Pain can be a beautiful thing.
It tells us when something’s wrong or we need to make changes.
From pain emerges growth and from growth, wisdom
But not everyone learns from pain. Addicted individuals don’t cope well with difficult emotions due to a chemically imbalanced brain. Instead of feeling their pain, folks with this illness react to it. They don’t acknowledge pain through healthy communication. Rather they avoid feelings by using to numb out. They act out their emotions through unhealthy or aggressive behaviors such as silent treatment, or on the opposite spectrum; yelling, swearing, slamming doors, punching holes in walls, and throwing things. They can become verbally abusive and some, physically abusive.
If you hang out with an addicted person long enough you will observe their problems and feelings seem bigger than yours. You’ve experienced difficulties and uncomfortable emotions too, but you don’t react the way your addicted loved one does. That’s because addicted persons arrest emotionally at the age they first start using. If you start smoking weed at 14 to cope with anxiety or self-esteem issues, you will remain 14 – emotionally. Your physical body will age but you will function as a 14 year old child. Adult problems are extremely overwhelming when you feel like a child on the inside.
To complicate matters further, emotional pain can turn toxic, becoming dangerous, mood-altering self-pity. Self-pity is an excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles. It goes hand-in-hand with substance abuse.
Addiction is genetic. Although it can skip a generation, it runs in families the same way eye/hair color do. Which is why addiction is also an ‘environmental’ (meaning home) illness. When you grow up in an addicted home, you experience fear, anxiety and trauma. You learn to walk on eggshells and avoid your feelings. Avoiding emotions is a survival skill that results in emotional immaturity. Your physical body grows up but you feel like a child on the inside. In other words, if you’re genetically predisposed to this illness the first time you use, or rescue someone who does, you will fall in love – with the feeling. No more pain. No more anxiety. No more, not fitting in your skin.
One way to tell if you’re an addict is this; substance abusers feel in control when they’re using. Non-addicts feel out of control. Without help, addicted individuals will spiral downward until they come to the terminal stage of this disease. Then it’s jails, institutions, or death. But there is another option. RECOVERY. Step into your pain. Find out why it’s there and get help for it. This is crucial, for without the right help you will simply trade one addiction for another. 12 step meetings, Smart recovery groups or counseling is a good start. You may benefit from an accredited treatment center with a psychiatrist and doctor on staff who specialise in mental health and addiction as well as skilled therapists to help you through the group therapy and CBT process.
Regardless of how you choose to recover you can’t do it alone. Addiction uses your pain against you. It feeds on it, twists it and leaves you miserable. But there is a solution. Admit you have a problem. Ask for help and let people help you. Recovering addicts are warriors. There’s no shame in getting well. And it’s easier than you think. So get your brave on. All you have to do to get well is reach out. We’re here for you, when you do.