Open Mind, Open Heart

- February 12, 2022

Many of us when new to recovery discover that our hearts and minds have been closed due to adverse events in our lives. Toxic relatives, other people, situations and life in general have caused us to place our hearts and minds under lock and key to avoid further injury.  Some of this may have justifiable reasons for doing so in order to avoid further hurt and disappointment in our lives.  We learn at an early age that feelings are scary and we don’t know what to do with them.  Then somewhere along the line we incorporate the notion to just avoid all feelings altogether.  We place our hearts and minds under lock and key.  As out addiction worsens our ability to feel and process feelings becomes practically nonexistent.  Feelings become something to run from as they only cause strife and inexplainable emotional pain for us.  Possibly our hearts have been broken along the way.  We think that the best solution for this is to just shut down our hearts altogether.  We enter recovery with a closed mind and a closed, broken heart.

At first the notion that it is ok to have feelings seems like an unattainable goal for us.  Our hearts remained closed under lock and key.  Slowly by listening to others we begin to see that they have overcome this challenge and appear to be doing well with it.  We begin to wonder if there is any hope for us to learn how to live life with an open heart and mind.  This is one of the places where the 12 Step fellowship can be most helpful.  We see and hear others who have gone through horrendous things and have come out on the other side.  They are now able to feel real feelings and to be able to process these feelings instead of locking them up in their hearts and minds.  These people enjoy a sense of freedom and peace that comes with living an authentic life. Feelings become a source of joy and freedom.

I learned at a very early age that feelings were bad and scary.  As my addiction progressed, I recall that I use to take great pleasure in not feeling anything.  I took pride in being an “ice princess” as I used to call myself.  Looking back, I feel great empathy for the young woman I had become by using drugs and alcohol.  I rarely even let myself feel “good” feelings.  I had just gone on shut down when it came to having an open heart or an open mind.  The bottom line of course was that I had become terrified of living life on life’s terms.  I became an expert at practicing denial.

By surrendering to the program of recovery I was able to slowly learn how to feel my feelings.  They say that “feelings aren’t facts.”  This meant that if some troublesome and untrue feelings got my attention, I was to remember that they weren’t facts.  I had to learn how to discard them as quickly as possible.  As far as “good feelings” were concerned I had to learn that I was a worthy person and deserved to feel good.  I had lost my self-worth in practicing my addiction.  Once again, the fellowship helped me to regain my self-respect and dignity.  I had also lost these things while practicing my addiction for so long.

As time went on, I was able to begin to manage my emotions.  I had a lot of wreckage to clean up from the past but with the support of others in recovery I was able to do this and not shut down my feelings again.  Sure, somethings were hard to feel in cleaning up this wreckage I had created through my own volition.  However, with the tools of the program and the support of the fellowship I was able to do this.  I finally learned what it is like to live a happy, joyous and free life without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Written by Phillip