I often hear in the recovery community that some emotions are bad while others are good. I understand that point of view but I believe it is incorrect. It may not seem like a problem, but I think it is very important to be precise when talking about this topic so that we are not led astray. Emotions can be extremely powerful and if we perceive them incorrectly for a long period of time, it can be catastrophic for our recovery. It has always been an emotion that I acted on that caused a relapse.
Some people believe anger is an emotion that should be suppressed, ignored or outright avoided at all costs. Anger is healthy. Anger is the opposite of depression and is a valuable emotion that we should speak to, and evaluate in much more depth. If you begin to feel anger, that emotion is there for a very good reason. Suppressing it or ignoring it is only erasing your true self. Of course, it is possible to allow anger to get out of control. That means you are not listening to what it is saying to you. You are simply allowing it to operate you like a giant meat puppet. Figure out what it is telling you. Don’t confuse anger with rage. Rage can be destructive. If you are swinging a baseball bat through the flat-screen, it is safe to say that you are no longer angry. If you act as though your emotions are “against” you instead of there to help you, you are not going through optimal recovery and very little growth, if any, will occur. Your emotions are your friends. Your emotions are your true self. Don’t treat them with contempt or hatred. Each one of your emotions is a part of your personality eco-system. They are your Board of Directors. They are your Congress (a Congress that actually does something useful.)
When I was in early sobriety, I remember how powerful and overwhelming my emotions were. So I understand the early random flooding bombardment of uncontrolled guilt-cry-happy-joyous-disgust fits that hit without warning. I also know that I made it through that time and I am still alive. Emotions always fade away. That is why it is so important to understand what they are trying to tell us and why.
Relapsing because of a non-harmful emotion seems kind of silly in hindsight. When my father passed away, I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. The pain felt so powerful, so intense. I knew the pain wasn’t going to kill me and even though it felt similar to physical pain, I knew it was just a deep sadness and grieving in knowing I could never see him again. I allowed myself to wail over his death. I remember sobbing loudly and uncontrollably on my mother’s couch with my wife at my side. Right in the middle of my emotional deluge, a thought popped into my head. I realized at that moment that my father’s death was not a good enough reason for me to relapse. I knew I would be okay.
For so much of my life, I have misunderstood my emotions. I have let my emotions overrun my life by my misguided reactions and irrationality. I’ve mainly focused on anger and sadness in this post but all of our emotions are legitimate mind/body awareness that tell us everything we need to know. The hard part is figuring out what they are trying to say. As long as we don’t push them away and suppress them as unnecessary glitches in the system, we can grow and learn everything we need to know about who we are. Just remember there is always a thought before an emotion. You have that “magic quarter of a second” to beat your emotion to the punch. But don’t punch your emotion, violence is bad.