When I was in high school, I wrote my junior theme on a brilliant and extremely hopeful book by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. It was life changing. Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who spent time as an inmate in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
After surviving this horrific experience, he conducted an analysis on how human beings cope with traumatic circumstances. He found that after going through the initial phases of shock and apathy, once liberated, many of the inmates experienced a psychological state known as de-personalization. This is a lack of self-awareness that can bring about dissociation from the mind or body.
In early sobriety we can find ourselves in a similar state. We’ve moved beyond the crisis and given up the substance, but we continue to look for opportunities to numb out in order to cope. It leaves us feeling disjointed and unable to access our feelings, emotional state, and at times our physical needs.
As we know, our addictive behavior allowed us to check out for years or even decades, and for many of us this happened during our younger years which was a time when our brain functioning was still developing.
So, it’s no surprise that when we find ourselves entering sobriety, we are a bit disheveled and out of sorts. It’s like coming out of the movies in broad daylight. Having been ensconced in the darkness of the theatre, the door suddenly opens and we’re out on the street in the bright sunlight.
It takes time for our eyes to adjust.
As you step into this new world of sobriety, handle yourself with care. Take the time you need to get acquainted and more comfortable with accessing and experiencing your feelings. Seek help from those around you. The goal is to gradually find those rougher edges that once felt too overwhelming to face and make peace with them once and for all.
It’s the only way to move past the discomfort and find the peace that’s been waiting for you on the other side.
November 15, 2022