Emotional Sobriety

Recovering from substance addiction—without becoming addicted to spirituality.

Becoming Integrated

Personal Reflections on Emotional Sobriety

Do you ever feel internally off-balance, where you can’t seem to hold on to any idea of who you are, what you are becoming, and where you are headed?

These feelings are often independent of our outward circumstances. For example, we may or may not have a job or relationship that triggers our insecurities but we can feel so fractured that our thoughts constantly race, we randomly cry, and we make little to no sense to others as we grasp at some semblance of security in our lives. I believe that this sense of security is our relationship to the emotional context of our lives -- the degree of our emotional sobriety.

Not long ago, I was in that very place. For six years, I had been in a secure job that had good people and benefits but I struggled to internalize the value and worth of my work. I had been living in a great part of town, but was having neighbor problems and needed to move. The dating scene for me was non-existent and had been for far too long. Despite my consistent and dedicated spiritual discipline, I felt deprived of any joy and passion. That only added to my frustrations and trapped feelings because to me, emotional sobriety is one of the gifts of an earnest spiritual practice, and I was feeling less than emotionally sober.

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After many days of sharing these scattered feelings with my spiritual mentor, he suggested I write on the question, “What am I doing to block myself from major change?” Of course, I agreed to take the action, but resisted the exercise for a few weeks out of contempt that I was somehow responsible for the seemingly hopeless, joyless state of my life. When I did attempt to write on the question, I rambled away in my notebook. Then one day, the word “pride” leaked out on the page, and I knew that it was that very thing that stood in the way of major change from happening in my life, like an internal guard protecting me. The more I wrote, the more I realized my pride was insulating me from having to start over again. Who would I be, what would I become and where would I be headed if I had to start over?

As a result of that clear, internal awareness, I became willing to let go of my pride and to start over… whatever that might mean or look like. Synchronistically, I met a man and in that cosmic, fated meeting with him, he became the catalyst I had needed to instigate the long awaited change in my life. I left my job and moved out of my apartment. Because I had been willing to let go of what was blocking me, the timing was right and those decisions came from a clear state of mind and emotion. My life changed in what felt like an instant, but deep down I knew that it was a part of a bigger picture, one that had been in motion for days, months, even years before. And because of the spiritual work I had been doing, I felt carried in a way that was unique and extraordinary. It was a revelation for me that good things could happen to me, and it was no small revelation, for up until this point my pride told me that it was foolish to want anything good at all.

During this time of transformation, I sincerely believed that I was to build a life with the man I saw as a soulmate. However, the relationship abruptly ended four months later. It felt like a death. I had to transition into a temporary living space. I wasn’t ready to decide where my next home would be nor what my career would be. For the last three months, I have been a transient in the external world, literally packing my bags every few days, moving my body around until I “know” where I am headed.

As unsettling as the movement can be, I recently had a friend remark that I am speaking more concisely. More thoughtfully, she added, “Integrated. You’re becoming integrated.” Immediately, I felt the resonance of the word. Integrated. “That’s it!” I replied. A wave of serenity moved from my heart to my solar plexus, and I became aware of my feet sturdy and strong beneath me. She had named my present circumstances, like naming a newborn child, and I stood in the feeling more aware than I had even two minutes prior.

I laughed an awkward laugh as I shared with her my external circumstances. She just smiled through her calm and gentle eyes, reflecting that of course, it was an internal integration. In that moment, I felt an awareness that can only be described as being genuinely and deeply “Okay.” I felt more okay standing in front of her then and sitting where I am now, than I was five months ago when I had the job and the apartment.  And I’m more okay now than I was two months ago when my soulmate and I were still together.

So, how is it that I am now able to have an idea of who I am, what I am becoming, and where I am headed in the midst of this incredible uncertainty? First, my job is the essential practice of staying in today. I am, on an hourly basis, surrendering my desire to know where I am headed, even when my mind insists that I figure it out. That is when I turn my attention to the next indicated action.

Sometimes, the next indicated action is to share my feelings with people I trust. I am able to do that with the solid network of friends who support and believe in me, with whom I can share the most intimate thoughts and feelings. In Dr. Ingrid Mathieu’s article, “The Problem is Not the Problem,” for Psychology Today she says, “Spirituality is not an eraser. It is a container.” When I process the powerful, many times uncomfortable, thoughts and feelings through writing and focused feeling exercises, I’m not trying to get rid of them. I’m working to integrate the lessons they have for me.

That is why my friend’s comment about becoming integrated was pivotal for me. I have integrated awareness of my pride and how it holds me back, I now know that I need to do work that expresses who I am, and I can no longer compromise certain aspects of myself. I now have a stronger sense of my needs and what I want from life and most importantly, I know that it is possible for me to experience a grounded yet spontaneously happy present.

My friend’s message of integration described the esteem-able feeling that is taking place inside of me, inside the spiritual container that envelops me. It is quiet and confident, as well as expansive and dynamic. Of course, there are also external signs of my integration, like her noticing that my communication is becoming more concise. I believe that it is all a direct result of connecting to who I am. All of me. It is as if I’m watching the pieces of me, the old and the new, shift and meld into a pattern I can only describe as WHOLE.

 

-- By guest-blogger, Rachel Drews. Rachel is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. She is currently working on her first novel.

Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D., specializes in the intersection of spirituality and addiction. Her book, Recovering Spirituality, centers on the problem of using spirituality to avoid real recovery. more...

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