You know that feeling when you have been in the dark for a while and you walk out into the light? Your eyes are blitzed by sensory overload and to your eyes it is actually painful? That is one way to describe some of the onset of intense emotions when working through recovery. Having been numb for so long, the emotional blitz that follows can be quite painful and hard to deal with.
Years of pent up frustration, anger, sadness, regret, shame and ultimately sacrificing my needs to appease my parents, my siblings, my friends, my roommates, my missionary companions, my spouse, without properly taking care of myself has created a volcano of rage that brews beneath the surface of my usual calm demeanor. The cold water on the angry swell of magma in the past was always pornography. It became an outlet for so many things. If I felt rejected, porn helped me feel special. If I was angry, porn and masturbation calmed me down. If I was happy, porn and masturbation was there as a reward or as a mechanism of self-destruction to prove to myself that I wasn’t worthy of the happiness I was experiencing. If I was bored, porn was exciting. It seemed to raise me from my lows and drop me from my highs. In other words, the ebb and flow that is human emotion, and quite literally human life as witnessed on ones ECG on their heart monitor, was made flat. I could numb out emotion, happiness, sorrow, anger, pain, joy, excitement, guilt and rage.
Fast forward a few years into recovery. I still struggle with managing my emotions. The stress of graduate school, a family, student loans, and the toll the addiction and recovery has taken on my marriage, leaves me with a significant amount of stress to deal with. Sometimes I feel like an immature adolescent when it comes to my emotions and how I emotionally handle life’s challenges. And truthfully, that is probably because my emotional capacities never developed much beyond that state. Plus the overwhelming waves of painful memories or shame or embarrassment about my past that flare up from time to time are difficult to cope with. I find that the calm, pleasant, amiable person that I always knew myself as, is quite often missing in action.
Turns out, I am a very passionate person. When I feel, I feel deeply. I care deeply. I love deeply. I fret and I worry about the realities that face me, my wife and my children’s future. I hurt deeply. And when I am angry, I rage intensely inside, as if my soul is churning with the force of an EF5 tornado! It is all I can do sometimes not to scream! Sometimes I do scream. Mostly in my car when no one can hear me but God. My emotions ebb and flow like a living breathing tide. My emotional ECG is up and down. I guess that means I am alive again. But coming back from the dead can be emotionally overwhelming.
I am working on ways to cope with my emotions, especially my anger. I have to put myself in time out from time to time or channel my anger into working out or running long distances. I have been slowly learning to take care of myself in healthy ways, whether by food, entertainment, exercise or a hobby that I enjoy. All too often I put these activities off until I am in crisis, after all, there is always something more urgent or pressing that needs my attention, so my needs go unmet for too long. It is like only changing your oil in your car after you have broken down on the side of the road. Regular maintenance is crucial for me to maintain a functioning level of existence. Without regular maintenance I break down as predictably as the car without regular care.
So with that and now that I am done with this post, instead of tending to my homework like the uber responsible student that I aspire to be, I am going to take a deep breathe, close my laptop and watch a movie that I have wanted to watch for months.