If we numb the pain then we numb the joy


A question I get asked a lot is ‘when will I know if I’m ok?’ Or, ‘when will I be done?’ Obviously, the answer is never, the journey of self-discovery is one that never ends. However, what I can say is we know we are firmly in the realm of recovery when we begin to have appropriate emotional responses to events.

What does that mean exactly?

It means that most of us have been at the mercy of our emotions for a very long time. Our feelings are intense and overwhelming, and we just react to them. Or we run from them or numb them. What we don’t do is process them.
Often these intense feelings come out of nowhere. They just hit us. They feel like they are going to sink us and we just want to survive them. When we are disconnected from ourselves, we don’t know why we feel the way we do or why we react in certain ways. When we are emotionally unmoored we, of course, turn to drinking to numb the uncomfortable feelings.

So, when we stop drinking that emotional roller-coaster is still there. But we have no anesthetic. Our emotions are all over the place, and we are ‘feeling all the feels.’ We have no idea where they are coming from, and we have no control over them.

Which is why process work is so important. Very simply process work is how we begin to reveal ourselves to ourselves. It is the journey inside.
As Socrates said: ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’


The dictionary defines 'process' as: ‘as series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.’

For us, the particular end that we would like to achieve is appropriate emotional responses to appropriate events.
It means changing how we do things.
What this looks like is, when something sad happens the appropriate response is to feel sad. When something delightful happens, we feel happy, or amused, or excited.
When something frustrating happens, we feel, frustrated or maybe even angry.
You get the picture; the point being is our emotions no longer own us instead they serve us. They help us navigate the world and experience all the abundant growth opportunities presented to us. Growth is the journey of a lifetime.

That’s why we can’t live a life just numbing out the pain with alcohol. Because if we numb the pain, then we numb the joy too. The absence of joy is a dark place. I know I’ve been there and if you’re reading this, you probably have also.

And I want the joy. I want the good stuff. I’m all about the good stuff. I always have been. And this is what I had to accept. That if I wanted the joy then I had to learn how to process my feelings. I had to learn how to feel the whole spectrum of human emotions in a way that wouldn’t sink me. Process work is how you get to the place where you can finally have appropriate emotional responses. It is also the path to authenticity, the road back to the real you. You can understand exactly why you feel the way you do and when that happens, you will be free.

Veronica Valli