It’s often said that one of the best gifts a sober and recovering life can bring a person is to feel again. But, ironically, it’s also said to be one of its greatest challenges too. The reality I’ve learned on the road to a healthy sober and recovering life is that both statements are indeed true, that “feeling” again can be both a blessing and a curse.
When I used to be deeply engaged in a number of different addictions, the whole reason was because I didn’t want to feel what was going on within me. For example, when I drank alcohol and did drugs for the years I did, it was to cover up my feelings surrounding my sexuality, getting abused, alcoholic parents, etc. And for those years I deeply engaged in an addiction that dealt with sex and love issues, it was so that I didn’t have to feel the emptiness, loneliness, and despair I constantly felt inside.
Every single addict I’ve ever met and gotten to know has struggled with this very same problem. They always fell deep into their addiction because they didn’t want to feel some aspect of their lives, whether it was over some childhood pain, or some trauma they went through later, or because they didn’t like who they saw in the mirror every day, or because of something bad they’d done in life, or due to some serious resentment they still carried, etc. At the core of every single person’s addiction is always something they don’t want to feel. So, on some level, an addiction becomes the main solution to not feeling some undesirable feeling.
But eventually when an individual finds sobriety and recovery from their addiction, the process naturally causes them to begin to feel again, which at first can feel quite wonderful. Things actually seem brighter. Friendships feel closer. Tears of joy tend to occur. Life starts to feel really good. Then reality sets in one day.
A terrible tragedy strikes. Serious financial issues arise. An awful break-up with a loved one occurs. A job is lost. A 4thStep inventory causes bad memories to surface. Etc. To the addict who’s avoided feeling for so long, who finally has begun to feel again, it all starts to not feel so good anymore. “Feeling” then begins to be associated with pain where the ego attempts to tell the addict that life in the addiction was far better.
The fact is, feeling pain on any level is never fun. It’s precisely why so many stay active in an addiction for much of their life. It’s easier in their mind to not feel whatever it is going on in their lives they don’t like, which is precisely why an addiction becomes their solution. But oddly enough, the deeper one falls into their addiction, the more the pain of doing it increases, thus causing one to feel pain anyway, which in turn leads to a greater desire to do the addiction, until it becomes a perpetual cycle of running from feeling anything.
I’ve had to feel an incredible amount of pain in my sobriety and recovery like the deaths of my parents, friends leaving my life, health issues, sponsees lashing out, harsh judgments from others, etc. None of it was easy or a pleasure to deal with. Yet in the same breath, I can say I’ve also had wonderful experiences in sobriety and recovery from being able to feel again, like being able to be there now for others in their difficult moments, developing deeply intimate friendships, and healthily grieving the losses of loved ones (including pets!) when they’ve happened.
So, yes, indeed, it can be both a blessing and a curse to feel again in a sober and recovering life. In the long run, I’d choose to feel any day over not feeling, because at least when I’m feeling, I know I still have a heart, something I didn’t know I still had or not when addiction ruled my life.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson