One of the main reason that people who are addicted to alcohol or any other drug use is that they are attempting to numb feelings of some kind. The degree to which a person is drinking to numb their feelings may vary, but must instances of alcoholism are due at least in part to a desire not to feel emotions that may be uncomfortable, such as anger, sadness, loneliness, or inadequacy, just to name a few.
This is one of the things that makes achieving sobriety such a struggle. The chemical addiction to alcohol takes a hold of an alcoholic at the same time that a person experiences more and more intense emotions that make them desire alcohol increasingly more often.
Attempting to Numb Feelings Is Very Common
Everyone has felt feelings of intense pain at some point in their life. Everyone also feels varying degrees of anger and frustration from time to time. This is just a reality of being human. Some people numb their feelings with alcohol, while others may be more inclined to numb their feelings with things like food, shopping, or television. The reason for this is that truly addressing feelings takes a lot of work and requires one to subject themselves to much vulnerability and even more intense feelings.
It can seem much simpler to "put a band-aid" on an unpleasant feeling than to actually deal with unpleasant feelings. The reality is, however, that this is only a short term solution. Dealing with emotions by numbing them does nothing to address the true cause of emotions. It simply pushes them deeper below the surface.
Drinking to Numb Pain Can Actually Make Pain Worse
The immediate effect that alcohol often has is to make it feel as though painful feelings have gone away. The problem is, that not only does the pain not go away, it actually gets much worse because it is left untreated. The longer a person drinks to numb their feelings, the less used they are to assessing their emotions and finding a way to work through them.
Someone who has been drinking for a very long time will often find it very difficult to understand why they are feeling a certain way and will often feel a generalized sense of sadness or anxiety whether or not they have been drinking.
Drinking Complicates Negative Emotions
Drinking alcohol may temporarily help an alcoholic forget their problems or feel them less intensely, but drinking also makes an alcoholic behave in ways that may actually lead to even more emotional problems. Many people may have anger management issues when they drink. They may be more prone to say things that they do not mean or to behave in ways that they do not actually want to behave.
It is very common for alcoholics to experience feelings of guilt or shame after they engage in these behaviors. and these feelings can complicate the emotions that an alcoholic was attempting to numb by drinking in the first place.
Sobriety Can Mean Many Unpleasant Emotions
For many recovering alcoholics, the biggest challenge they must face is experiencing emotions for the first time in a long while without numbing them with alcohol. This is no easy feat, and this is one reason that a recovery program is such an important part of attaining and maintaining sobriety.
In recovery, a recovering alcohol gets the tools they need to experience emotional triggers and to face them with healthy mechanisms and an honest look at how they can improve, rather than drinking in order to avoid feeling them. The right treatment program can help a recovering addict stop this cycle permanently.