Emotions Will Come Up

Every single one of my clients talks to me about the emotions that begin to roll in after they quit drinking. For so long, their frustrations, their stress, their sadness, and anger were being numbed by alcohol. After a hard day of work, they pop the cork on the wine. After a stressful conversation with their partner, they pour themselves another glass. Death in the family…they ruminate with others over more alcohol. Family gatherings or social outings, anxiety arises and they self-soothe with their drink of choice, loosening them up and lowering their inhibitions so they may converse with others. Emotions can be scary to deal with, especially if you have been neglecting them for a long time.

I remember the first time that some pretty heavy emotions took over my body after I quit drinking. My partner was out of town for business and this was the first time I was truly alone, without accountability or support. We were face timing one evening and in the background I could see a case of Bud Light on the counter in his hotel room. This was very triggering to me. He was not someone who drank in my presence, even though I knew sometimes on the weekend he would imbibe with his buddies. Seeing the alcohol in his room brought up several emotions I wasn’t sure how to deal with. I hadn’t developed any healthy coping mechanisms in my early sobriety. I was simply letting the willpower carry me through and this was dangerous for me. Not having developed any strategies to deal with the situation, after our call, I drove to the store and bought some beer. I didn’t want to feel the resentment and anger and jealousy that were coming up. And so I numbed myself.

Building Up Strategies

Learning healthy coping strategies doesn’t happen overnight. And of course, there’s the factor that all of us are unique in what works and what doesn’t. This is where knowing who you are as your unique self is very important. Just thinking you know yourself isn’t enough. This is where I utilize my 3 Pillars of Her to uncover all about my personality, my life values, and how my astrologically-born tendencies come into play. Personally, I value independence, spirituality, creativity, and concern for others. I am a Cancer and an Enneagram 5. For me this helps figure out the best strategies I can utilize that make sense to me, are supportive of my uniqueness, and will actually work. If I take a look at all that encompasses Molly, I have been able to determine that space, introspection, and meditation are my go-to strategies for dealing with overwhelming emotions. When I get angry, or frustrated, or things just aren’t going my way, I spend time alone either journaling or meditating. This works really well for me and has allowed me to remain sober while feeling all the feels, good and bad!

Once you figure out who you are, innately and uniquely, you can begin to build your own resilience to situations and emotions that will absolutely come up for you. You will begin to be aware and you can even say to yourself, “I’m feeling ______ so let’s use one of my strategies to relax/calm down/get clarity, etc.” Begin to dedicate 5 minutes anytime these emotions come up and within time, they will be a reflexive response. I realize in the middle of a meeting in a conference room surrounded by your co-workers might not be the most conducive environment to meditate. Mindfulness is also an excellent way to take your focus off of what you are feeling and instead experience one of your 5 senses. You can easily do this during a meeting by rubbing your fingers together and honing in on the textures of your fingertips. Nobody will even realize you are doing this. You can keep your hands under the table or at your side. Another trick I like to do when I’m in the company of others is to focus my attention on an object within the room. I begin to look at the object with such scrutiny. I notice the shapes, the colors, the shadows, the distance from me. And I do this until I am able to bring my focus back into the room and become an active participant again. Within time and practice, the overwhelming emotions become manageable.

Working Through Feelings

Imagine the place you live is suddenly leveled by a fire. Your belongings are ruined, the walls charred and soaked, the roof is gone. Other than standing outside and recognizing your surroundings, your home is indiscernible. You love the area, the community around you, the schools for your kids, the accessibility to your favorite restaurants. The option to move is out of the question. You decide you want to rebuild. You may no longer recognize they physical structure, but you remember what it used to be. You recollect the holidays in the front room with your loved ones, the smell of freshly baked cookies in the kitchen, your kids both human and furry running around loudly. These memories still exist in your mind, but your home that encapsulates all of those memories is burned to the ground.

That’s how your life becomes after drinking to numb your emotions. It becomes harder for you to see how beautiful it really was or could someday be. In order to rebuild, you first have to clear the space. You have to remove the debris, the trash, the half burned frame. You recognize bits and pieces , ‘oh that was my couch’ or ‘that used to be my bedroom.’  As you dig deeper through the rubble, you may find things you haven’t seen in years, maybe decades. The memories rush back, but you realize the structure ruined and so you start the restoration process.

Alone, cleaning up the debris and wreckage will take you a very long time, and the pain is difficult to manage. You can’t do this alone, and you want someone to be there for the times you uncover something distressing. Perhaps you come across something that’s black and wet and completely ruined, but you recognize what it once was, what it could be again, it is hard to let it go. You soon realize the cleanup process requires help. You need someone who will guide you through. With assistance you are able to move much faster through the rubble because your helper isn’t tied to the memories. You begin to clear a space to rebuild. Your surroundings are the same, the memories are still there, there may even be a few things you’re able to take with you. But you begin to rebuild. You start fresh, smarter and wiser, more resilient than before. This is the beginning of something better.

The journey through sobriety is the same. You have to clear the wreckage of your past to make way for something new. It can take years of therapy, self-guided journaling, praying, meditating, going it alone. Or you can reach out for help, with someone who has the know-how, the experience and compassion to guide you through your journey on a more efficient timeline. This is my purpose. This is my calling. Let me help you work through the emotional turmoil and guide you through rebuilding your home, your life, your essence that has been lost.