Grapevine Online Exclusive

Published March 2011.

Web Exclusive: A Never-Ending Adventure

One man’s story of how important emotional balance becomes as the desire to drink fades.

"The problem I have with my emotions is that they try to run away with me."

When I entered rehab 24 years ago I told them that I only had two emotions. I was mad or I was okay. That wasn’t really true. I had all the emotions. I just didn’t know how to recognize them or deal with them. They had me do a little exercise. For several days I couldn’t talk. I had to walk around the unit and if someone said something to me I could only respond with feeling words. I also wasn’t supposed to use any feeling word that had anything to do with anger. I could use words like “happy,” “sad,” “fear,” “shame,” “remorse,” “depressed,” “grateful,” “arrogant”—those were all okay, but no anger. It forced me to stop and think a little before I reacted to what was going on. The exercise was one of those things I hated about being in rehab. I hated it, but it also worked. It worked as a start.

The process of dealing with my emotions has been a never-ending adventure. I say adventure rather than struggle because I don’t like to look at things too negatively. Being an alcoholic isn’t a problem that I have to solve. It’s a continuing reality of my life. The emotions are part of it. The emotions are a very active and involved part of it. As the years go by, at least for me, the desire to drink fades into the background. I simply have other ways to celebrate, relax, mourn, and generally cope with the day. Drinking isn’t the first thing that pops into my head anymore. I mostly need to maintain an awareness of when the idea of drinking tries to sneak up on me. The emotions, on the other hand, are something that I don’t even want to fade into the background.

-- Tom K.

Millard, Nebraska

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