Expectations in Early Recovery

rsz_prop-img-full-f3y0fv91-1i4rrdkllxwjkOne of the problems in early recovery is the person not knowing what to expect. And then not being able to deal with the ‘unexpected’ when it happens. Here’s some reflections from Stephanie Brown in her book A Place Called Self: Women, Sobriety, and Radical Transformation.

‘Sharp feelings
New recovery is painful on several levels. Firstly, new recovering women must deal with the normal feelings that most women have but which they have buried under addiction.

Second, they have to face the ambivalence they feel as they bring their own recovery needs  into balance with meeting the needs of others.

Third, they experience shame and guilt, loss, sadness, and other difficult feelings as they face the sometimes outrageous, irresponsible, and sometimes dangerous things they did in their addiction.

Fourth, they might find themselves threatened by new, or more intense, memories of trauma during their childhood and adult life.

Unfortunately, many women don’t know that it’s normal to feel a full range of emotions in sobriety, from anxiety to sadness to pleasure.

What’s more, they don’t want this kind of “normal”. They want to feel better. They don’t want to hear that this is what you get when you stop using.

It’s very hard to hear that recovery is about learning to accept problems, conflicts, and emotional pain as normal and then learning different ways to cope. Women may conclude that they are doing something wrong if they are having problems in recovery.

Quite the contrary. The fact that they are having problems and emotional pain is a sign that they are in recovery…

No feelings
In addition to having many feelings, it is also normal not to feel anything in recovery. You may stay numb for awhile. You focus on the new behaviour of recovery and you listen.

You think a lot and you make connections. Things start to make sense. You know you’re an addict. But you don’t feel. Not for a long time.

Whether you feel a lot, feel a little, or feel nothing at all, it is normal. You just don’t want to start using in order to stop the feelings or in order to start them.’