Probably one of the most jarring experiences many addicts in early recovery will face is when he or she starts to actually feel feelings – the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. And, as strange as it may sound, it can be difficult to identify what these feelings are even associated with. This is because in active addiction, we generally become so accustomed to numbing out, whether that be with drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or whatever our compulsive behavior patterns were, that we really and truly don’t even know how to identify our emotions.
Along with our feelings also comes something that sits right in the gut – our intuition. No, it doesn’t physically sit in our stomachs, but you likely know what a “gut feeling” is. It’s our intuition, and after years of brushing it aside, we become relatively detached from it. It takes time to rebuild the connection, but it can definitely be developed.
Let’s look at how our intuition works in the first place. Intuition is something that we’re all born with. Have you ever noticed, in general, how young children seem to just naturally know how to enjoy themselves and engage in activities that make them feel good? They don’t have the responsibilities that adults have, and haven’t really been on the planet long enough to have developed a fixed sense of what’s “right” versus what’s “wrong”. They just live their lives. They follow their instincts, much in the way that animals do. Watching children play is such a great way to be reminded of how we’re naturally wired, and recollecting what we enjoyed as children can be a fantastic way to rediscover our own personal interests as well.
Many addicts grew up in what, for all intents and purposes, can only be described as dysfunctional families. Addiction-prone individuals in particular also have a tendency to be highly sensitive. As children, however, if their feelings are repeatedly ignored by family members and, moreover, if things don’t seem right at home but everyone maintains that things are normal, then it’s easy to understand how a child in this type of environment could learn not to trust his or her intuition.
Continuously feeling discomfort at home while everyone else around you is denying that there’s anything wrong can easily lead to the desire to numb out. Children often turn to food, self-harm, isolation, or find other ways to check out, and by a certain age, things like drugs, alcohol, and compulsive sexual behavior might start to enter into the picture. Adopting these kinds of habits can temporarily drown out the chaos, but they also begin to muffle intuition. An active addicts primary drive often evolves primarily into getting their “fix” in the form of whatever their drug, drink, or behavior of choice is.
Re-establishing a relationship with our intuition in recovery can be challenging, but fortunately, it can be done. It just requires patience, practice, and the courage to develop it.
Tools to Develop Intuition:
Quiet your mind. Being in active addiction usually means we’ve been living in chaos. Even when we’re alone, we’ve become so accustomed to numbing out that we’ve learned to stop giving our feelings room to come to the surface.
There are different ways of quieting our minds. Meditation and mindfulness practices can be highly beneficial in allowing us to reconnect to self, as can practices like yoga, Qigong, and writing, to name a few. Activities such as these can give us the opportunity to allow our thoughts to slow down. This can take time if we’re accustomed numbing out, but with practice generally comes a quieter mind, a decrease in anxiety, and, ultimately, a deeper connection to our intuition. Over time, we gain a better handle over our emotions and the connection to our intuition builds.
Rediscover childhood hobbies. Like we touched on earlier, children have a very keen sense of intuition and usually know what it is they love to do. Rarely does a child question his or her motives for wanting to have fun or for doing something that makes them feel good. Of course, one’s upbringing can impact this. In a highly abusive household where trauma starts at infancy, for example, it can be quite challenging for a child to ever truly develop a sense of intuition. This is also a reality for many who struggle with addiction. But most of the time, quieting the mind can help anyone access the passions that they had a strong pull toward as children, even if they were denied access to them.
Pay attention to how your body reacts. Our bodies can be excellent indicators of right versus wrong. For example, maybe we start having sweaty palms, a racing pulse, and perhaps even a tightness or pain in our chest when we’re anxious. This can be good or bad, depending on the situation. An example of good anxiety might be applying for a job or an opportunity you may have, once-upon-a-time, felt too insecure to apply for. This is the kind of anxiety we usually learn to move through in recovery. It’s not easy, but the payoff is big in the end in terms of how you feel. On the other hand, maybe the anxious feelings crop up when you’re about to walk into a party where you know there will be lots of drugs and alcohol, and where you might be triggered. In this case, you’re body is telling you to perhaps think twice before walking into the party. Or, at the very least, to proceed with caution – it’s more of a fight or flight reaction in the second instance. Intuition is not something that’s visible or tangible, so these types of cues are important to pay attention to. Our bodies are able to tell us a lot.
Get creative. If you already have creative passions that light you up, that’s great. Do more of these things. If not, then perhaps it’s time to find some creative hobbies. Start taking guitar lessons, or take a pottery workshop, or a sewing or acting class. There are virtually limitless ways to get creative, and exercising the right side of our brains really helps us to quiet the negative chatter in our heads and connect back to who we truly are.
When it comes to the advice or opinions of others, take what you like and leave the rest. There’s nothing wrong with following the advice of others, particularly if the advice is coming from someone that you like and admire. That said, don’t let the opinions or advice of others interfere with what your heart truly desires, particularly if that advice is coming unsolicited. This can be challenging in early sobriety because many recovery programs drive the message home that our thinking and intuition is often flawed when we first come in – that we’re sick addicts. Sure, in many cases, this can be true, and in early recovery in particular, it’s probably a good idea to run major life decisions by trusted confidants, a sponsor, or other role model. But, at the same time, you ultimately want to learn to trust yourself. That’s the goal, after all. Because when you’ve truly quieted the mind and have learned how to navigate your thoughts, you really are the only one who truly knows what’s right for you. Listen, and trust.
Developing a strong sense of intuition and learning to trust that strong sense is no easy feat in early sobriety, but the rewards that come with learning to trust our guts can be life-changing. Trusting our intuition enables us to follow our passions and live the lives that we were truly meant to live, doing all of the things that fill us with joy and passion. This is what life is all about, and we get to do this in recovery. There’s a big, blue world out there to be explored, and it’s just waiting for us to recognize our full potential. By trusting our guts and learning to act on good feelings, life’s possibilities are virtually limitless.
About Kembali Recovery Center
Kembali Recovery Center is one of Southeast Asia’s most affordable luxury rehabs, located in the heart of Bali, Indonesia. If you or someone that you know and love is struggling to get clean, or simply looking for a way to improve your recovery program, Kembali is here to help. Contact us today to learn all about our four week treatment program, as well as our Recovery and Beyond Program. Remember, you never have to do this alone.