Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Emotional Hangover – Addiction In The Family.
A new week has begun. It’s back to business as usual. Thanksgiving has come and gone. The only remnants of the past holiday are the leftover turkey soup in your fridge. But something is bothering you and you can’t quite shake it. Exhaustion. You’re already counting down the days until the weekend and you’ve barely started your week. You wonder if you’re getting sick or coming down with a cold. As you trudge through your days, you have less energy and feel weighed down by the invisible elephant sitting on your shoulders. You’re confused but can’t put a finger on it. Spending time with your family and extended kin, shouldn’t leave you feeling like this.
Holidays are an exciting time. We look forward to seeing our loved ones as we conjure up images of laughter, good food and drink. We’re on our best behavior and try to get along with everyone. But for some families, this is easier said than done. For families struggling with addiction, getting along often means people pleasing, stuffing feelings and shutting down.
Although it might not sound like it, these are maladaptive and unhealthy behaviors.
People Pleasing – agreeing to do things you don’t want to do. Agreeing with your addicted loved one to keep the peace. People Pleasers appear to be helpful and nice. They never say no. You can always count on them. They spend most of their time doing for others. They’re usually the ones who make all the plans and are there for everyone else. It sounds like a good thing, right? Uh, uh. People Pleasing is a very unhealthy pattern of behavior. People Pleasers often neglect themselves and lack self-care. They feel angry at the person asking them for a favor, but they can’t say no. They have a tough time communicating their needs, which leaves them feeling victimized and resentful.
Stuffing feelings – to scream on the inside while smiling outwardly. To keep a lid on it. In addicted families we learn the – don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel – rule. In order to share feelings, families must be safe and experienced in healthy and open communication. Addictive families are secretive. They don’t communicate their emotions, they react to them, often causing a big blow up in the family. Stuffing feelings causes deep emotional pain and takes a ton of energy. It also causes physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Shutting down – to be numb. To not feel. Some folks believe the only way to survive life is to ‘shut down.’ This behavior often occurs when you have been impacted by trauma. It is a survivor tactic and a form of stonewalling. You may find yourself withdrawing from an argument or not listening in order to feel safe. Another term for it is to flat-line emotionally. No ups. No downs. Like the Pink Floyd song title, comfortably numb. The only trouble is, you don’t feel joy or happiness or…anything at all.
If you saw yourself in any of the three examples above, you could be experiencing an emotional hangover. This hangover can feel similar to the one you get from overindulging in alcohol. You may feel indecisive and slow. Physically, you can experience headaches and a woozy stomach. The emotional aspects of this hangover are the typical symptoms of depression such as sadness, crying, lethargy, and fatigue, anxiety, feeling like a failure, feeling guilty and shameful and worrying about the future.
The first time I’d ever heard of an emotional hangover, I was in rehab. I’d just come from group therapy. I’d been rehashing a particularly sad event about my young daughter and how in my addiction, I had neglected her. As group therapy ended and I walked to my room, I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. I was numb. I spent the day in a fog. Just before dinner, I bumped into my counselor. She put a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and asked how I was feeling. The dam burst and I began to sob.
To simplify, an emotional hangover comes from denying painful emotions. I’d been stuffing feelings my whole life. It was no wonder I became an addict. In order to get relief from this uncomfortable state of being most people will mood-alter through substance, shopping, eating, over working, gambling, or any other mood altering behavior or experience. Without a healthy outlet for my pain, I turned to drugs to numb out. At least for a little while. But pain comes back. It doesn’t disappear. It festers. Then the cycle begins all over again.
You may be stuck in the cycle yourself. Pain – insomnia, sleeping pills, worry, stress, guilt, over/undereating, abusing substance or over-functioning and enabling. Enabling is just another form of mood-altering and using. Both are sought to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
The challenge you are confronted with during periods of suffering is whether you will rise above your emotions and learn from them. Or practice avoidance by stuffing them away and succumbing to them – essentially becoming your pain.
It’s never too late to go back and undo the damage of the past. To be successful you must find safe, professional people you can put your trust in. To step into your personal best all you have to do is pick up the phone and call the number below.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call our confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.