Talking to people with addiction helps me to learn and understand more every month that I work for the SUN Network. One useful way I’m seeing addiction is that it’s a way of coping with emotions. Yes, on the surface it’s drinking alcohol to destruction, taking drugs to escape, or losing ourselves in a behaviour. But looking a little further, it seems to me we are using these substances and behaviours as a way to manage and control our emotions. Sometimes it works better than others.
So, it’s one thing to take away the addictive behaviour, but what are we putting in place instead? If I’ve had years of coping with emotions through addiction, then I need to learn and practice a new way to handle those awkward and troublesome feelings; hopefully a healthy way.
Well, I was hugely triggered the other day, and for some reason, in the middle of my rage and overwhelming emotional pain, I remembered a technique I had learned and practiced in easier times. It’s called R.A.I.N. and it goes something like this:
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
This can really work for me as a way to get through my strong and uncomfortable emotions, without turning to my default and well-trodden addiction to cope. Looking back, it didn’t magically remove my emotional pain. This process didn’t go perfectly. But I’m grateful that I even was able to remember it. And I believe if I try it again, it’ll work better for me. The nurturing part worked best, and I want to keep practicing, especially the investigating bit.
We can talk ourselves through this process on our own, during some quiet mindfulness time, or like I did here, in the throes of a challenging time. We can talk through these four with a friend on the phone or we can ask someone to sit and be with us as we go through it in person.
This demonstrates a principle that I think is really important in all kinds of recovery; ownership, that is, taking responsibility.
That doesn’t mean we are alone. It doesn’t mean we have to do it all by ourselves. But if I wait or someone else to ‘cure me’ or make me all better, then I don’t think I’ll get very far. I need to do the work of my own recovery and no professional or expert can replace that.