by Melissa Greene
It seems that one of the biggest predictors for achieving sobriety (from any type of addiction– drugs, alcohol, love, gambling, etc.) is the person’s ability to endure withdrawal. Certainly there are people who endure the pain of withdrawal and, in a matter of days or weeks, return to the drug. There are even those who have survived withdrawal multiple times. I think the largest group, however, are those who never enter withdrawal EVER.
I have come to believe that enduring withdrawal is nearly impossible when attempted alone. It’s just too hard and an addict needs accountability, someone there holding them to the sober line. Addicts turn to the drug/activity of choice to avoid emotional pain of some sort. The use of addictive relationships and substances helps stave off pain from the past that, at the time, we did not have the tools to experience. A neglected or abused child with no parental support is not equipped to emotionally cope. The pain of this remains frozen and forever delayed through addictions. When this person, at age 35, decides to stop the addictions, the pain of that event, and perhaps many other events, shows up presenting a bill. Withdrawal pain includes experiencing delayed hurts… thus, why so many people fear they cannot endure it.
If someone feels they are ready to endure the darkness and pain of withdrawal, then I encourage you to surround yourself with loving and supportive people beforehand. Cut back on other responsibilities and be prepared to show immense kindness and compassion to yourself. Be prepared to cry, rage, and talk, talk, talk. You may want to write about what you are feeling. You may want to exercise or read about what you are going through. Reading about the process is a helpful reminder that the pain of withdrawal is productive and useful. Be patient with the process and know this is only a season of hurt and will yield great rewards when endured.
You have essentially been dropped into the ocean with oxygen, a flashlight, and a compass and told where to go. If you freak out and continually come to the surface, you will never be able to complete this mission. At some point you have to accept that you have all the tools you need to get where you are going. Stay calm, stay in the water, use your tools, and keep swimming.
(Melissa is a native Tennesseean, married with two children. She works as a Licensed Professional Counselor, providing treatment to children and their families. Melissa specializes in trauma and addictions. She is also a songwriter and poet with poems previously published in The Phoenix literary arts magazine and All Around Us: Poems from the Valley. She has contributed poetry to Nashville’s Writers in the Sky online chapbook. You may contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org)