I’ve heard addiction described as—among other things—using something outside of yourself to cope with painful feelings. This can happen even after you quit using substances; it’s one of the reasons many people with substance use disorders also struggle with other, behavioral addictions.
Looking to things outside yourself to “solve” your emotional pain often leads to more pain. As Russell Brand, who has been in recovery almost two decades, said, “I think it [addiction] is an attachment, a belief that the material and external world can somehow resolve the problems of your inner life…Addiction begins with pain and it ends with pain.”
Coming up on six years sober, my sense of self-worth, confidence, and trust in myself are all worlds better than they were during active addiction. They’ve been growing since I got sober, and continue to do so. What has taken longer is the ability to sit with emotional pain and difficult feelings without looking for a “quick fix.” Regular meditation has helped; it changes parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation, so that your feelings are more manageable.
When you rely on things like drugs or alcohol, other people’s behaviors, or anything else external to feel okay, it removes your sense of control over your own life. I haven’t gone the AA route, but the serenity prayer—commonly used and popularized by AA—feels very useful to me. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This doesn’t mean that it’s not okay to respond emotionally to the things that happen in your life. In fact, it’s really important to do so. But things like therapy and meditation can help you learn to cope with your feelings in a different, healthier way.
Health encompasses the physical, emotional, and mental; even if you are physically healthy, engaging in destructive patterns can take a big toll on your overall well-being. Meanwhile, engaging emotional pain in constructive ways can bring a kind of peace.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build internal peace in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.