My emotions have always been all over the place, often too big and sometimes way too small. I am often surprised how quickly they shift, as they go from really high to really low, in what at times, can feel like seconds and other times from day to day, without warning or cause. I have been trying to pay more attention to my emotions in sobriety and how they have remained the same and/or shifted from when I was drinking, and may I add heavily.
At first I had to identify that what I was feeling were in fact emotions. I had stuffed everything down for so long that the only emotions that ever surfaced were rage and hatred. When and if these emotions came out they were alcohol fueled and over exaggerated so anything that was truly underneath (the true emotions) had no space or place to reveal themselves.
I liken these past displays of alcohol fueled emotions as high tide, turbulent, unrelenting and with a strong undertow that would pull me and everyone else around me deep under the water, throwing them around, swirling in my rage with no way to escape for air. Have you ever been in the ocean during high tide, when the sets of waves just keep coming? You quickly gasp for a breathe of air, haaa!, then dive deep under water again only to get tossed around like crazy as the wave rolls over you. Then you rise up, gasp for air again, only to be smacked in the face by the next large wave in the set. The salt water in your nose and mouth and you are yet again tossed about only to rise again, hacking and coughing, gasping for air yet again, before the next huge wave comes bounding down on you all over again.
Why not get out of the water you ask? Well, in this space of relentless waves that pull you under and drag you back out again and again, it is hard, very hard to make your way out of the water and get back to shore. You have to drag yourself out, planting your feet with each step to pull yourself forward and ensure you don’t get pummeled by the next set of waves in the tide’s fury. When you finally reach the shore you are exhausted and sometimes to be honest, terrified because the fury of the sea is much bigger than you and you realize how small and weak you really are compared to this ever changing vastness of water. Remind you of anything?
I compare my raging alcoholic self to high tide, as I can only imagine what it has been like for my family, through the years, as my drinking increased and my episodes of high tide raging, over dramatic pity parties would ensue. I would always rage and wallow in how no one cared about me or how I did everything and no one helped. You name it I raged about it. My boys and husband must have felt dragged under with no way to rise and take a breath from my yelling and screaming. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for my kids.
There were and definitely are times now of low tides of my emotions, these are mixtures of feeling alone, lost, or sad but also grateful, that I am now more calm and can handle these emotions more gracefully. When I was drinking however, these low tides were the swirling, gradual stewing of emotions that I did not know how to deal with. These emotions would come in and out, never staying long enough for me to examine them. They were just out of grasp, as they rolled in and out, just like low tide on the shore. I could wade in the water of my emotions but would never go too deep, as the water was too calm and I never really knew what was underneath. I would try to wade in these low tides of shallow water of my emotions, but I could not because it hurt too much. Shame, guilt, sadness and fear rolled in and out just like the tide, slow and steady never rising too much but just enough to make me wallow and feel unsafe, floating in the vastness of some very dark water, all around me like at the beach. As we wade out into the sea during low tide, small little waves and unclear water lapping all around me. The low tide is enjoyable for awhile until the fear settles back over me, that I need to stop drinking and change, stop this insanity, all of this is just too scary for me so I drudge myself back to the shore for my perceived place of safety – drunkenness would prevail to “save me”.
Now, in my days of sobriety I am trying to identity my emotions more and understand why I still dive into the high tide of a raging sea inside of me. But now I find the surface more quickly and take breathes between each wave that thrashes over me. Yes, high tide still comes my way emotionally, but I am learning how to dive deep and rise again, bursting upward to breach the deep emotions that often try to drowned me. Instead of allowing the raging and screaming tides to devour me I stop and examine what is happening for me. I am working hard to look at myself and stop blaming everybody else and drag them deep underwater with me.
The low tides are still there as well, and although now days, I venture further into the water to find out more about my emotions, I still enjoy the peaceful lapping small waves on the shore of my life, keeping me more grounded than I ever thought I would be. Now, I can wade into my emotions, when I want to and walk out for quite a while with my emotions only stay about knee deep. The further I wade and walk out gives me confidence that I can just be with my emotions, all of them versus just the previous few, knowing I can return to shore whenever I need to and never drag anyone else under with me.
I will forever love and fear the sea, just like I do my myself and my family.
~K from the Hill Country