So over the Easter break I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly. I felt a little guilty that it had taken me so long to get to read it as I had read her earlier books quickly and voraciously. Maybe I needed to be ready to read it and I wasn’t until now? Who knows but WOW. This book was as applicable in recovery as it was when I was drinking which is when I read her first two – I was looking for an answer then but still had the glass in my hand! 😉
For me the focus has to be her work on the subject of the vulnerability shield of numbing. Yep I had an A* in numbing and escaping myself. In fact when I think back I’ve been trying to escape myself almost as long as I can remember. As Rachel said recently quoting Caroline Knapp ‘same dance, different shoes’. In childhood it was escape into books, films, sweets and chocolate. In the teenage years it was friendships, boys and booze. In young adulthood it was boys, sex, booze, drugs, overspending and debt and food again. As an adult I added in over-working and ongoing study and then along came the internet! Perfectionism was always present – perfect house, job, marriage, children, life …….. When one substance or behaviour stopped working – I switched to another or had them all running simultaneously so I never had to come up for air or have to deal with being ‘me’. As Brene says ‘We’re desperate to feel less or more of something – to make something go away or to have more of something else.’
So I read this chapter carefully and with great thought and reflection. I’m going to share some of the key bits but really recommend you read the book in its entirety. She postulates that anxiety and disconnection are also drivers of numbing in addition to trying to avoid our vulnerability and shame. Her data described a range of experiences that included depression, loneliness, isolation, disengagement and emptiness. And this paragraph really resonated with me:
Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded, and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger or better, we’d be able to handle everything. Numbing here becomes a way to take the edge off of both instability and inadequacy.
I read this and it was like a fire alarm going off in my head. Ding ding ding ding ding!!
For me, vulnerability led to anxiety, which led to shame, which led to disconnection, which led to Bud Light. For many of us, the literal chemical anesthetizing of emotions is just a pleasant, albeit dangerous, side effect of behaviours that are more about fitting in, finding connection and managing anxiety.
Yep I hear you Brene …..
So her research findings from those who lived Wholeheartedly:
- Learning how to actually feel feelings
- Staying mindful about numbing behaviours (they struggled too)
- Learning how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions
As regards anxiety she was quite clear that there were different types of anxiety and levels of intensity, that which was hardwired and best addressed with medication and therapy, and that which was environmental – the ‘crazy busy’ overextended and overstressed.
The solution to the environmental ones are about setting boundaries and limits to lower our anxiety and the research participants related this to worthiness with boundaries. We have to believe we are enough to say ‘Enough’.
For me this was saying ‘Enough’ to alcohol and so I am closer to living wholeheartedly and tomorrow I’ll talk about the other shadow comforts that remain …..
PS Can I welcome a new face to my neck of the sober blogging world: https://1mum3kids0booze.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/day-148/
Go say hello 🙂