18 July 2016
Greetings and welcome to the latest butterfly blog, I am happy to welcome you on board my recovery bus once again.
Last time I wrote about how I'm learning to cope with and change my negative thinking style into a more positive and helpful alternative. Another area that I'm struggling with are my emotions. Since stopping using skunk cannabis my emotional life has been very intense and often painful. I have used drugs for so many years as a way of avoiding and escaping my experience of emotional pain that it is very difficult for me to sit with my emotions without wanting to use. Since my teenage years when I experienced several traumatic events I have been running away from myself, trying to escape being with me, myself and I, and hence since stopping this my emotions have hit me like a tsunami. Over the last eight weeks, as you know, I have had a number of slip ups and these have been largely caused by unmanageable thoughts and feelings. So in order to remain clean and sober and avoid relapse I am having to learning to cope with these in a new way.
As I am used to pushing away and suppressing my emotions I am now trying to allow the emotions to be, to give myself permission to feel them. I go to see a counsellor every fortnight and have a lot of group therapy and weekly 1:1's with a peer support worker at the Living Room. During these sessions I often need to speak about how I am feeling, which is difficult but ultimately positive. To be open and honest about my feelings is quite new to me and at first I found it quite hard to identify specific emotions that I was feeling, it felt like a tightly knotted ball of several different emotions that I could not untangle into separate feelings, but with practice I have become better at recognising and labelling the specific emotions. I label the emotions as they arise, saying '”I am feeling anxiety” rather than “I am anxious”. This acknowledges the feeling as being a small separate part of my experience rather than being all of me.
Under the advice of my counsellor I am practising welcoming these difficult feelings. The analogy she used is that I could welcome them in like I would welcome an unexpected guest into my home. I am to offer them a chair, a cup of tea, chat to them. I am to name them, so I might say “hello sadness and welcome please come in and sit down”. I am practising the process of accepting them and allowing them to be. I am also using positive and realistic self talk about the emotion I am experiencing. For example “I am feeling anxious about going outside because I think something terrible will happen that I will not be able to deal with, but the evidence suggests that the chances of that happening is so remote, and nothing will happen that I cannot cope with”, etc.
Mindfulness practice is another technique I am using to manage my thoughts and feelings without turning to drugs or alcohol. Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening right now in this present moment without judging the thoughts and feelings and wishing they were different. I am doing my best to take life one day at a time or even one moment at a time when things are tough rather than getting stuck in the past, which is just a memory or projecting into the future, which is pure fantasy. Mindfulness is simply observing my thoughts, feelings and experiences as they arise and disappear, without holding on to them or pushing them away, without making any judgements about them, just letting them be as they are. Enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes, which it will, and being with the unpleasant without hating it and fearing it will always be this way, which it won't. I use my body, senses and the flow of my breath with the rising and falling of my belly as I breathe to keep me anchored in the present moment, the here and now and as an antidote to a troubled soul. One technique that I have been using to bring me into the present moment is called grounding, and it can be helpful when dealing with intense emotions like an anxiety attack. I look around me and find five things that I can see, then four things I can touch, three things I can hear, two things I can smell and one thing I can taste. It can be especially helpful when I am feeling overwhelmed by difficult thoughts and feelings.
Emotions are like packages on a conveyor belt that will pass by if I let them. By being aware of my thoughts I can challenge and change them therefore changing my emotional responses too. I am learning to be a surfer in that I am training myself to ride the wave/s of emotions, rather than drowning in them. I am doing my best to experience the emotion/s as a wave coming and going, rather than trying to get rid of the emotion. I don't want to push it away or try to block or suppress the emotion. Neither do I want to try to keep the emotion around to hold on to it or amplify it. Rather my goal is to allow it to naturally leave me. I keep in mind that all things pass - This too will pass is my mantra.
Quotes of the week
- Never let the sadness of your past and the fear of your future ruin the happiness of your present. (Kushandwizdom).
- There is nothing in this world that can trouble you more than your own thoughts.