Vallarta Tribune, Aug 6-12, 2006, issue # 487, pg 15

It is extremely important to recognize that healing from emotional pain whether it is caused by addiction, codependency, abuse, trauma, divorce, or loss, to name a few, is invariably life changing. A metamorphosis occurs as the person heals and recovers their “self”. They not only recover the person they were prior to the traumatic event, loss, or abuse, they also gain an understanding of themselves and discover a person they never knew who is better than before. This is especially dramatic in the case with addiction and codependency. Essentially, a person in the process of recovery creates a relationship with themselves that is more honest and much more aware.

More honest

They become more honest with themselves about who they are and what they want. They stop minimizing (or even denying) the events of their past and begin to own the experiences that have brought them to this point. When they talk about such events they are more honest, include more detail and realize they don’t need to protect or defend the ones who caused the pain. The shame seems to dissipate and is replaced by a sense of validation of who they are and what they went through. They realize that the emotions they feel now are appropriate and justified.

More aware

They also become increasingly aware of their internal and external world. Often times, it is as if they are discovering things for the first time. Their senses heighten increasing their ability to appreciate the world around them. They notice things for the first time that were there all along. They take pleasure in the smell or taste of something, they are impressed by smiles and gestures from others, and they find joy in a beautiful sunset. Internally, they are much more in touch with their feelings and physical sensations. They feel more alive!

One trauma victim described how she can now laugh out loud without worrying if anyone else is watching or approving, and said she found her smile. She feels like she is more colorful; more expressive, more vibrant and full of life. When she reflects back she is amazed at the long-term effects of the abuse and trauma, and says it was as if the life was sucked out of her and everything turned to black and white.

Everything just gets better

To begin with, basic health returns including eating and sleeping patterns, regular exercise routines and self-care, and nightmares are less frequent or subside. As one thing improves all of the rest seems to follow and fall into place. Your problems become resolvable, answers and solutions are more apparent, more choices and options appear, things feel achievable and life becomes manageable. Your self-esteem increases improving your self-confidence and self-worth and you gain a clearer sense of self.

The incredibly deep rooted shame that is attached to these events or life-long issues is overwhelming. When you finally start to let go and overcome some of this shame, you are able to hold your head high and feel a sense of pride for having survived, for being a stronger more resilient person. You begin to interact with others, accept invitations, and begin to risk relating on an emotional more intimate level with friends and lovers.

Endless possibilities

The possibilities are endless and vary in each individual depending on many other factors and life stressors which need attending and resolving. However, your ability to confront, manage, and resolve these issues is much more probable in recovery because of the changes in you; your attitudes, behavior, beliefs, and because you are not alone. You successfully built a support system and integrated recovery into your every day life.

These same ideas and descriptions are beautifully expressed in the Big Book of AA in the chapter on the Promises of Recovery. “You will…” 1) know a new freedom and a new happiness, 2) not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it, 3) comprehend the word serenity and know peace, 4) see how your experience can benefit others, 5) lose the feeling of uselessness and self-pity disappear, 6) lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others, 7) have your self-seeking ways slip away, 8) have your whole attitude and outlook upon life will change, 9) lose your fear of people and economic insecurity, 10) intuitively know how to  handle situations that used to baffle you, 11) suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. (“Understanding the Twelve Steps,” Gorski, T, 199, pp. 175)

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC