Often, there’s one goal behind the years of drinking or using drugs, and that is self-protection. In some way, there’s a deeply embedded need to protect oneself against all the experiences of a painful past, as well as any future moments of potential suffering. There’s an instinctual need to hide the parts that feel fear and shame, which hinders one’s desire to finally seek the sober help necessary.
This pattern of self-protection is often the initial drive to drink and continues to be what prompts even the last drink or drug you take. Yet, the self-protection patterns clearly go deeper than the addiction and begin to show up more clearly after sobriety begins.
For instance, one woman explains that when she began to experience her dating partner withdraw from the relationship they were in together, her defenses went up quickly. The dating began after two of being sober and it was the landscape in which she began to experience an old self, a shameful self that she thought she buried years ago.
When she perceived her boyfriend pulling away, she believed that the inevitable was happening. She knew that the loving, fun, romantic experiences they were having together were bound to come to an end, and his pulling away was the first sign of that end coming. She also knew that she had been preparing for this rejection all along and that her strong defenses had been up from the beginning. She admits that it was like she wanted the rejection to finally happen because somewhere she knew it was going to take place regardless. And the part of her that believed in the inevitable rejection was the part of her who believed in being shameful. Of course, that end was going to come because she was ending the inner relationship with herself — finding ways to reject the part of herself that she deemed shameful.
But to make matters worse, it was as though throughout the relationship, because the inevitable was coming, it was hard for her to deal with the ambiguities and uncertainties of the relationship. She would often interpret his comments in certain ways and expect the end is near. Underneath, she only wanted the relationship to end so that she wouldn’t have to face the possibility of rejection.
Alcoholism is often an escape – from shame, from rejection, from pain, and even the possibility of pain. Yet, after healthy sober help tactics are implemented and sobriety starts to bloom, that escape is no longer viable. And, so, those feelings that were the cause for escape often rise to the surface. Certain life circumstances and relationships become the field in which that shame might show up and provide the opportunity to finally face it.
The path of sobriety after seeking sober help, although difficult, is an opportunity for facing oneself fully…finally. It is a chance to heal the emotional wounds that drove to drinking in the first place. Although it is a challenging journey, it is well worth it. The life of sobriety is a life of loving and finally accepting (instead of escaping) oneself.
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