The Triggering Effect Part 4: Feelings

Recovery is the ability to tolerate your feelings

Posted Oct 30, 2009

Addicts have used their behaviors and substances for years to separate from their emotional states. And there is so much to feel —guilt for how your behavior has hurt others, sadness for your losses, anger with yourself, fear of what is in front of you, shame for thinking you are inadequate, not worthy. You can act out in response to every feeling imaginable.

Any person or situation can trigger threatening feelings.  You are upset when you realize your friends are reluctant to include you on a weekend outing because you created a scene last time. You want the people you work with to like you but you are anxious that you will be rejected or not welcomed. Your sister won’t let you baby-sit her kids anymore and you feel guilty, sad and angry. You just met with your ex-wife and you walk away angry, like always when you see her.  You are working hard in your recovery and you know you are doing pretty well, but it still isn’t easy to have these feelings and not be reactive. You lessen or get rid of feelings when you own them, talk about them or, in some cases, engage in problem solving.  It is when you try to divert, ignore, and numb that you get into trouble.   Feelings are a part of the human condition and you can’t escape them, so the goal is to learn how to tolerate the feelings. 

Recovery is the ability to tolerate your feelings without the need to medicate, or engage in self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors and thoughts. 

Recognize the gifts that come with feelings.   Feelings are cues and indicators telling you what you need. Loneliness tells you, in your humanness, you need connection; fear can offer you protection, sadness offers growth, guilt is your conscience, offering direction for amends. It is critical for you to have this insight and more importantly to start to take ownership of the feelings when you have them. It is vital to learn how to be with the feeling and how to appropriately express it.  It is also necessary to find safe people to share your emotional experiences.   So when you recognize your feelings, ask yourself;

What do you need?

What feelings do you go to any length to avoid?

What is the price you pay for hiding, masking those feelings?

Look for the next part on The Triggering Effect which will focus on loss.

In the meantime you have options: 

  1. Practice staying in the present; don’t sit in the past or project into the future.
  2. Validate the gifts of recovery for the day – practice gratitude daily.
  3. Identify, build and use a support system – you need to stay connected. History and experience have proven time and time again that recovery is not a solitary process and cannot be sustained in isolation. 
  4. Trust your Higher Power is on your side.