Up, down, and all over the place. My emotions can be messy and messy emotions sure can complicate relationships. Honestly, it’s hard for me to discern which emotional fluctuations are typical human shifts in mood, which are standard female hormonal changes, which are biological chemical imbalances, and which are just crazy irrational reactions that need to be recognized and reframed.
Recovery from addiction adds to the confusion. Letting go of soothing difficult emotions with a substance, becoming able to identify what’s going on inside oneself, learning how to communicate the feelings and respond appropriately—these are “growing up” processes that take time. Most people gain these skills in a pretty standard developmental pattern alongside their peers. For recovering addicts, however, acquiring these skills can be quite humbling because while our bodies may appear one age, our internal emotional maturity usually lags far behind. Maybe we can fake levelheadedness and propriety when our drug of choice is within reach, but take away the substance and our childishness and unregulated emotions usually can’t be contained for long.
To kick the maturation process back into gear, a person has to first let go of the substance and then let the not-so-fun “growing up in public” begin. Personally, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have other recovering people gently and lovingly guide me along this path—one that has punctured my pride time and again. I’m slowly learning to chuckle when I see myself acting adolescent (or even younger) in certain areas of life, and to be grateful that at least I’m now headed in the right direction.
In a recent bout of being rather bonkers, I came across a passage from the Imitation of Christ that reminded me where to find my anchor during times of turbulence. Maybe I am crazy. But even still, Christ stays stable.
Chapter 33: The Inconstancy of Our Heart and Directing Our Final Intention to God
Son, trust not to thy present affection, it will quickly be changed into another. As long as though livest thou art subject to change, even against thy will; so as to be sometimes joyful, at other times sad; now easy, again troubled; at one time devout, at another dry; sometimes fervent, at other times sluggish; one day heavy, another lighter.
But he that is wise and well instructed in spirit stands above all these changes; not minding what he feels in himself, nor on what side the wind of instability blows; but that the whole bent of his soul may advance towards his due and wished-for end.
For so he may continue one and the self same, without being shaken, by directing without ceasing, through all this variety of events, the single eye of his intention towards Me. And by how much purer the eye of the intention is, with so much greater constancy mayst thou pass through these diverse storms.
But in many the eye of pure intention is dark, for men quickly look towards something delightful which comes in their way. And it is rare to find one wholly free from all blemish of self-seeking…the eye of the intention therefore must be purified that it may be single and right, and must be directed unto Me, beyond all other objects that interpose themselves.
Consistently maintaining a pure and single focus? Not this sinner, not this side of heaven. But it’s surely a worthwhile goal to pray for and take steps towards—especially for someone whose emotions can be as messy as mine.
When your feelings are crazy, how is your soul?