growth in our self worth and internal acceptance of things not going your way. This is a major part of our development and generally signifies the beginning of the prime of our lives. From the time we hit emotional independence, meaning we are totally responsible for our own emotions, usually around 12 or 13, up until 26-28 we are in our biggest emotional growth spurt. This is where we do most of our growing as people. As any growing is subject to, we experience growing pains. As a result most people do not have fond memories of those years. It is akward and emotionally painful at times. But, we need this time period to learn how to deal with things and to set ourselves up to be happy adults. When we use drugs or drink with any regulartiy, we compromise the whole process because we don’t have to deal with any of those emotions. We get to feel good, without having earned it. We call this an “unearned” high. Our self worth is based on the amount of “earned”(working, school achievements, family, etc.)that we achieve. When we are using the “unearned” highs, we don’t feel as good ultimately and we don’t grow. This is why many parents will complain that their 30 yr old addict acts like he is 14. Emotionally he is 14! If this is not addressed, it can cause a life of misery for that person and his family.
Once our emotions are blocked, we lack the ability to connect to positive things and to enjoy life the way people normally do. It is a very sad way to live indeed. Unfortunately, this article may be the most negative one because of the subject matter. Thankfully, as we will see next month, there is a lot of positives from getting clean and learning how to unblock your emotions and to enjoy life. This is the primary purpose of recovery and one of the main goals of treatment.
Enjoy the fall! We’ll see you next month!