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Sober Mommies Whatever You Do, DON'T Feel

Whatever You Do, DON’T Feel

I drank because I had feelings, at my feelings, at and because of your feelings, and around situations that caused them.

A friend experienced a sudden tragedy this week and posted about her sadness via social media. No doubt in need of support, she shared with us that she was feeling defeated by the loss. Some of the responses were very supportive, but while reading through them, I couldn’t shake the tone of “Don’t feel that way.” No one came out and said it, but instead offered suggestions for possible distraction.

I’ve seen this a lot in the sober community, and have been guilty of it myself. Over the years it has started to irk me. I understand the suggestions come from a wonderful place.

We don’t want our friends to feel sad, and their sadness affects us…but feeling is part of sobriety. Feeling is required.

I spent many years on the other end of a bottle because I couldn’t deal with the “feeling” parts of sobriety. I drank because I had feelings, at my feelings, at and because of your feelings, and around situations that caused them. I totally understand the desire to escape from those pesky fuckers…trust me.

When I was newly sober, I was grateful for distraction because it kept me from drinking. Calling a friend, hanging out with sober people, focusing on something other than me. These things were necessary when I was new to the non-drinking world because there were so many things about my life that I couldn’t imagine doing or feeling without a drink in my hand.

It was important that I learned new coping strategies, and kept my mind and body busy when all I wanted to do was disappear into the dark corner of a bar. I had to reprogram my brain and settle into a routine that did not include booze.

I had to practice not drinking.

Now, while I can still fully appreciate the need for simple distraction, it has been my experience that it can become unhealthy. Putting my feelings on the shelf until “later” almost killed me. I was hurting in ways that my sober friends could not understand. Although I followed their suggestions and distracted myself with “other stuff,” the pain started to outgrow my abilities to cope.

I found myself six years sober and feeling unique in my humanness. I started to feel alone again. I started to hide behind smiles and laughter because it was clear that anything outside of that meant that I wasn’t working hard enough on my recovery. On the off chances that I did share my feelings, they were met with comments like, “What aren’t you doing?” These comments started to feel like kicks in the chest and I stopped sharing. Thank God, a good friend suggested an amazing therapist and I decided to make an appointment.

I sat with him and shared my secret thoughts and feelings. I told him that I knew they were wrong, and that with several years of sobriety and an amazing relationship with God, I should feel differently. His response was awesome. He suggested that I not “should” on my life and experiences, but rather, simply experience them.  I was immediately turned off, but I trusted him.

He asked me what I thought would happen if I just felt sad for some of the things that had happened in my life.

I couldn’t answer. The question was not presented in a language I could understand. Just feel?? Ugh, that sounded dreadful!

With my therapist’s help I learned that the feelings I was having were not alcoholic, they were human. They could not be cured with or by the same tools I had been using to combat my alcoholism. I had to feel these emotions and deal with them. It was only in that process that I could heal.

When I see someone hurting now, sober or not, my first reaction is to meet them wherever they are and just be there. My job today is not to fix anyone’s feelings or distract them from feeling. It is my job as a friend to listen and support. I will not direct anyone to a passage in a book or suggest a distraction. I will simply offer my unconditional love and make sure they know they’re not alone.

It’s okay to feel today because it’s not the feelings that will kill us. It is hiding the feelings or feeling alone in them that is dangerous.

If you are hurting, feeling alone, or overwhelmed with a situation, please share it with someone. Even if you post it here anonymously…let us help. Let us assure you that you are not alone, and that your feelings are normal. Having feelings is normal.

Whatever the fuck normal is…

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

This post originally appeared on SoberMommies in February 2014.

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  1. Great post! Very enlightening, and so true! I needed to read this TODAY!

  2. Kelly,

    Thank you so much for reading this and sharing your thoughts! <3

  3. Thank you from the depths of my grieving soul. I cannot begin to thank you enough for everything you do for me. You are truly the sister of my soul. I will honor my hurt and feel it today because I need to.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I appreciate your support so much. <3

  4. This is a very wise post. I think this may be the crux of alcohol dependence; we drink to avoid scary or upsetting emotions, and eventually start to think we drink because we are incapable of handling feeling these emotions. Letting these emotions back into our lives and truly feeling them is the key to taking back control of our own lives! Thank you for this post!

    1. Author

      You hit the nail on the head, Carrie. I agree that believing we’re unable to deal is definitely part of the problem. It’s not easy to let feelings back in, especially the shitty ones, but I have to believe it’s better than the alternative. Some feelings are just painful to handle, drunk or sober, but I’d MUCH rather the opportunity to process, heal, and learn from them. Thank you so much for being here. <3

  5. Such a helpful and REAL post. Thank you for reminding me that it’s ok to feel and be human.
    Recovering is a lifelong process and feeling my feelings and learning to love and accept ALL of my parts is so important for me. I love Sobermommies:)

    1. Author

      Thank you, Allycia. Learning to accept feelings and how to love ourselves IS so important. Thank you so much for traveling this journey with me. We love YOU right back. 🙂 XO

  6. I am newly sober and I too needed this today. Sober mommies has been a blessing to me and helps me realize I indeed am not alone. I cannot thank all if you enough.

    1. Carolyn,

      Thank you so much for being here, and for reading our blog. You are a blessing to me!! HUGE congratulations on getting sober!!! I hope you will share your journey with us some day!! 🙂 XOXO

  7. This is such a helpful post – thank you 🙂 I am two weeks sober today, and over the last 3 days have been almost overwhelmed by the strength of my emotions, from great surges of joy out of the blue to deep anxiety over everything and nothing. Just a simple reminder that this is normal is so reassuring – and I hope that in time I will learn how to process these emotions sober, and not simply label them “emotions I shouldn’t feel” and squash them down with wine. I am glad to have found your blog 🙂

    1. Author

      Congratulations on two weeks of sobriety!!! That’s AMAZING!! Yes, getting sober can be quite an emotional roller coaster, for sure. TOTALLY normal (whatever that means)!! 🙂 I’m so glad you found us too. It gets easier, I promise. If it didn’t, no one would stay sober very long. 😀 I’m so glad that reading this helped you, and thank you so much for letting me know and introducing yourself!

  8. I really needed to see this. After 8 years of sobriety, Ive really started to feel so lonely and depressed. I dont feel like the person I was a year ago.

    Your article really lifted my spirits. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I’m so glad it helped you! I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling that way. You are so NOT alone. I’m SO glad you’re here with us. 🙂 <3

  9. This is important. As a culture, we have trouble being near people who are experiencing pain. We want to “shhh, don’t cry,” or “it will be alright.” When people experience the horror of losing a child, a parent, a spouse or whatever brings them extreme pain, as a culture we limit how long they can discuss it before people whisper, “when is she going to move on?”

    I always say this. Recovery from a loss is as personal as recovery from addiction. Everyone does it their own way. And if they say or post a lot about their pain, let them. Never limit or try to change someone’s recovery from loss because talking about it makes us uncomfortable. Be beside them, and let them lead.

    Great post.

  10. I’m an adult and I still have an issue dealing with my feelings! Thank you for this wonderful blog post. I’m so great at building walls and using defense mechanisms to bury them deep, but they always come back one way or another.

    1. Sherri,

      I think struggling with feelings is a human thing. It doesn’t matter how old we are. Maybe even the older we get the more we struggle, who knows?

      I build walls too, but you know what’s awesome?

      We both SEE them.

      I’m SO happy you’re here. If you need support, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


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