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Many people drink and use drugs specifically to deal with emotional problems. For some, issues such as anger and resentment are overwhelming to them. They do not know how to handle feelings of this intensity and so they medicate these negative emotions away with alcohol and drugs.
Feelings of sadness which do not come to the level of clinical depression is another set of emotional issues which some cannot handle without the crutch of substances. Low-level depressed feelings consist of a complex set of emotions. Many people simply are not equipped to deal with these things. The numbing effects of drugs and alcohol become a convenient aid in dealing with these negative feelings.
When people lack the proper skills to process and handle difficult emotional terrain and treat these issues with substances they too often end up addicted to these substances. As a result, coming to sobriety unleashes these feelings exponentially. This complex cycle can inhibit recovery; it can even prevent people from ever seeking help.
A comprehensive recovery program treats these underlying emotional problems as a fundamental part of recovery. Current treatment programs take account of the fact that deep emotional difficulties are not necessarily the result of addiction but in fact the cause of addiction. It is true that early sobriety can and often does precipitate these types of feelings. But the reality is that deep emotional troubles are more often at the root of addictive behavior.
The methods of drug and alcohol treatment currently available treat the emotional issues. Taking anger as example. Patients are now taught to understand their anger and the types of things which trigger their anger. Anger and frustration are huge components of addiction and learning how to manage anger must be an essential feature of recovery. In treatment, patients are taught to isolate specific things which make them angry. They are then led to understand exactly what part of themselves is being provoked in these moments.
Much of what drives anger has more to do with fear. Once a person in recovery can begin to see this, they can begin to understand themselves in new ways. We tend to react to things which we find threatening with anger because the fear is by definition beyond our control. This anger complex is a basic fight or flight reflex. When we feel threatened, even if the threat is irrational, and we cannot escape the perceived threat, we react with anger. As soon as we can see this at the heart of our feelings of anger we can begin to change the ways we react to fears.
Anger is just one part of a whole complex of negative emotions which drive addiction. One of the most important ways of learning to process negative feelings is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT reveals the deep underpinnings which create the possibility for fears and subsequent anger. Based really on the idea that we take the fearful quality out of things by understanding them. CBT works to do just that as people move through recovery. Those negative feelings are revealed and patients come to understand what drives their fears and anger. In this way they can manage fear and anger without substances.
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