Beyond Sobriety: The Work of Emotional Recovery:


Emotional Abuse: Anything less than nurturing is abuse.

The reasons for addiction are many, but the emotional charge that underlies the obsession and compulsion of such behaviors is remarkably similar. An adult, even in recovery, may suppress unresolved and often-unrecognized trauma from childhood experiences and its energetic residue is toxic.

This is the case whether the trauma/abuse was physical, sexual, verbal, mental or emotional. The latter three forms of violence are often denied, or minimized, so there is no awareness at a conscious level of the damage that was perpetrated. The spirit and the soul of the child is severely affected. Without education, support and intense personal work, the result is a damaged adult.

Similar to an undiagnosed abscess, which sends toxins throughout the body, this wounded-ness manifests toxic emotions. When as a child, your boundaries are violated, your sense of self is critically damaged. It can happen in a number of ways and reveals itself on a continuum from physical violation, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional violence, i.e. name-calling, shaming, put-downs, to failure to meet your needs for validation and support because your parent is so needy himself/herself.

If you were threatened or verbally punished for crying "Don't cry", "I'll give you something to cry about", i.e. were punished for feeling, you will then as a parent, have that reaction resurface when your own child cries. Since no one was there to rescue you from the abuse, in order to make sense of the violence, you will normalize it.

However, the consequent anger and resentment festers, and if you don't deal with it, becomes rage. This rage is then either acted out, displaced and/or passed on to others who are vulnerable. It may be acted in through self-destructive behaviors, depression and other forms of dis-ease. Since these wounds are unconscious, the symptoms; the lashing out, depression, moodiness, etc. are simply accepted or denied. This is known as an altered baseline tolerance for abuse and it can continue through generations.

Until you understand what truly nurturing parenting and relationships consist of, followed by sustained personal work to recognize your triggers for re-enacting the abuse, the reasons and excuses for covert violence prevail as the norm.

It is not uncommon for alcoholics, rage-aholics and addicts of all types to deny and minimize the effect of their behavior on others. This is a direct result of denial of the violence that occurred in childhood.

Even with years of sobriety and working the 12Steps there is often a lack of awareness of the effects of abuse and it continues to feed multigenerational addiction and codependency. Adult Children of Alcoholics attempts to address those issues, with some success, but mainstream AA remains largely resistant.

The gateway to chemical dependency, be it alcohol, drugs, food or tobacco, and disease, is negative emotions, which poison not only the body of the person experiencing them, but also the atmosphere for everyone involved.

The "hole in the soul" created by childhood trauma results in your feeling defective; feeling bad about yourself. Since there is "nobody home", your self-worth is defined by others, and by your actions. (Damaged parents cannot validate the uniqueness and special qualities of their children, since they didn't have that done for them, and haven't done the work to re-parent themselves in a compassionate way).

Bill Cosby, speaking on an Oprah show said it this way. "Hurt people hurt people." (Oprah show, 2007)

Your lack of self-worth leads to acceptance of inappropriate behavior in relationships. As an unhealed adult/child you've likely developed a lowered baseline tolerance for the kind of treatment that you deserve from others.

To develop into a fully integrated, emotionally healthy person means you must learn how to deal with resentment, sadness, disappointment and hurt without beating yourself up, or someone else. Addiction is an act of violence toward yourself.In addition, the witnesses to that violence, i.e. family members, are affected deeply.
If adults around you were preoccupied with their own difficulties, abandonment issues are a consequence. When your parent was not present physically and emotionally for reasons such as narcissism, addiction, addiction to anger, codependency, workaholism, illness or death etc., you interpret that as something being wrong with you.
Because children model self-care, or lack thereof from their primary caregivers, they judge themselves as worthy or unworthy, depending on how they are treated by parenting figures.

Family of origin work involves correcting this interpretation and creating a healthy self-image. This work involves becoming aware of how you were parented. It's not done from a perspective of blaming. It is a process of seeing and accepting yourself and your parents as fallible humans. It requires self-honesty, compassion and support.

This essential personal work identifies areas of wounded-ness in your parents' lives that resulted in the passing down of abusive behaviors and negative messages. Re-parenting yourself in this way is powerful.

This is combined with a daily clearing of the buildup of toxic emotions such as anger, resentment, fear and shame, in order to interrupt the familiar by dysfuncional patterns that result in your wanting explode at someone, turn the anger on yourself, or distract yourself with compulsive behaviors.

Addictive behaviors are a substitute for emotional maturity. Shaming, blaming and focus on perceived shortcomings of others are used to deflect attention from your own character flaws. Morbid self-flagellation is also used to avoid self-responsibility. Addictive personalities feel inadequate and this must be dealt with continually, to avoid passing it on. The use of criticizing and putting others down, as a way of making yourself feel bigger needs to stop.

"My grievances hide the light of the world in me" (Course in Miracles)

Healing modalities that address body/mind/emotions/spirit all have as an essential component taking responsibility for your life, a process for forgiveness for yourself and others. It is essential to heal the shame that blocks true intimacy.

Intimacy means being transparent, being unashamed of being perceived as flawed or imperfect, regardless of the situation or the others involved. Untreated addictive behavior requires you to be "10 feet tall and bulletproof", that is to not admit to any weakness or lack, and if something happens that puts a chink in that persona, to blame someone or something, rather than say, "I screwed up", and have that be ok.

An integrated person will not accept being blamed or punished for human errors. Rather you simply admit the wrong, accept responsibility and are willing to do what is necessary for repair, be it emotional, verbal, or physical harm that has been done.

The 12-Steps refer to the substance of abuse or dysfunctional behavior only one time. The remainder of the work is mental/emotional/relational/spiritual healing, which is meant to be a lifetime process.

This is an overview of the work to identify, understand and heal the childhood wounds that negatively impact on your relationships with yourself and others. There are many great resources available to support you and your loved ones as you develop healthier, more compassionate ways to relate to yourself, and to the world.

You're worth it!!!!

Author's Bio: 

For the past 35 years, I've been free of an eating disorder and addiction. I have a spiritual healing practice focused on helping others to get well in body, mind, emotions and spirit. "Your body is your soul's address."