I was not able to find any scientific evidence stating addicts stunt their emotional growth the minute they start drinking and drugging to cope with their feelings.
What is emotional maturity? A mature person takes responsibility for their own feelings and actions and learns what to do with their emotions (contrary to repression or blame). Coupled with the acceptance of others and the ability to NOT PLAY GOD. They show respect toward their fellow man and do no harm to themselves or others of any form.
ANGER THE ACCEPTED EMOTION
But it’s obvious and common-sense that when we no longer use healthy emotional coping skills we resort to unhealthy ones. Drinking and drugging to mask intense fear and inferiority issues causes emotional stagnation. This emotional numbing process goes hand in hand with suppressing feelings. For instance instead of crying when we are hurt we pound down a twelve pack and become an angry drunk because we think to be hurt shows weakness so we never address the core “emotional hurts” behind our anger. The supposedly “recovering” addict can engage in a similar sick emotional process while sober. Just substitute blame or any character defect in place of the twelve pack and we can still repress our emotions and stay in denial of fear and pain.
My own inadequacies are haunting me even after years of twelve step work, therapy, and spiritual experiences.
There seems to be no permanent remedy to character defects and perfectionism. But rather it takes spiritual maintenance (steps 10-12) to stay positive and emotionally healthy once sick emotional processes have been introduced to the brain (especially in the formative years).
I really do dislike the fact that I can’t be fixed once and for all and that I will always need spiritual solutions BUT there are worse things.
“FEAR” THE UNACCEPTABLE FEELING
Here is what Bill W. said about “fear”;
“this short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we ourselves set the ball rolling?”
Before we can mature emotionally in sobriety we need to learn how to process our feelings. Sounds like psycho-babble right? Emotionally healthy people use processes like this for instance.
“HURT FEELINGS” THE UNACCEPTABLE EMOTION & SOLUTIONS
First we admit our emotional pains, insecurities and fears. We moan, scream (not at anybody) or cry them out, that’s why God made tear ducts. And we write them down. We share them with someone and then we give them to God. Fear itself is not the character defect because it’s a feeling and feelings are part of us. Actions however, can be defective. We are clearly not trusting our Higher Power if we are paralyzed by fear. We ask for God’s help with our lack of faith and trust. We can use a God box to help us let go of the things that we are putting in God’s care.
Now if you or your sponsor have labelled any part of natures healthy emotional processing techniques as “character flaws” and have deemed crying as “self-pity” and labelled sharing and writing our fear list as “self-centered & self indulgent” then it’s time to fire our sponsor and find one that is compassionate and understanding even empathetic.
Steps Ten through Twelve do work just as step four and five works to clear the wreckage of the past. But when it comes to fear addicts and alcoholics seem to be loaded down with more fear than the average person. I believe this is because we were introduced to fear as a result of some childhood emotional trauma and it set the ball rolling in our brains. And so we set out for a solution to our fear based feelings and double helping of shame that came with it.
It’s imperative that in recovery we learn to open up about who we are and how we feel. The tough girl, tough boy facade must be left behind.
We will mature emotionally if we allow natures process to flow through us rather than getting stuck.