A friend recently pointed out to me that she keeps seeing ads about how to quit smoking. As we all know, nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to stop. Every twenty minutes, the brain signals for more, and like other powerful drugs, it’s that first inhale from a cigarette that gets people hooked.
The first time I smoked at age twelve, I couldn’t stop. That very night I smoked almost an entire carton, one cigarette after another. The next day, I felt sick and poisoned, but I couldn’t wait to get my next cigarette. Though my parents didn’t smoke, they kept a few cigarettes out for the company. Those rapidly disappeared. If I couldn’t buy them, I’d beg, borrow, or steal. The next twenty years were like all of my other addictions, packed with stopping and starting. I’d quit during pregnancies, or when I saw an ad about throat cancer or any other time I was scared. But fear was not enough to stop me from my addiction for good. It wasn’t until I decided to love myself that I was able to succeed for good. That success depended upon learning how to face my emotions.
Quitting Is Not Enough
Deciding to stop an addiction is an excellent choice, but for most people, it won’t be enough. Most people who are addicted are experts at quitting, just as they are experts at coming up with reasons to start again. “If you had the stress I have, you’d do this, too,” “I felt so lonely, my addiction was my best friend,” or “I was so miserable my husband told me to start smoking again,” to name a few.
There’s Some Work to Do
Many people are so elated that they’ve stopped an addiction; they don’t realize that once that pink cloud wears off, there’s work to do. Every addiction has an underlying cause, the invisible hole, that formed as a result of unresolved trauma. That old pain is packed in the invisible hole and needs to be acknowledged and healed. If not, a person is apt to return to the old addiction or take up a new one.
All addictions provide a sense of temporary emotional numbing. They either give you a feeling that is missing, or they take away unwanted emotions. For me, the little hit of nicotine anesthetized my troubles, and like all drugs, it gave me a false sense of well-being.
When someone gives up an addiction that has been keeping them sedated, it can be overwhelming. If you’ve been self-medicating feelings your whole life, you have numbed out anger, sorrow, and grief. Those feelings never went away, and now they are bouncing all over the place.
There’s a theory that whatever age you started using is your emotional age now.
Maturity is learning how to manage feelings productively. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel; you learn how to accept your feelings and express them in healthy ways. You don’t have to hide what you feel, you remain authentic, but you share those emotions in a way that is not harmful to yourself or others. Learning how to do this may take a little time, but investing that time in your personal growth is an act of self-love.
All Feelings are Good Feelings
Most of us were not taught how to manage our emotions in healthy ways. Now you can learn that all feelings are acceptable, but there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to express them.
Even painful feelings need to be acknowledged; they are the signal to release pain, or that something is wrong.
You can’t expect yourself to feel cool, calm, and collected when you’re coming off an addiction. You’ve probably spent years stuffing and ignoring everything that made you feel the least bit uncomfortable. Be patient with yourself. Talk about your pain, journal, and allow the tears to flow. Learn how to pause; let the feelings diffuse, then communicate with love. The more you practice, the better you will feel about yourself.
If you want to stay sober, embracing your emotions is key. Your feelings are a natural part of being alive. You don’t need to kill them off with an addiction. When you shut off the negative emotions, you are disconnected from the positive ones as well.
Are you willing to connect inwardly and allow yourself to grow?
You can start right now by deciding that you are worth saving.
Can you relate? Please share your comments or insights below.
If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website https://drdonnamarks.com/
About the Author — Dr. Donna Marks believes that the current models for diagnosis, treatment, and addiction have failed. Her mission is to help save at least 10 million lives by 2030, through education and prevention. She has been an author, consultant, educator, public speaker, licensed psychotherapist, instructor of A Course in Miracles, and addictions counselor in private practice in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than thirty years. www.drdonnamarks.com