My last blog talked about the importance of feelings in the formation of chemical addiction, more specifically how the suppression or inability to express emotions in a healthy way often causes people to seek unhealthy outlets for these feelings. At Genesis Recovery we work with people who have spent years, sometimes decades, drowning their emotional pain in booze and/or numbing it with drugs.

But what is it like to “not feel” for years? What is it like to come out of this “emotional coma” and suddenly have all of these unknown feelings come crashing down on you? Any one of our residents, or any recovering addict for that matter, would be able to tell you what that experience is like. Some people begin to use so early in their life, that they never even had a chance to learn how to feel emotions. Some haven’t felt anything for so long that they simply have forgotten how to. Early recovery is difficult because a person is suddenly overwhelmed with all of these feelings from the past and doesn’t have the tools yet to express or process them. What makes it even more difficult is that an addict might lack the ability to identify even what he is feeling, and will often misinterpret and confuse one feeling for another. Anger, sadness, guilt, empathy, fear – everything becomes one entangled knot. It is not uncommon for a person in early recovery to get a crying spell out of nowhere or laugh when it is inappropriate.

You can only imagine how uncomfortable it is to be overwhelmed by various feelings when you don’t know what they are, where they are coming from, and what to do with them. This is often the cause for people to relapse back into their addiction after putting together a little bit of clean time. Getting through the physical “kick” or withdrawal from the drug is extremely difficult, but so is facing this great amount of unresolved emotions. However, this is where the true healing of the soul begins.

Here at Genesis Recovery, we know how important it is to have support during this time, which is why we walk our residents through this emotional distress, providing them with guidance, understanding, and love in this time of need. People experience great vulnerability in the first weeks of sobriety. While this experience is always painful, it is also a time to learn about oneself and uncover the true reasons behind chemical addiction. It is our job to make sure that our residents have an eye-opening experience and grow through their discomfort.

We place great emphasis on educating our residents about feelings and providing them with healthy ways to express them. We begin with the simplest things, such as providing the residents with a table of feelings so they could learn to identify which emotions they are experiencing at each given moment. Working with feelings is a continuous process, just like anything in recovery. We ask our residents to “check in” with how they are feeling at the beginning of each group and help them process their emotions through each session. During our educational workshops, we teach our residents about the physical and psychological responses of the body to each feeling, which makes it easier for them to recognize and identify which emotion they are dealing with. For people who have never learned how to express themselves in healthy ways, learning such tools as the “I feel” statement can be a ground breaker.

The path of recovery is not easy, and the first weeks of being abstinent from chemical substances are often the hardest. Every addict who gets the gift of breaking free from the cycle of addiction must face the distress of suppressed negative emotions. However, nobody has to do this alone. At Genesis Recovery, we walk our Residents through this painful process, and feel blessed to watch them grow and transform from caterpillars to butterflies.

by Mila Kisina