Does Addiction Stop My Emotional Growth?
Drug and alcohol addiction is a disease that has a big impact on all parts of your life. Naturally, drug and alcohol abuse can damage your health, but what does addiction do to your emotional development?
When you are an adult, society expects you to act a certain way and be responsible. You are supposed to be wiser and more aware of consequences as an adult.
However, if you think about some of the choices you made during the height of your drug and alcohol addiction, you will more than likely notice that these were not the actions of a responsible adult. You probably did not weigh the consequences of your actions when you were on a mission to find your drug of choice.
This kind of thought process is a great example of how drug and alcohol addicts live according to their emotional age, not their actual age. So, why does this happen to addicts and what can be done to bridge the age gap?
Emotional vs. Physical Age
It’s important to understand the difference between emotional age and physical age. There are endless studies available that contain information on the human growth process. Your physical age is predictable. Science can tell you the general age you will begin to lose your baby teeth, the age when your bones will stop growing, or even when women are too physically old to have children.
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Your emotional age is a completely different issue. Your emotions are unpredictable and adjustable. Anyone who abuses drugs or alcohol is at risk for stunting their emotional growth because they often hold on to behaviors that are not very mature. For many addicts, a deep emotional trauma stems from their childhood. Using drugs to cope with the pain and mask their problems, emotional growth is effectively stuck in that spot.
For those of us who began to use drugs at a young age, many people would agree that we do not act our physical age. If a 40-year-old man began abusing alcohol at 16 years old, others around him may think that he acts like a rebellious teen instead of a grown man.
Often, addicts will bounce around from home to home, never really have any money saved up for emergencies, have a long list of short-lived jobs, and have serious relationship issues.
When you spend years blocking out emotions and making mistake after mistake due to drug and alcohol addiction, you are not able to live in reality. You may have spent years working hard to block out reality. Your understanding of the whole world may be from a teenage point of view because that is when you began abusing drugs or alcohol. It is when you began learning to survive as an addict.
When you live day-to-day in survival mode, emotional growth takes a back seat and gets no priority in life. Every single problem that has been brushed aside is still there, waiting to be dealt with once you become sober.
Aging through Addiction Treatment
Substance abuse and addiction treatment helps to take off the rose-colored glasses and give you the tools needed to face the world again as an adult. Working through problems in a mature manner is what helps people to grow. Unfortunately, pain is a part of life. Nevertheless, no matter what problems may come, you can deal with them without relying on drugs and alcohol.
Addiction treatment is the place to learn all the life skills that you left behind once addiction took hold. Group and individual counseling, along with other kinds of therapy, can help to open your eyes and let your emotional age catch up to your physical age.
Contributed by Nikki Seay.
Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from substance abuse, dual diagnosis, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.