Dealing With Emotions

Emotions can be a powerful motivation in our lives, for good or for bad.  Emotions such as joy, peace and love can motivate us to do good for others and for ourselves.  Painful emotions such as sadness, guilt and envy can motivate us to find some way to escape the pain we are feeling.  Too often, people turn to drugs in order to escape these painful emotions.  Pleasant emotions can lure us to use drugs in order to intensify those pleasing feelings.

Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, emotions can be very powerful motivations in our lives.  It is important, therefore, that we evaluate how we respond to and manage our emotions.  Do we simply seek to escape unpleasant emotions and seek out pleasant emotions and try to intensify them?  We may be dominated by our emotions or seek to control them.  Trying to control our emotions is hopeless.  You can’t make yourself feel or not feel an emotion.  Can you tell yourself to be happy and succeed in doing so?  Of course not.  Emotions are simply there.  Allowing your emotions to control you is to abandon your ability to reason.  The other option is that we learn how to handle or manage our emotions.

Learning to manage our emotions can be difficult.  Managing emotions means learning how to respond rationally and humanly to what we feel.  Sadness can be a good example.  It is an emotion, but the question is what you do with it.  You cannot simply refuse to feel sad.  Nor can you allow your sadness to incapacitate you.  What must happen is that you acknowledge your sadness and continue with your day in spite of it.  Somewhere in the middle between denying your feelings and being dominated by your feelings is the middle ground where you acknowledge your feelings and are able to function effectively in spite of those feelings.

Emotions serve an important role in our lives, helping us to respond to the events of our lives.  When something bad occurs in our lives, we may feel sadness about it.  When something good happens in our lives, we may feel joyful about it.  To some degree, emotions mediate between the circumstances we find ourselves in and our rational minds.  A great deal of our lives is outside our ability to understand or control.  Our emotions enable us to respond humanly, not as computers, to what is going on in our lives.  You must allow yourself to feel what you feel, but also be able to function despite what you may feel.

Sin No More

When confronted with a woman who had been brought to Him as a sinner, Jesus told her that He would not condemn her, but He also told her that she should change her life or, as He put it, ‘Sin no more.’  I suspect that the family and friends of a recovering addict would more or less feel the same.  They do not, hopefully, condemn the person in recovery for the failures of the past, but they fully expect that they will not return to their former drug use.  It is not uncommon for people who are recovering from addiction to alcohol or other drugs to have a slip or two.  It’s part of the process of learning how to live a sober life.  A return to the previous behavior is something different.

For a person recovering from addiction to return to their former degree of drug use is often seen as abandoning their recovery.  This does not mean that all hope is lost and there is no longer any chance at recovery, but it does mean that the person must start over in recovery to some degree.  Even in the case of a return to previous drug use, it can still be an opportunity to learn.  By evaluating the circumstances of your return to previous drug use, you can come to a fuller appreciation of what motivates your drug use.

What really matters is how you respond to your slips or to your return to previous drug use.  If you see it as a failure, a loss, then that is what you’ll have.  If you instead recommit yourself to recovery, then you will have a learning opportunity.  Addiction is complicated, being a part of the way that you manage your life.  There are both mental and physical aspects to addiction and it can be a coping tool to aid you in dealing with various issues in your life.  All of this and more comes into play when we talk about addiction.  It is mental, physical and emotional in its origins and motivations.  The more you gain experience in recovery and the more you are able to learn from your mistakes, the more you will be able to live your life without reliance on mind-altering substances.

Addiction is not something you can simply turn off or turn on in your life, even though people may have said to you something like: “I don’t understand why you don’t just quit.”  It impacts, usually negatively, many aspects of your personality.  Despite this, the challenge remains:  sin no more!