Our most critical developmental stages occur during our childhoods. Even within our first few weeks of life, the way we bond with our mothers creates lasting impact on the rest of our lives. Children have a few basic needs: food, water, shelter, and love. Unfortunately for many of us, we got those needs met in different ways, or not at all. Childhood difficulties can take lifetimes to overcome. Many develop substance use disorders out of a need to cope with their painful feelings. Sadly, no drug or amount of alcohol can change the past. The only way to heal from the past is to learn how to accept it and change the future.
In a very honest response to a “Ask Amy” letter on The Washington Post, Amy Dickinson writes to a “Still Anxious Child”: “No one – no one – ‘gets over’ their childhood. Your childhood is what made you who you are. Stop trying to get over it, and focus your energy on coping with it.” The “still anxious child” explained that during their teenage years, they, and their sister, were abused both verbally and emotionally. With aging parents still acting the same way, they found their resentment and anxiety growing. “Anxiety,” Amy responds, “is one consequence of growing up in a verbally and emotionally abusive household.”
Unfortunately, many who experienced verbal and emotional abuse in their childhoods do not consider themselves to really have experienced abuse. Though verbal and emotional abuse is not physical violence, it still causes pain. Numerous studies using MRI technology have found that the brain responds to verbal, emotional, and social pain in the same way it does physical pain. Verbal and emotional abuse can cause complicated psychological issues which impair the way one relates to their parents, to themselves, and to other people.
It is okay to continue to experience anger, resentment, hurt, bitterness, and confusion regarding an abusive childhood. It’s also okay to work through those emotions and find peace regarding an abusive childhood. Amy eloquently says, “You should also give yourself…the license to simply feel the way you feel, without thinking that you are somehow failing at being a well-adjusted survivor.” Often we avoid feeling the pain to prove a point: it had little effect on us, we survived, and we’re doing just fine. There’s nothing wrong with feeling emotional pain and in fact it is necessary. The first requirement of getting “over” pain, is walking through it.
Refuge Recovery seeks to liberate individuals from their emotional pain and the toxic attachments they created in their suffering. Our treatment programs are open to addicts, alcoholics, and those who suffer emotionally. For more information, call or text 323-207-0276.