Aurora Community Counseling
Wendy Prigge LSW-CSAC
Aurora Community Counseling was a partner (Honorary Sponsor) with TSOI’s past Recovery Month events.
*No Blogs were meant to substitute professional counseling or other assistance
Feelings are something we have the most of but know the least of how to deal with. We learn from our role models who are often our parents, grandparents, other family members, teachers, or a friend. Sometimes we have good role models and sometimes not. Some families are very open and too much in everyone’s business. Some are very quiet and avoid sharing much of anything. People go through life avoiding any significant disclosures which leads to people playing roles trying to be the kind of person they think others expect.
In chemical dependent families there is usually the “NO TALK” rule. There can be an elephant in the living room but no one talks about it. The family pretends everything is ok. Everyone is expected to protect the family by keeping the dirty laundry a secret. The family members are expected to seek help only within the family but even within the family we don’t talk about certain things such as how mom or dad acted last night when he or she was drinking. This is what we call denial. It occurs with the family and with the person who is chemically dependent or alcoholic.
So why would we talk about feelings in recovery? People addicted to alcohol and drugs use or drink for relief. The first symptom of this disease is to use or drink for relief. The second symptom of the disease is constant relief using or drinking. The number one trigger for those who are alcoholic to drink again is negative emotional effect or negative feelings. So people with chemical dependence stuff their feelings. The whole family learns to stuff feelings. Because people who are alcoholic learn to stuff their feelings they don’t learn to cope with uncomfortable feelings. This leaves them at risk for relapse.
So why are feelings important anyway? What is the big deal? Our feelings are a big part of who we are. We need to be able to identify them and share them with the people closest to us so they can know us. When we hide our feeling people have to guess what you are feeling. People may assume they know what you are feeling which leads to wrong assumptions. This can lead to conflict. The people who want to know us such as our family and friends can be left in the dark.
Some people who are alcoholic or chemically dependent get high or drunk and do or say things that are very upsetting or mean. Often there are broken promises, broken trust, and strained relationships in families where drinking or drug use occurs. This behavior can result in hurt and angry feelings. Families and people who are chemically dependent need to be able to sort through their problems and feelings from the past to repair their relationships.
Healing occurs when people are able to share honestly and openly without fear. We are human beings that are alive and always growing and changing. We have feelings that are comfortable or uncomfortable but not good or bad. Our feelings are our very personal possessions and need to be managed as they come. In recovery we need to be able to identify our feelings, avoid suppressing them, and develop coping skills to manage them. We need to know how to share our feelings appropriately. They are always changing.
*TSOI recognizes that the lack of communication not only happens to families where substance abuse is involved, but to a variety of families and situations. Just because alcohol or other drugs may not be involved doesn’t mean that the dynamics in the family are healthy.