If you're struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The recovery work we do to heal from our addictions and mental health issues involves changing our emotional responses and our thought patterns. Sometimes our default way of dealing with difficult feelings is to have intense reactions – of worry, panic, anger or any other strong emotion. We tend to react strongly, and we often become overly stressed and overwhelmed as a result. As we know, this tends to compound our problems, because we're giving all this negative attention and energy to the tough feelings we're already struggling with. At the root of this pattern is our inability to cope with the discomfort that comes with our emotions. We're afraid of feeling emotionally uncomfortable. We're afraid of all the anxiety, uneasiness and instability that come with that kind of intense emotional discomfort. One of the best things we can do for our recovery is learn to become more comfortable with discomfort, with the fear and emotional pain can be very uncomfortable for us.
Our Responses to Discomfort
When we're highly emotionally uncomfortable, many of us find ourselves relapsing, turning to our drugs of choice for comfort and distraction. We can also find ourselves falling into periods of depression and struggling with acute mental health episodes or breakdowns, in part because we're reacting so strongly to the emotions that are hard for us to handle. These emotional responses can be detrimental to our sobriety and to our mental and emotional well-being. We can start this part of our healing process by figuring out which emotions we have the hardest time with, working to determine what our usual emotional responses are, and practicing being comfortable with discomfort, little by little until we feel our emotional resilience and flexibility increasing. We then feel stronger in coping with our emotions, more empowered when challenges arise, and better able to move through difficulties.
Having Patience Through the Difficulty of Discomfort
Learning to accept feeling uncomfortable isn't easy – it's uncomfortable! We want to try to be as patient with ourselves as possible. This is a demanding process, and we're not going to necessarily find it easy right away. Let's be patient and understanding with ourselves. We want to remind ourselves that our difficult emotions are some of the biggest challenges we'll confront in our recovery, as well as in our lives. Our addictive cravings, for example, can be filled with intense longing, sadness, and fear, all of which are really challenging to cope with. We can become needy, obsessive and even volatile. Our cravings can cause some of the most acute discomfort we experience in our recovery, leading us to relapse in part because of how uncomfortable we feel.
Moving Through Addictive Cravings
Learning to be comfortable with this discomfort, though, means we can successfully cope with addictive urges and postpone our use, letting go of our need for instant gratification. We're used to satisfying our urge as soon as it hits, not being able to handle the discomfort, and turning to our drug of choice almost immediately. We're not used to practicing moving through the urge, noticing how we're feeling, learning to stay calm, and moving through the urge with mindfulness. This is a perfect example of why learning to accept discomfort is so beneficial. We can practice stalling on our addictive urges, putting them off, staying centered and calm, and breathing until they pass. We can practice breathing exercises, repeat calming affirmations, or journal to help us move through the cravings and sit with the discomfort. We can use yoga, meditation, exercise and energy healing practices such as tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) to help us balance our energetic imbalances and soothe our tension and discomfort. We can help ourselves gain more control over our impulses, and stop feeling so dependent, so compulsive, so controlled by our addictions.
The Emotional Discomfort of Mental Illness
The same is true with all of the emotional discomfort that goes along with our mental and emotional health issues. When we're struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, we're filled with all kinds of tough emotions, including but certainly not limited to grief, shame, regret, self-hatred, anger. We feel empty, hopeless and lonely. We feel alone with our pain. All of these feelings are uncomfortable, and when we're afraid to feel them, we not only turn to our drugs of choice for relief, we also fall into worsened periods of depression, suffer from panic attacks, struggle with recurring bouts of mental illness, and can even require hospitalization. Sometimes our emotional discomfort is so intense we contemplate suicide as a way out.
Coping With Emotional Discomfort
Learning to cope with that emotional discomfort can mean the difference between moving through a period of depression or an anxiety attack, and being totally overwhelmed and debilitated by our emotions. When we feel an emotion coming on that's hard to handle, that maybe causes us to feel alarmed or scared, perhaps we're feeling that familiar twinge of panic, or a reminder of the intense sadness that we associate with depression, we can choose to accept the discomfort we're feeling but not react to it as strongly. We can choose not to panic about it or overreact to it, and to calm ourselves down instead. We can use all of the same tools for staying emotionally calm (listed above) that we can use for addictive cravings. We can begin to accept rather than resist our emotions. These things help us to feel more resilient, to increase our emotional willpower, and to have more control over the thoughts we think and emotions we feel. We can choose to let our discomfort be a passing feeling rather than a trigger for relapse or worsened episode of mental illness.
Professional help can make all the difference in your life. We are dedicated to helping young people achieve sobriety and mental and emotional well-being. We can help you live up to your full potential.
Reach out to WinGate Wilderness Therapy today.
P.O. Box 347
Kanab, UT 84741