Addiction can create a sort of tunnel vision experience. Not only are we closed off to anything but the addiction but we have preoccupations, fantasies, and obsessions having to do with using drugs or drinking. Often, there is an overwhelming amount of thinking, worrying, and dreaming about drinking or getting high. Addiction doesn’t only include using; it also includes thinking about getting high and planning the day around getting high. Fantasizing and daydreaming about the drug of choice frequently accompanies addiction. It seems that life is consumed by drinking or drugging and nothing else.
Listening in Drug Addiction Treatment
For this reason, part of drug addiction treatment is to open up that tunnel vision. Part of the process of healing and recovery is to widen the scope of vision and experience. One way to do this is through listening. One way to experience openness is to listen in a way you’ve never listened before.
In fact, the degree to which you listen is a skill that strengthens over time. Most people listen long enough in order to say what they want to say. Yet, hearing others and listening to them are very different tasks. Listening requires the use of all the senses, including intuition. Listening includes taking in the experiences of others so that you can relate to them. Listening asks that we touch what is being communicated underneath the words. This sort of listening strengthens trust and respect, and it is this kind of openness that helps heal addiction.
One reason why this is so healing is because addition often comes with social alienation. Withdrawing is a pattern for many people who experience depression, who have to face stressful situations at work, or who don’t have the coping skills to manage their emotions well. They might be very sensitive and yet have developed the pattern of hiding their emotions. With this is the tendency to feel shameful, and as a result feel the need to hide and withdraw. Yet, in their loneliness and in their inability to deal with their emotions, drugs or drinking can become their coping mechanism of choice.
Part of being open and widening the tunnel experience of life is connecting with others, forming relationships, receiving their support, and really truly listening to the experiences of others.
Along these lines, listening deeply is incredibly healing during substance abuse treatment when it’s done with oneself. Often, addiction is driven by emotional avoidance. Not wanting to face difficult parts of life or of oneself keeps the craving for drugs and drinking ongoing. However, drug addiction treatment will likely include a discussion of emotional awareness, which can further open the doors inside and help break the cycle of imprisonment.
Emotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. It’s is also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. However, alcohol or drugs can turn into a way to avoid distress and challenging emotions, especially those that are difficult to express, such as anger and shame. Not having the skills to cope with difficult feelings as well as not wanting to feel them can easily lead to using drugs as an avoidance mechanism.
However, becoming more emotionally aware means listening more deeply to yourself. It means paying attention to what you need and when, which could be something as simple as the need for a hot bath when you’re stressed. Instead of following the old habit of reaching for a drink when you’re tired or stressed, instead listening deeply means knowing exactly what’s going to make you feel better – not just in the short term like a drink might, but in the long term. Living healthy requires deep listening, honesty, and openness.