Link between Addiction and Emotional Immaturity
There is a close link between addiction and emotional immaturity. Those individuals who turn to substance abuse will often do so because they feel unable to deal with their feelings. Alcohol and drugs can provide temporary relief, but ultimately it leads to far bigger problems for the individual. When people escape addiction they will be once again faced with their emotions. In order to find successful in recovery they will need to become better at dealing with their feelings. This means developing emotional sobriety.
Emotional Immaturity Defined
The individual who is emotionally immature finds it difficult to deal with their own feelings. This means that they can experience a great deal of suffering in life. Such people will feel a bit uncomfortable in their own skin. It is the opposite of emotional sobriety, the ability of the individual to feel their own feelings.
Symptoms of Emotional Immaturity
If people are emotionally immature, they may exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Such individuals will often find it hard to deal with the normal challenges of life. When they are faced with problems they feel unable to cope. They may have developed a psychological state known as learned helplessness.
- Those people who are emotionally immature tend to suffer more from stress. This may mean that they have developed some of the stress related health problems such as high blood pressure.
- They struggle to develop meaningful relationships with other people. They may appear too needy or a bit overbearing.
- Those people who are emotionally immature will tend to have a pessimistic outlook on life. They may see the future as a threatening and hostile place.
- This type of person will usually have low self-esteem. This means that they do not value themselves highly so will be willing to accept very little in life as being all they deserve.
- They find it almost impossible to live in the present moment. They are either reliving the past or worrying about the future.
- They can easily lose their temper at the slightest provocation. When they are dealing with uncomfortable emotions they will tend to take things out on other people.
- People who are emotionally immature can have unrealistically high expectations. This means that they are frequently disappointed. Such and individual can have impossibly high expectations for other people yet low expectations for themselves.
- Such individuals can suffer from severe mood swings. This instability of mood can make life a bit uncomfortable.
- If people are emotionally immature, they find it much harder to control their own behavior. This means they are more prone to behavioral problems such as substance abuse.
Emotional Immaturity and Learned Helplessness
Many of those individuals who are emotionally immature have learnt to feel helpless when faced with challenges in life. This is because they do not believe they have the power to affect positive change to make their future better. Such an individual will accept even the most miserable situation because they do not feel capable of improving things. This feeling of helplessness is learned, and it can be unlearned.
Addiction and Emotional Immaturity
Addicts usually struggle when it comes to dealing with their feelings. This is why many of them will have turned to substance abuse in the first place. Alcohol and drugs can provide a temporary escape from unpleasant emotions. These chemicals numb the brain so that the individual feels very little. Once the individual becomes addicted to these substances, they will be unable to mature emotionally. This means that when they become sober, they will still be faced with the problem of dealing with their emotions.
The Dangers of Emotional Immaturity in Recovery
Emotional immaturity can be a real stumbling block to building a successful recovery. The dangers of this inability to cope with feelings include:
- When people are emotionally immature, they will be far more likely to relapse back to their addiction. This is because they will not have the inner resources to prevent a slide back to the abuse. This type of individual can easily be knocked off course by any challenge to their sobriety.
- In order to build a successful life away from addiction, the individual will need to work hard. Things do not magically fall into place once people stop abusing their bodies with alcohol and drugs. The real work begins after people have given up the substance abuse. If the individual is emotionally immature, they may not have the required inner resources to get the work done.
- Emotionally immature people struggle with interpersonal relationships. Friends and family may find them difficult to be around because of their demands and expectations. Such individuals can also struggle to build new friendships. If people are lonely in recovery they are far more likely to relapse.
- Those people who are emotionally immature will be willing to settle for a less than optimum level of sobriety. They may even develop dry drunk syndrome where they view their life in recovery as being similar to serving a prison sentence. Those who manage to escape an addiction deserve to find happiness; they will not be able to do this without emotional sobriety.
Emotional sobriety is a wonderful asset for people in sobriety. It means that they:
- Find it easy to live in the moment
- Have the ability to be of use to other people who are in need
- Suffer a great deal less from stress and stress related illness
- Sleep soundly at night
- Make friends easily and have developed meaningful interpersonal relationships
- Tend to be optimistic about the future
- Do not suffer from wild fluctuations in mood, but rather feel inner peace most of the time.
- Feel able to cope even when life becomes tough
- Do not feel the need to abuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to escape their feelings.
- Are able to regulate their own behavior
How to Develop Emotional Sobriety in Recovery
These are some of the things that an individual can do to develop emotional sobriety:
- Emotional sobriety develops from experience. If people are willing to face the challenges and dangerous emotions that come their way during recovery, they will mature every time they do this. Facing these challenges means doing whatever is required to overcome them, and not attempting to hide behind addiction or other maladaptive behaviors.
- It is suggested that those who become dependent on alcohol or drugs have addictive personalities. This means that they have certain characteristics that make them more prone to this type of negative behavior. When people are in recovery it may be easy for them to slip into other addictive behaviors such as workaholism or fitness fanaticism. Such obsession means they can avoid facing the real issues in their life. In order to develop emotional sobriety the individual needs to let go of all addictions and face life on life’s terms.
- Recovery fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous provide a program to help members develop emotional sobriety. In order to benefit from this, the member will need to do more than just attend the meeting. They will need to make a sincere effort to practice the 12 Steps in their daily life.
- Emotional sobriety means having realistic expectations of what is possible and what is not possible in recovery. The individual accepts that progress takes time and that all their problems are not going to be solved instantly. It means accepting that people tend to get from life what they put into it.
- Meditation techniques such as mindfulness can be highly useful for helping people develop emotional maturity. This type of practice requires that the individual try to live in the moment. It also involves closely examining emotions and accepting their fleeting nature. The practitioner of mindfulness meditation comes to understand that they are not their emotions, and they do not have to be a victim of them either.
- Keeping a journal is another way that people can encourage their emotional development. This provides the individual with the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. They will also be able to track their feelings over time. Another benefit of keeping a journal is that it allows the individual to better understand their inner drives, the motivations behind their behavior.
- Humans are highly influenced by the people who they spend their time with. Those who wish to develop emotional maturity can be benefit by spending time with those who have already gained this level of personal growth.
- Helping other people is a wonderful way to develop emotional sobriety. If the individual has the right attitude when doing service, they will be putting another person’s needs temporarily ahead of their own.