Growing up in a home where feelings were not appropriate, I learned from an early age to hide my feelings, to keep them as a secret because feelings were somehow unacceptable.
It was expected that I put a smile on my face and jump into the day, and I became very good at keeping my feelings to myself. There was never discussion about feeling sad, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or lonely – these were “bad” feelings, and therefore I was “bad” for feeling.
In my teen years, I became somewhat of a recluse. I played my guitar for hours at night and read books into the wee hours of the morning, getting caught up in the world any book provided. This escape allowed me to ignore the fact that I felt lonely, sad and overwhelmed. I kept these secrets tucked away and showed up for life with a smile.
As a young adult, I discovered alcohol and drugs. All of my secret feelings were gone when I drank or used. It was magical.
The momentary relief from feelings became more of a need as time went on. I knew how to stop feeling. The solution of alcohol and drugs worked for a while. I could hold down a good job, make good money and a name for myself, and drink away the worry of what ‘they’ thought of me when I went home.
At some point, my solution to not feeling my feelings quit working. I needed to use more to keep my feelings at bay. I became unemployable. My solution turned on me, and no matter how much I drank or used, every feeling I had tucked away was up and in my face. I could no longer hide. I could no longer keep the secrets. I was a miserable train wreck and had no solution.
Going to a drug rehab (ie: getting sober) was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. My life was ugly. My life was messy. I was raw and had no idea how to deal with any emotion or feeling. I felt like I was drowning in a big black pool of ick.