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.

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.

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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.

Jana says:

Although I have received treatment and no longer use drugs or alcohol, i am still stuck at 16 · How do I grow up. I am now 53 but don’t act it. I am very frustrated. Please advise. Thanks, Jana

    Jana says:

    I am also bipolar and lie all the time. Even when it’s not necessary. Why?

    Kevin says:

    Jana I noticed you didn’t get a response, not sure if you’re actually looking for one. Call the number of this center and talk to someone. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s very important to find someone to guide you to begin the healing process. You may have to be on meds to handle the bipolar swings and get your mind thinking clearly to work with the counselor.

Nina says:

Im sober 4 years after being an active addict for over 10 years. 32, married, have step children and a great job and many would say I have got it all together but I know I dont. I am still like a child. I can’t handle confrontation, I’m unable to handle being a stepmom to a 19y/o daughter because I do not trust my ability to communicate properly. Everytime I try to It blows up in my face and it’s starting to really hurt my marriage. What do I do?

Ash says:

I had friend that believed my mental health pills olanzapine was damaging my psychical and emotional growth is this true? I’ve been on mainly this pill for also 5 years, also have been on risperidone and some anxiety pill, But not at the same time.

al says:

i cant believe this ,this is exactly how i feel.A child whose fake reality disapeared .i have no tools for my 44year old reality. Im having trouble blocking out the world anymore its daunting.my mind is uncontrollable and my identity is a mystery.what the heck.

Roger Titone says:

Dear Nikki,

My wife (now ex-wife) was severely abused as she was growing up – at 13 she would hide in their farm house to avoid her mother. We knew each other 40 years ago and fell in love. Fifteen years later depression set in and she was prescribed many different drugs by her doctors from Prozac to some very powerful anti-depressants. We went to many sessions together and one psychologist suggested she take the “frightened, 13 year abused little girl and put her in a room in the holiday Inn and she would be “safe” there. Most of our marriage in the beginning went very well. About 10 years back the depression became worse, sexual intimacy and desire fell away.

Being a very strong, well educated woman – she slowly and with great difficulty struggled to reduce these drugs about 3 years ago. As the “rose colored glasses” (as you put it) fell off so did our intimacy and our marriage. She found a “safe house”, and move out several years ago – she would go months not wanting to see me – than we would meet – hold each other, profess our love, but when I would ask for her to return to our home or for physical love – she would run back to the “safe Holiday Inn room” to “protect herself”. She is now 67 and very happy where she is with many lady friends (in their late 70’s and 80’s) and bible studies.

I just learned about how addition can “freeze” one’s mental state at the age of the incidents causing pain. Not realizing this I divorced the very woman I love. I had forgotten that may years ago she was told to “protect” the abused 13 year old little girl. Perhaps that is what she was now doing and may be not just running from me. As an engineer, I am always trying to find the “why”.

We are both Christians and I believe in the power of prayer – I want to protect her. At our age, is it possible that re-growth for that 13 year old in a 67 year old body can get past the pain she suffered in what time we have left. If it’s possible I want to stand with her. If it is best for her mental growth and survival for me to stay away – I will, as painful as it will be for me.

Is the analogy between the alcohol addition to the antidepressants effect on locking in an “age” a fair one?

Thank you – a desperate ex-husband