Outside Issues: Emotional Health
Emotional health is an important issue to address, especially for alcoholics and addicts in recovery. So often, our emotional health gets misplaced or swept up by our mental health and spiritual health practices. It’s a common pattern to focus on our mental and spiritual health in recovery because if we get too far off course in these areas, the effects are usually very noticeable and acute. Skimping on spiritual health drives us closer to relapse and opens the door for the mental obsession to return, so when we feel our spiritual health declining, we can hopefully address it. When our mental health isn’t being taken care of, we can still tell that we’re anxious or depressed, even if we hide it well. But when our emotional health is out of whack, we can often overlook it. We may chalk up the little signs to other causes or even misdiagnose the real problem, leaving us open to the suffering that is dangerous and confusing.
What We Should Know
No doubt, our health in all these areas must be a top priority if we expect to live long, happily, and usefully in recovery. Mental, emotional, and spiritual health are often huge determining factors in the quality of our life and the quality of our recovery. Luckily for us, they are all helped immensely by regular 12-Step work and active participation in the rhythm of recovery, including fellowship and service. But this arrangement goes both ways — if we neglect the program of recovery, it can negatively impact our health in every way, but especially our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. If we neglect our health in these areas, it can likewise put our recovery in jeopardy.
This is not as complex as it sounds because the secret to this balancing act has already been revealed: active participation in meetings, fellowship, service, and the 12-Step work of the program of recovery. While the 12-Steps can introduce us to a power greater than ourselves that can solve all our problems, it doesn’t mean we can’t seek additional help or dig deeper into our own healing. There are no limits to how much we can improve ourselves in recovery, and this is where our emotional health comes back into the picture.
Emotional health is often the least considered area of our healing and growth, yet most alcoholics and addicts are dominated by their emotions. Anger stemming from resentment, fear leading to escape, sadness leading to isolation, and all the other emotions and their consequences pretty much run our lives. When we are starting out in recovery, this still holds true. It takes time, practice, and lots of 12-Step work to begin to be able to process our emotions, keep them in balance, and stop letting them dictate our actions and run our lives. We have to inventory our emotions in relation to our behavior patterns and become familiar with how they run the show, even when we aren’t aware of them.
What We Can Do About It
Seen in this light, our emotional health is at least an equal priority to our spiritual and mental health. We tend to focus overtly on the other two, as they are often more acceptable to talk about. Our feelings somehow always end up being harder to discuss than our mental and spiritual problems. This paradigm needs to shift, and recovery communities are doing their part to make it so. We can start to follow suit and give our emotional health its due share of our attention and effort. We can be honest with the people in our lives and take special care to be honest as we work the 12-Steps as well. No matter how irrational, silly, embarrassing, or petty an emotion may seem, we must be honest about our feelings with our sponsor or in the process of 12-Step work. This is our best chance to learn how to process these emotions, cope with them, and discover healthy ways of healing from them in the future.
Our emotional health needs care and upkeep just like our health in any other area, and the program of recovery is our best possible baseline for health maintenance — meaning that we always keep the 12-Steps and the recovery lifestyle as our foundation for health and healing, while understanding there is more we can do. We can be proactive about complementary practices and other things that increase the emotional benefits of working a solid, involved recovery program. This includes prayer and meditation, which are highly suggested in the 12-Step process. We can dig deeper into these age-old practices and engage with them beyond what we are asked to do for our recovery. There are also many different kinds of therapy, whether we need it to heal from past trauma or simply get in touch with and learn how to balance our emotions. Regular visits with a therapist are a welcome addition to meetings, fellowship, and work with our sponsor.
Simply put, we may be missing some key opportunities for growth, peace, and healing if we let our emotional health fall under the radar — because even if we don’t properly acknowledge our emotions, they will have an effect on us. It greatly benefits us to acknowledge our emotions and give ourselves the care required to stay emotionally healthy.
Alcoholism and addiction are often accompanied by emotional and mental health issues. However, it can be difficult to decipher the root causes of these issues when they are exacerbated by our alcoholism and addiction. Just as often, emotional and mental health issues are what lead us to alcoholism and addiction in the first place. It’s a pretty vicious cycle, and it can be hard to separate one from the other. Luckily, there is a solution. The 12-Step program is designed to help those who suffer find recovery from alcoholism and addiction. This program of spiritual action and the lifestyle it recommends often help in more ways than recovery from the disease. There are also many benefits to the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of those who engage in the recovery program. Additional resources such as therapy and meditation are often enhanced by the program of recovery. At Jaywalker Lodge, we are ready to help all men who struggle with alcoholism, addiction, and emotional and mental health issues find lasting recovery. Call us now at (866) 529-9255 to get started.