Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Acting on Feelings

A client in trouble for helping an addict friend who's actively using said she did what she felt she had to in order to "feel good about herself."

Which led the staff members in the room who were disciplining her to explain that while she might have acted from compassion and love – those same feelings put her in serious danger of relapse or worse.

Acting on feelings is often the dilemma for us addicts. We get angry or frustrated or hurt. So what do we do? We mask the pain with alcohol or drugs. We do exactly what we feel like doing at the moment – and that's what gets us in trouble.

I recall an alcoholic many years ago who had several month's sober. While he was at the laundromat he decided to leave his clothing there for a few minutes and run an errand. However, when he returned, he found they'd been stolen. Loss of his clothing filled him with anger and rage. So he said the short form of the serenity prayer and downed a six-pack of beer. He acted on his feelings.

Many years ago when I learned that a girlfriend had cheated on me while I was in jail. I was so angry I immediately slammed some heroin into my arm – even though I had a year clean. I turned the temporary pain into a much bigger problem that led me back to jail within another year.  All because I reacted with anger.

Knowing this, how do those of us in recovery sidestep strong reactions? Those with a few years clean know that feelings are what started us using. None of us ever made a decision to get high based on logic. So if we're in trouble we call our sponsor or a friend or go to a meeting. These things will act as a buffer when we feel like drinking or drugging.

So are all feelings bad for an alcoholic or addict?  No. Mostly it's those related to frustration, anger, depression, or disappointment.

There are wonderful feelings we addicts can indulge in freely. Some of those are gratitude. Appreciation. Acceptance.  Love.