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7 Perspectives on Feeling the Feels – Emotional Regulation in Sobriety
I’ve always thought that I drank to numb. To avoid. To not bloody feel. And that was true some of the time. But I don’t think the story ends there. I think sometimes, we drink to feel. We can sometimes drink to a very emotional level. Emotional regulation up and down? Ever been the drunk emotional one at a party? Check. Ever picked a fight with your spouse while drunk? Check. Ever made any big grand gestures because you were buzzed wide open? I love you too man.
When we drink, we often allow the difficult feelings to rise a little; we can deal with them a bit because they have less sharp edges and feel less scary. Maybe even process them a little. But it’s fleeting and not lasting because it isn’t authentic.
We can also drink to feel good. To turn off the self-critic.
So we might drink to numb, but I believe we also drink to feel.
To allow the feelings to flow.
I drank out of fear. Fear that who I am as a person isn’t good enough, interesting enough or likeable enough. Drinking hid these insecurities and allowed me to be who I’ve always wanted to be. I felt free, opinionated, funny, and wild in bed. Like someone easily loved, both by my family and friends.
For me, drinking wasn’t all about escape and numbing like I initially thought. Understanding this helps me to figure out what I need to do in sobriety – to meet the needs I have that maybe sometimes drinking provides.
We learn to stuff so much difficult emotion down because life is busy. We have responsibilities, jobs, kids, and grocery shopping. We might feel upset about something but rationalise our way out of our feelings. Everything is fine, pass the ketchup.
When we stop drinking, there can be a tsunami of raw emotion to deal with. Emotional regulation in early sobriety is a bear. In the first weeks and months when you go alcohol-free feeling the feels in an unfiltered, authentic way, can be overwhelming. Here are thoughts from our Boozemusings blog, based on the experience of members of our Boom community, on sitting with whatever may come your way in early sobriety.
Trying to ease stress or anxiety with alcohol is like throwing gasoline on a fire
7 posts on Feeling the Feels or Emotional Regulation in Early Sobriety
Emotional regulation? I was taught to swallow my emotions. The good ones and the bad.
I was criticized if I was overtly happy or excited about something, I was told not to cry if I was sad. If I was angry, I was physically punished for it until I stopped displaying my anger. As I’ve grown up, I’ve always had that anger simmering under the surface. It’s a wild unpredictable thing and when it is awake, it is destructive. It feels like it’s an entity that I need to purge from my body physically before it consumes me. I am not always angry- in fact, I’m usually quite the opposite, but it’s always there just simmering under the surface.
I have tried to drink away my pain and rage for almost half of my life because quite frankly, I am scared of my own anger. I know if I dig deeper than my anger, that the real emotion underneath is pain. Pain at injustices that never should have occurred in my childhood. Pain at my family of origins pain. I swallowed these emotions with a strong dose of drink.
and more by this author Alcohol Takes – Thoughts on Fear, Loneliness and Living Sober
Even when things seem to be clicking along in good order, we can encounter a sudden patch of Darkness. Depression or anxiety or some other unwelcome visitor might break down the door and move in. Sometimes we know exactly what we’re dealing with, like the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one or a feared diagnosis or a betrayal or any number of painful life events.
At other times, we don’t know why our world has gone 40 Shades of Black or why we are in so much emotional pain that we can hardly breathe. Whatever is trying to be acknowledged or make its way out is just too deep, too unknowable. And it’s a great idea to throw the book at it—explore every behavioral and dietary change that makes sense, every bit of trusted wisdom and guidance, whatever we know or are guided to do. Shifts and breakthroughs can happen and light can start shining through the cracks.
read more here Breathe and Allow
I’ve had to find out who I am – who I REALLY am- and that has been a roller-coaster. The feelings and emotions I feel naturally when coping with life are random and scary at times. They were always there. Even as a child I can now remember them. Stopping drinking made me face them. I’ve had to learn to accept ME in all my ‘glory’ and live with me. You see starting to drink at 16 gave me something. I had a family loss at 16 but ultimately I needed a cop out long before that.
Alcohol masked emotions and my personality. It took away the bits of me I struggled with.
read more Feeling Everything
and from the same author What Does it Feel Like to go Alcohol-Free ?
I’m very good at putting emotions in a box. I’m not a crier, too many heartbreaks have given me great defences. Alcohol allows me to loosen the real me up. Still no grand scale arguments, but a lot of grand gestures and soul searching
The whole point of this meditation in sobriety business is to create more consciousness. Awareness. Stillness.
Improved emotional regulation with meditation is a proven scientific fact. The part of your brain responsible for emotional regulation grows with meditation practice. It physically expands.
And with this expansion comes the theory of synchronicity too. The support of nature. In enlightenment you are at one with those laws of nature, so it’s like Mother Nature smiles at you. You start seeing a bigger picture; you start appreciating life and people more and more. And you are enjoying life more as you go. The richness of existence.
and from the same author Sober Momentum- Enjoying the Journey Alcohol-Free by Learning to Tone Your Vagus Nerve
“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”
[Blueprint for a Breakthrough (2013)]”― Shane Koyczan
For those of us who manage to stop drinking, we sometimes find that sobriety is not the cure in and of itself for the depression we felt while drinking. Going sober is often followed by a sort of pink cloud euphoria at coming out from under the rock of dealing with daily hangovers, but we can suddenly feel everything, the good and the bad, and if we continue to be faced with feelings of despair and depression after cutting out the alcohol, we may question ourselves.
What is wrong with me –
Part of the process of staying sober is figuring out that chicken and egg equation of that alcohol and depression rollercoaster. Did the drinking inspire the depression or did the depression exist on its own? Now that I’ve stopped trying to self medicate with alcohol, what is the solution that is best for me?
read more The Alcohol and Depression Rollercoaster
When you stop drinking, you start on a voyage of self-discovery. After the initial euphoria, comes the wtf? Which usually has a bit to do with, wtf have I done with my life. Odious comparisons, feelings of failure and loss, grief so deep that it can physically hurt. Many try to fix this with changing their lives externally…new job, new city, new relationship. But as the time in sobriety lengthens, it becomes apparent that these external fixes are mere sticking plaster, and there is a bigger job to be done…fixing your internal world…getting yourself back into sync with you.
This is when you have to take yourself on your own internal walkabout, and sit with you in your own personal desert.
Sometimes I drank to cry. I often feel I have a cry in me but it won’t come. So yes, sometimes I drank and would sob and cry for hours. Or to feel angry sometimes too. I could let the angry thoughts come up when drunk.
The fact that we drank both to numb and to feel is crazy! How can one drink do both!?
Like drinking to relax, but also drinking to get revved up and party
There’s no need to EVER feel apologetic about our feelings. Feelings are what define us, along with our actions.
I love my grumpiness, angst, depression (which is slight these days), hurt and shame. They encourage me to look at things in a Different Way. And by looking at things differently, I can DO something which I hadn’t considered before.
Feelings are like lighthouses: pointing to another direction and another view. So FEEL and don’t apologise. And please don’t label them as “bad,” or “unhelpful” because I reckon they’re mighty helpful.
read more Feelings are Like Lighthouses
and from the same author Serenity- Letting go of the Drama in Sobriety
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