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Addiction and Relationships: How To Process Your Emotions

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

how to process your emotions

I don’t think I have to tell you that I’ve cried before, for a variety of different reasons. Obviously, who hasn’t? It’s like saying that I breathed today.

I also don’t have to tell you that I’ve cried as a result of my partner’s drug addiction. Even if you have no experience having a loved one with substance abuse issues, it’s pretty much assumed that there would be some trying and crying (ha) times.

But how do you feel when you cry?

And by that I mean, how do you feel about yourself? The situation? The reasoning behind it?

The reason that I ask this is because for a long, long time (like, most of my life long), I had lived with the belief that I should try my best to be strong and not show my emotions because it made me weaker, more frail, embarrassing, and not anything I wanted myself to be.

Now, I could have this belief for a variety of reasons, none of which are important here. The point is, I became a master at hiding my emotions, except ones of judgement, strength, and ones that I deemed more “highly regarded”.

This mindset of course was present in my relationship with my partner as well, although more in the background at first.

In the beginnings of our life together, I thought that I could “fix” things within him and so put most of my focus into figuring out how to do just that. And when I was upset, it was mostly because he was gone in a treatment center or I was distraught because I was still getting used to the whole “newness” of addiction and what came with it.

But once I was exposed for long enough, and once it was seeming as though nothing would be changing, the fear, sadness, and worry made me feel pathetic. It made me feel powerless, and fragile. And when you’re already getting sympathy from others because of how your life is going, getting those feelings along with it can just be too much to bear.

So I did what a lot of people do and covered it up with harsher feelings.

I knew that the feeling of powerlessness was incredibly heavy and uncomfortable, but at this phase in my life I wasn’t yet in recovery, nor was I looking at any part of it or doing any work on myself. So to try and reduce those emotions in me I became more angry, resentful, irritable, and unkind to everyone around me, especially my partner.

And as you can imagine, this made everything much worse.

I found myself having more uncomfortable situations with my loved ones and everyone around me, and it just made things more abrasive with my partner with arguments, fighting over texts all day, and a breaking down of our connection more and more as time went on.

(And, side note: we can't cause them to use or relapse, but honestly this environment with my partner didn't exactly foster a healthy sense of support and so I do acknowledge my part in that).

Eventually I started to notice that things weren’t going to be able to continue on this way, and there were also moments where I let the facade slip a little here and there and actually connected with others which I know I longed for more often, but I knew that more work would be needed if I wanted long term help and improvement that couldn’t be dependent on him.

And I’m sure you know how that goes since I talk about that all of the time.

(Pssst, it’s self work).

But you know what a specific, huge takeaway from my recovery was?

Emotions are normal.

I know. Groundbreaking.

But it really is something we can forget, and more often than we might like.

Think about it, how often have you made yourself feel guilty for something you felt, how you processed an experience, or for how you are struggling over a topic?

Or how many times have you lashed out in a situation because of something you were dealing with inside that you were keeping buried?

We deal with many feelings, emotions, and thoughts on a day to day basis, and just that alone should be enough to prompt us to take a look at ourselves to make sure we are taking care of our mental and emotional health.

But then throwing in a loved one or partner with addiction on top of daily life???

That’s a recipe for quite the state of being.

Which leads me to the whole point of this post:

it’s. ok. to. feel.

Feel it all. Feel everything. Feel every emotion you are experiencing to the extent that you want to.

Now of course, don’t be like me and go so far into it that you spend your days obsessing and feeling anxious from creating new things that weren’t there before. That’s not what I mean.

The idea is to just feel. It’s part of life to have emotions, and it doesn’t make you less of a person or less strong than others because you let yourself be human. If anything, it makes you more strong and even more impressive because you let yourself be vulnerable and in tune with yourself enough to process it all and feel it fully.

This is how to process your emotions. For real. Without hiding or covering them up.

And I want to tell you that as much as possible because I hurt myself for too long by trying to avoid it.

And I know that when you have kids, it can seem even more important to put on a brave face at least for them so they don’t get upset or frightened at all that is happening as a result of the addiction present. But I realized that being appropriately open with our daughter and showing her healthy coping, along with showing how I was taking care of myself through it, was a really helpful and priceless lesson, too.

Once I was finally able to accept that I could fully feel sad and heartbroken and scared and everything else that comes with addiction, I felt that I was able to finally get the clarity I was searching for. I wasn’t using so much of myself to keep it down and shoved away that I felt lighter, more free, more resilient, and more motivated to work on recovering.

And this doesn’t just apply to things addiction-related either.

Remember, this works for anything in your life.

Take the other day for example.

As you probably know, my husband is in recovery, so I don’t have nearly as much mental and emotional turmoil as I once did, but that doesn’t mean that I am without issues. From normal recovery experiences to just normal life experiences, I get my daily practice on improvement and healing.

Now I don’t know if you know this but I’m a creature of habit. I like to know what’s coming, to be able to plan, and have time to adjust accordingly. But of course, since this is, you know, life, that doesn’t always happen.

Yesterday was smack dab in the middle of a somewhat difficult period of life recently, with schedule changes, new financial obligations, normal hormonal and emotional phases thrown in for good measure, and then now my car was starting to have issues.

And I was just at the end of my rope, feeling drained, and basically like my whole darn life was falling apart (and believe me, to me, it was).

It is important to note, though, that even though things seemed crazy on the outside (or when I describe it), everything was taken care of as much as possible. Like, really, in terms of how things could have been, it was pretty simple, despite how I was adjusting to it. To more level-headed people like my husband, it was just something to take care of like anything else.

But I was still stubborn enough to deny myself the chance to really process how I was feeling. I didn’t want to actually admit to myself that I was struggling, even though everyone around me could see it and sense it.

It wasn’t until I sat with myself in a quiet and relaxed place, and remembered that it was ok to give myself some grace and let my guard down, that I realized how much harm I was doing to myself. I allowed myself to sit in the feelings of guilt I felt for not handling it as simply and carefree as my husband would, and acknowledged that I had a right to feel stressed and thrown off from it.

And I cried.

I sat on the floor of the bathroom and I ugly cried all by myself.

And it was glorious.

It got the point where I felt more clear than I had been in awhile, and even though I was still crying a little and coming out of the fog, I felt more stable and aware.

And just like always, I felt better afterwards. I wasn’t guilt-tripping myself anymore. I wasn’t as fearful and stuck thinking about all the things that could go wrong. And I felt more capable of handling what was coming my way, no matter how daunting it had just seemed 15 minutes ago.

And yes, it was just recently that this happened, so I’m still in the middle of this whole ordeal. And of course, I’ll be the first to admit that even now I’m not perfect on this.

But really, who is? The point is that I am now even more aware of how to take care of myself going forward both on this issue and any issue that comes my way, I am here and ready to admit that I still have work to do, and I’m always down to work on it and be more aware of it so that over time things will be even more healed.

So I hope that the main thing you take away from this is that it is okay to be human. It’s ok to be vulnerable with yourself. And the more you allow yourself to process what’s inside, the more strong and capable you’ll become and feel in yourself.

And this applies to times of active addiction. Times of recovery. Times of relapse. Times of everyday average life.

And everything in between.

Stop harming yourself by covering things up because you think that’s how the tough ones do it.

It's like the opposite of that old song: big girls do cry.

And so should you.

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