Emotion is a ginormous part of this journey of dealing with addiction. The negative emotions are real. They are big. They are raw. They cut deep. They hurt.
Sometimes I wonder how to deal with them.
I've learned a lot about dealing with emotion and stress. In the past three years, I have felt unimaginable amounts of emotion, specifically negative emotion, and stress. When I look back and reflect, sometimes I surprise myself at how much I have really learned.
Emotions have been on my brain all week. Ummm, that's because I have gone through a lot of them (this week especially). Most have been negative, but then there is that conflict of emotion that is hard to deal with: angry, but longing for love; exhausted, but desperate to get through; sad, but full of those darn happy memories; scared, but full of peace. It all builds up and creates stress, especially when added on top of the other life stuff, which for me includes responsibilities at home, school, and church.
How do we deal with it all? It's so much. It seems like every normal stressor is made worse by the stress and emotional battlefield of the addiction.
This is what I've learned:
1) Allow yourself to feel emotion. Too many times I have tried to shove the emotions down. They are painful. They are scary, and quite honestly, it just plain seems easier to not feel, to just push it back and put on the brave face. That doesn't work. That has never worked for me. It's like putting a band-aid over an open, gaping wound. It may cover the wound for a short time, but it will fall off. When you need stitches, covering it with a small band-aid only temporarily helps. Then you run the risk of infection and a much worse wound. The temporary solution of ignoring emotions that are hard to deal with is just that: temporary. It feeds the wound so it becomes "infected" and basically bursts open. Worse. When you don't allow yourself to feel emotion, for whatever reason (fear, manipulation, etc.), you are asking for an explosion later on. And my explosions usually include a lot of exhausting tears and much worse negative emotion. So let yourself feel. Let the emotion play its course. And eat some brownies if you have to.
2) Find a good outlet for your emotions. There are many options here. First, I'll say don't be afraid to talk to a trusted friend. I have been afraid of that in the past. Sometimes it's fear of Jack, and sometimes it's because I'm afraid of what that person might think or do. If you pray, God will help you find the right people to confide in. My friend Harriet helped me realize it's okay, even necessary, to share this burden with others. One of my friends in whom I confided, upon hearing my fears (after we had talked a long time) reminded me of our baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens that they may be light, to comfort others, and to mourn with those that mourn. How can we do that if we don't share our burdens?
Another outlet for me is writing. A missionary at my group in Utah encouraged me to have a separate journal for anger and recovery. So I have an angry journal. I use it for when I feel like my head will explode with all my stress and pain. And I will burn it when it is filled up. NO ONE, not even me, reads my angry journal. It's personal. It's simply an outlet for pain. It's my journal that I never re-read because it's only full of pain. It's all useless venting to release emotion. And it has worked. It has helped me feel and express my emotions in a non-destructive manner.
I also have other hobbies that help me deal with emotion: painting, and exercising. Those aren't my only hobbies, but they are my best stress-relievers. I try not to emotionally eat because it usually makes me feel worse afterwards, but, hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Sometimes only brownies and ice cream can handle me and my emotions. ;)
3) Try to see the bigger picture. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I know there is an eternal purpose for my experiences here. I also know I have a Father in Heaven who sent His Son to die for me. He can succor me. He can lift me up. And as I turn to Him, I am drawing closer to His glory. He is my source of strength and power, and I know through Him that there is an end to my pains, and something beautiful in store for me.
4) Pray. We can obtain divine powers through prayer. It is through prayer that I have gained strength and courage to face my emotions and stress head on. Through prayer, I've felt and kept my eyes open to see what God had blessed me with.
5) Express your emotions. Be open and communicate with your spouse about your needs. If your emotions and stress stem from the addiction, express to your spouse what you feel. That is really hard and scary. But you have to be open for a few reasons. If you're not open, your spouse actually may not have a clue how you really feel. I feel like that happens to me a lot because I try to be brave and supportive. He has to know how I feel and what my boundaries are or else I get taken advantage of (even if he is not intentionally taking advantage of me). For my emotional safety, I have established a norm of open communication about emotion in our relationship. It has really helped me so I don't feel that stupid guilt when I feel certain emotions but he doesn't know. Seriously you guys, I used to feel so guilty when I would feel the negative emotions that are totally NORMAL for our situation. I always tried to be supportive and loving and focus on meeting his needs and fixing his emotions so he would be happy. I thought if he was happy, I was happy. Not so. I have to focus on me and my emotional needs. Expressing it to him has to be done for my healing.
6) Reach outside yourself. Giving service is healing. I've been given multiple priesthood blessings where I was told that my sensitivity because of my experiences will prove to be something that allows me to recognize and acknowledge pain in others. It's true, and I think that's true for all of us. When you have suffered to a certain degree, you can see the suffering in others.you recognize it because you've been there. So, use that gift to help others heal. Give service. Find ways you can reach out to others and make a difference. I promise looking outside your own difficult emotions will prove to be a healing balm for those very emotions that are so hard to deal with.
Emotions are tough. Even if it's not about addiction, emotions are tough. We all have our trials. Some are trials through fire, and they are HARD. But thankfully, we can all help each other. And we have a Father and Christ to lean on, who give us courage and strength.
I'm praying for you beautiful readers. I know many of us are hitting hard times together. We can do this. YOU can do this.
I love you :)