No, I’m not a big Barry Manilow fan…
Opiate addicts, for whatever reason, become very lousy at determining what they are ‘feeling’.  Ideally, feelings serve to enrich one’s life;  feelings add the music to the story, add the heat to the dish, add the…  heck, I don’t know.  I’m no poet.  But they are good things.  They also can guide a person if they are used properly.  That last sentence is key– if they are used properly.  To explain a bit more, when people feel ‘fear’, they recognize that there is danger lurking about and they either turn and run or they at least become more cautious.  Addicts, of course, are different;  to an addict, danger may mean ‘excitement’, and may cause the addict to close his eyes and just jump right in!
One challenge facing addicts, then, is using feelings and the messages that feelings provide in sensible ways.  An even bigger challenge is identifying exactly what the feelings ARE, in the first place!  Addicts will have two feelings– great and ‘crappy’.  Or maybe ‘chill’ and ‘f’ed up’.  In my practice addicts tend to call every negative feeling ‘anxiety’.  They go to work and feel ‘anxiety’.  They come home and feel ‘anxiety’.  They sit around all weekend and feel ‘anxiety’.  I am always working to get them to identify the feelings, and to call them something other than ‘anxiety’– as usually they are not anxiety.  Anxiety is ‘worry’, whereas the feelings most addicts have are more like boredom, irritability, anger, sadness, resentment…

In my own treatment (I was in some type of group for about 5 or 6 years) we always checked in with our name, our disease (like at aa– I’m jeff, alcoholic and addict), followed by a statement of the feelings we were having.  We picked from 6 feelings, and sometimes I felt one, other times I might feel a little of all of them.  The six feelings:  sad, glad, mad, afraid, ashamed, and hurt.
I strongly encourage you to always work on your feelings.  It takes a great deal of practice, but you will get to know yourself better, and feel more ‘grounded’.   Get in the habit of ‘checking in’ every morning, and every night.  Try on the six feelings and decide which ones fit.  And whenever you feel lousy, try each feeling on and see what is going on.  The process takes minutes per day, but will pay off over time in ways that are hard to explain–  but that are certain.


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