One of the things that is pretty universal among addicted people is that we use(d) to mask some sort of pain. Sometimes that pain starts out as physical (hello, opioid pandemic), but it often involves emotional pain as well. While the physical detox process is hard, the real battle comes when we are forced to face emotional situations without retreating into active use. At Just Love More, we call this phase of recovery Mental Detox, and it is just as important as its physical counterpart. The impact of addiction on our mind – our thoughts, feelings, and emotions – cannot be overstated. By not facing problems head on, we might feel helpless and abuse substances to avoid feeling:
Addicted people are emotionally stunted because, when we were in active use, we were not dealing with emotional situations in a healthy way. The younger we were when we started using, the less experience we have in managing emotions and our responses to them. Even if we didn’t use at an early age, the reasons we used often existed when we were young. When we then move into active recovery we’re faced with emotional situations we don’t understand, regardless of our chronological age. So in addition to the emotion itself, we might also deal with embarrassment, frustration, and anxiety over our lack of knowledge of emotions, as well as frustration over our friends/loved ones lack of understanding that we are essentially in emotional puberty, that this is all new to us.
An important and often ignored part of active recovery is connecting with our emotions: what they are, how they feel, and how we can manage them in healthy ways. The Re(dis)covery Wellness Mental Detox includes digging into our past to explore the origins and root causes of our addiction(s). It’s hard, mentally draining work, but it’s absolutely critical to maintaining active recovery while discovering and learning to love ourselves as whole people.
So what does Mental Detox look like?
For all the stigma attached to addiction, there’s at least as much attached to mental health issues, so this is going to be a tough process because of our own preconceptions and conditioning. The important thing to note is that it does get easier. For starters, let’s go ahead and accept that we are emotionally broken. If you’ve already been through detox and rehab, then you’ve probably already acknowledged that you were physically screwed, but this goes beyond your body and digs into your psyche, and the human brain can be a scary place when you’re not familiar with the landscape.
Having acknowledged that we’re broken, we can now move forward by looking back. We need to look into the past to find the root causes of our damage…that deeply-rooted shit that we probably buried a long time ago that led to our addiction and addictive behaviors.