We’ve talked before about how I am basically a teenage girl trapped in an adult body – I watch TV shows and movies geared toward this population, read their books and listen to their music. Many will chuckle and assume all this stuff is really juvenile and offers little insight into “real life”, but you might be surprised.
Case in point: There is a TV show called “The Vampire Diaries” on the CW. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but needless to say, it is a show about a bunch of teenage/young-adult looking vampires and how they interact with each other and humans. Exciting stuff, right? Anyway, on the show the vampires all still experience strong emotional reactions including sadness, loss, love and anger. These same vampires have the option of “turning off their humanity” which means they no longer feel pain or sadness or guilt. They are willing to do anything to anyone and experience no remorse. That is until something happens and their humanity is turned back on which causes all of those emotions to come flooding back. Interesting concept, right?
Now, we “regular people” do not have the option of turning off our humanity to stop experiencing our feelings – no matter how much we may want to avoid them. What I have observed in my practice is that people start using drugs and alcohol to achieve the same result. Something happens in their life that causes them so much pain that they will do anything not to feel it anymore. As long as they continue to use the drugs, the feelings are kept at bay.
An addict almost has to “turn off their humanity” in their efforts to continue their drug use. They cannot feel remorse about the people they might hurt or the crimes they may commit. They are so focused on getting and keeping the high, all other feelings would only interfere with that pursuit.
Sobriety is when their humanity gets turned back on. Not only must they deal with whatever it was that chased them into drugs in the first place, but now they must also deal with everything they did while using drugs and alcohol as well. This flood of emotion is typically overwhelming and frightening. It is one of the many reasons I recommend that individuals in rehab or who are working on their sobriety also participate in therapy. They can benefit from the support and need to develop appropriate coping skills to deal with all of these negative emotions. All too often, clients have told me they are unable to manage the feelings and escape back into their addiction.
So… the next time someone belittles your entertainment choices (go teen fiction!), remember there are amazing insights everywhere – you just need to know where to look.