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Chris Sharpe is also an associate of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa

Twin Rivers in South Africa


Emotional Management: Addiction Recovery Article by Chris Sharpe

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Emotional Management by Chris SharpeUnmanageable Emotional Problems:

“When it comes to recovery there is some good news and some bad news: The good news is you get your feelings back, the bad news is; you get your feelings back.” So goes a saying often heard in the meeting rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. However it’s a saying that’s not as straightforward as it initially sounds.

My counselling experience tells me that the active alcoholic or addict may face many seemingly unmanageable emotional problems while drinking or using. Therefore, it is no surprise when I add, that many of the addicted clients I see, use alcohol or drugs primarily to manage or numb these uncomfortable or painful emotions, many of which are caused by difficult relationship issues. We also know that active addiction in turn creates its own unmanageable problems, both inside and outside of relationships. At this point the alcohol or drug becomes a magical potion or panacea, which at best can only numb or shroud the initial problem. As the above truism suggests, without ongoing support, removing the anesthetising mantle only goes to highlight the core problem. Therefore the role of Addiction Recovery Centres such as Twin Rivers in South Africa is twofold. Firstly the alcohol or drug needs to be withdrawn from the system. Within the residential confines of a professional treatment centre this becomes a relatively straight forward process. Secondly, the newly recovering addict will, with the aid of ongoing psychological counselling, need to learn how to manage those difficult emotions. Without this most necessary intervention, they will face an almost certain relapse and return to active addiction. Therapy is also beneficial when extended to the family member at this stage.

Trying and testing cracks will often begin to appear, within relationships, when the newly participating parties hold on to the irrational belief that things appear, ‘good enough as they are’ and as a result they begin to believe that nothing needs to change. In such untreated relationships the dysfunctional ‘Family Illness’ prevails as damaged egos tend to battle for supremacy. These unprocessed and harmful complications will undoubtedly result in the escalation of unmanageable emotions, such as inferiority, inadequacy, guilt and shame, all of which pave the unstable pathway back to certain relapse.

For this reason above all others, post residential therapy becomes crucial in order that the recovering addict and their family members learn how to manage those distressing emotions, which may have been buried for years, and thus avoid the painful and unnecessary consequences of relapse. Regular involvement with readily available resources such as: aftercare, continuing counselling sessions and participation in recovery support groups, should become a required part of ongoing sobriety. As yet there is no known cure for alcoholism or addiction. However, with the continuing help of others the addict becomes willing to accept a helping hand and thus learns how to maintain and manage their emotional wellbeing. Then there is a chance of standing in our own power, taking full responsibility for our own emotions and achieving an enduring state of quality sobriety.

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