Feelings……nothing more than feelings…and yet…aren’t feelings EVERYTHING?
What is the Ultimate motivation and purpose for everything that we do? To feel good. That is the Dilemma of the Addict. An Addict doesn’t have to get good grades to feel good. An Addict doesn’t have to learn how to be in relationship. An Addict doesn’t have to live within a budget and save for the future. An Addict doesn’t need any sense of accomplishment to feel good.
Just a fix, and the whole world is right………. for a time.
The Addict stopped learning to deal with feelings the day they discovered their Drug of Choice (D.O.C.). In fact, most development slows down or stops when the Addict discovers their Drug of Choice. That Drug of Choice can be alcohol, crystal meth, porn, heroin, or video games. Using is Euphoric. Using feels not just good, it feels great because drugs artificially raise the amount of dopamine in our brain. This is the core of addiction: Feel great without any effort. No need for development.
This is also why consequences don’t matter to the addict. Consequences can even threaten the Addicts sense of feeling good, thereby making them want to use even more to ESCAPE and to DISCONNECT.
Welcome to ROCK BOTTOM.
This is an instructive phrase from AA. There will come a point when the Addict begins to break out of the Fog of Use when the consequences of use become too painful. So painful that the pleasure of use can’t keep up with the pain of consequences. Using disconnects the user from reality. (Have you ever – as a caring individual- softened the consequences of use for an addict?)
A critical component of success in recovery is learning to deal with feelings. Unless an addict begins to move forward and experience real successes and happiness, they will only maintain abstinence for a relatively short time. Abstinence is great but it is not recovery. ‘Recovery’ is getting back what is lost – including the development that should have taken place during the using years. What is the biggest threat to feeling good? Feeling bad. But don’t non-addicts have bad feelings – even bad days? YES.
A major part of the addict’s recovery is learning to process feelings. Not just ‘Coping Skills’ but a deep understanding of emotions and the core components of life and living --- how to find joy and satisfaction in life. Of course, this is a developmental process that everyone has to go though, Addict or ‘Normy’ (AA term of endearment – person who can drink ‘normally’ and not be addicted). If you are the loved one of an addict, you will have to disconnect to the old ways of interacting with your addict. You will have to get into your own recovery from his or her addiction and learn completely different ways of being with your loved one. The old patterns will keep relapse a constant threat. Learning how to ‘process’ feelings is a great starting point for Addict and Normy to get started and get to work. What does it mean to ‘process’ feelings? Well, right now you ‘process’ feelings automatically without being aware of doing so; Feelings just are. Sometimes they suck. Sometimes they’re great. Processing means to take an active part in emotions by being purposefully involved in how feelings formed and sometimes reinterpreting the data to see if our emotion is warranted.
In particular, we want to examine big, life size feelings that may be persistent and devastating. Some of these ‘emotions’ can form the core of how we think, see ourselves and how we interact with the world – and our addiction.
The Dog Letter. A few months ago, as I was getting into my car that was parked on our street, I lifted a note off the windshield. It was an anonymous rant about how cruel it was for me to leave my dogs out in the cold all night. Not just to the dogs, but also to the neighbors who lost sleep due to the dogs barking. Now think for a moment about how this letter might have made me feel; Ashamed - because I’d been caught in the poor treatment of my dogs? Embarrassed – because I caused some neighbor to lose sleep? Angry – because my neighbors were all up in my business? How would you react?
My emotional response was easy. I smiled and drove off to work. I had no feelings at all about the letter. Am I just cold hearted? Maybe, but there is a critical piece of information that you need to know that had an important impact on my reaction: I don’t have a dog. My dog passed away 6 years ago. He used the doggy door to come in and out as he pleased. I loved my dog and he was very well cared for, and rarely barked.
Did you notice the dramatic shift in your thinking/feeling when you found out I didn’t have a dog? Emotions are often shifted just as dramatically by new insights and new ways of thinking. Processing feelings is about becoming aware and intentional about thoughts and emotions and applying principals and processes to clarify our thoughts and feelings. This process is actually a therapeutic modality called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and is a mainstay of treatment here at Renaissance Recovery Outpatient in Las Vegas NV and St George UT. If you or a loved one is ready to put their derailed thoughts, feelings and life back on track, please reach out and call us.
St George (435) 703-9840
Las Vegas (702) 983-4464
Phil Allen, Therapist Intern, Renaissance Recovery Outpatient Las Vegas Copy Right Phil Allen 2017 All rights reserved.