When Self-Soothing Turns Ugly

I’m very open and have made it common knowledge the issues I have had with addictions in my past. It was my way of self-soothing, confidence building and life-enhancing the best way I knew how. I was a heavy drinker, a partaker in drugs and I gained all of my self-worth from men who wanted me.

There are countless movies and novels out there where some person is living a crazy life and uses addictions to cope. Three instantly pop into mind, Sandra Bullock’s “28 days”, Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” and Marian Keyes book “Rachel’s Holiday”. I found these all highly entertaining, as I could see myself in all of them. Funny as entertainment, yes, but when you zoom out, the story is bigger and much darker.

I was always the party girl. I would never agree to be the sober driver because that would’ve meant me actually being sober! In fact, I remember the last time I was the sober driver; it was my 17th birthday and my best friend and I had stopped into a party where our other friends were. As we got there they were all about to pile into a car and head into town to hit the bars. They were already drunk and planning on driving so I jumped in and offered to drive as I was still sober. That was the only time I recall being sober-driver while I was living that life.

Being sober to me was unbearable in any situation where others were having fun and weren’t sober.

I now look back on that Rebecca and see all the discomfort she was covering up. I required all of the false boosting because without it I felt sad, insecure, boring, not good enough, shameful, and mighty angry.

Addictions are complicated. We partake in something that is not good for us physically, mentally and emotionally, yet when acting on the addiction it feels so damn good. Someone once asked me why I kept taking ecstasy when the come down was sooooo bad for me, the simple answer was that the high outweighed the come-down.

Whether the addiction is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, prescription meds, food, shopping or smoking, they’ve become an addiction because they play with the fancy feel-good receptors in our brains. There is a rush, or a high or a feeling of calm, that the person feels unable to gain without their chosen indulgence.

I think ‘addictions’ are often related to severe drug abuse, severe alcoholics, gamblers who have lost everything, and obesity or anorexia sufferers. This isn’t the case. There is a large grey area in addictions, where people are affected differently. I’ve heard many people say to me that ‘they could stop if they wanted to’, but they just don’t want to. Yes, that probably is true, but what I encourage people to look at is how their behaviour affects their lives and those in their lives including their partners, children, work colleagues, family etc, then and only then, can a person decide if there are disruptions to those relationships and if they are willing to make some changes for.

Deep down inside I knew I had a problem for a long time, but didn’t realise how bad it was, how much I was covering up and how much it had affected relationships in my life. I was argumentative and somewhat aggressive when drinking because underneath it all I was SO UNBELIEVABLY PISSED OFF. I had no idea why I was so angry, but I just couldn’t bear to sit in those feelings. I would just lather over the feelings with things that made me feel good.

How did I stop? With the help of a psychotherapist, I first learnt what was underneath all of the covering up, and to work on those issues. Then, with every unhealthy mechanism I stopped, it would be replaced by a new healthy coping skill. Consciously choosing ‘distraction’ was one of my first steps. I would throw myself into something like exercise, calling a close friend, or losing myself in something crafty, anything that I knew that could move my thoughts.

When I felt the urge to drink, it was nearly always because I’d had a negative experience. Learning to accept and ride out the negative feelings was completely new to me as I had always glossed over them in the past. I learnt a new skill that helped me practically deal with any uncomfortable feelings that came up by using ‘wise mind’. It is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the wise mind skill is taught to help people who are conditioned to invalidating their experience, to instead relearn to find and listen to their inner wisdom, or intuition. Wise Mind is about using both emotion and intellect to inform decisions in the service of better judgment and balanced decision-making. If there was just one reason a person should seek professional help with addictions, this is it. They teach you other healthy ways to process your triggers. Having those skills makes the journey 500% easier!

Codependency

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