Emotional Maturity May Frighten Us in Addiction Recovery

September 13, 2017 Misti Kuykendall

"I have to feel my own feelings?" This was my biggest fear about sobriety.My lack of emotional maturity during my active addiction caused me to stuff down my feelings. Thinking, “I have to feel my feelings?” caused me great fear when I started sobriety. Whenever I started working through a 12-step program, dealing with emotions felt like opening a closet door with a big, scary monster inside of it. The scary monster was all the feelings I’d stuffed in there, during the decade I used. I was emotionally immature and didn’t have tools to handle the ups and downs of life. Getting drunk or high was my response to every feeling. For example, if you made me angry, I would get "drunk at you" for revenge. It really was as silly and self-destructive as it sounds. I was so scared of that monster, my emotions in the closest, that I’d rather self-destruct than face them.

Gaining Emotional Maturity in Addiction Recovery

According to Linda Hatch, Ph.D., an addiction therapist, emotional maturity is made up of the following components.

  • The ability to modulate emotional responses
  • The ability to tolerate frustration
  • The ability to delay gratification
  • The ability to control impulses
  • The ability to be reliable and accountable

Learned recovery skills promote these emotionally mature behaviors in several ways. First, by looking at core beliefs and rooting out unhealthy ones. Then, connecting with others. This helps us know we are not alone and keeps us accountable. During a high-stress time connect with someone who is emotionally mature. Lastly, recovery skills promote the ability to tolerate our own feelings and handle them productively without pushing the self-destruct button.

Recovered Addicts' Emotional Maturity Lets Them Feel Their Feelings

As my sponsor held my shaking hand, we opened that closet door. To my surprise, there was no scary monster at all. The only thing inside were feelings and everyone who has ever lived has had them. Learning to feel your feelings is just like learning anything else. It takes some time and practice. Be patient with yourself, but be assured it does get easier. Acceptance is the key to recovery. Not only acceptance of who you are, but what you feel. We know we're becoming emotionally mature when we accept our feelings and deal with them appropriately. Be brave and open your closet door. I promise it's not as bad as you think it is. Feelings are just feelings.

Source: Linda Hatch, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Kuykendall, M. (2017, September 13). Emotional Maturity May Frighten Us in Addiction Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Misti Kuykendall

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