During treatment, we need to work through many layers, including what led us to end up where we are today. The process can be painful as it requires us to look back on our past trauma and mistakes we have made. Often there are deep and challenging feelings that are unprocessed, and a part of treatment is commonly addressing the emotions that led us to addiction to find our way into recovery.
What Is Vulnerability?
Being vulnerable includes honesty and sharing, both of which can feel intimidating. Part of why vulnerability is a challenge is due to social judgments and norms. Many of us grow up thinking that it is weak to be emotionally vulnerable. As a result, we end up not learning how to be honest with ourselves and others.
Learning how to be open, both internally and externally, is a skill that takes time and patience. If being vulnerable is challenging for you, remember that it takes practice.
Trauma and Addiction
Many factors can lead us to addiction, including trauma, for which there are treatment options. Research shows us that those who have experienced trauma, especially childhood trauma, are more likely to have issues with substance use and abuse.
These events in our lives often get buried so deep that they may be affecting our lives. However, we are not always conscious of how trauma affects us. It is like having a rock in our shoes. If we ignore it, we may not think about it, but it still makes us walk differently to avoid the discomfort of stepping on a rock. Vulnerability is a tool we can use to help us address and overcome our trauma.
Addressing the Past
Being honest with ourselves and others allows past events to be addressed. Being completely honest has been shown to decrease the likelihood of relapse.
By allowing ourselves to open our eyes and look, we may uncover feelings or situations that led us into substance abuse or other unhealthy behaviors in the first place. When we discover the pathways that brought us to addiction, it can help us in several ways.
#1 Allows Understanding of What Might Cause Relapse
By being consciously aware of the triggers or situations that may lead us to substance use, we can see what situations or people we need to avoid or learn the skills to deal with differently. It also provides insight into what feelings are challenging for us and what we need to learn to feel and create outlets for ourselves.
#2 Provides a Structure to Understand
This aspect of vulnerability in treatment is essential. Sometimes, we feel shame about the chaos we have created in our lives. Improving our understanding of how we got here can help to decrease feelings of shame. It is important to take responsibility for our actions; this structure can help us see past shame.
#3 Offers a Sense of Empowerment
We can change, and addressing past feelings and situations can help foster this change. In looking to see how we have felt and being completely honest about it, we take the blinders off, which gives us the chance to make a different choice next time.
#4 Improves Relationships
The depth of a relationship is based on sharing from both parties. Opening up, and being vulnerable, to others can create deep and strong bonds. The relationships we develop are important in treatment and recovery. While it is not well understood, it has been shown that programs with a community component have improved treatment outcomes. Being part of a community means being vulnerable and sharing ourselves.
When we experience singular trauma or repeated events that are painful, it is normal to feel emotionally upset. Emotional distress is when these feelings begin to impact our ability to function normally. A key indicator of emotional distress is substance abuse and cutting ourselves off from friends and family.
The symptoms of emotional distress are not conducive to our recovery and can increase feelings of pain and loneliness. In treatment, vulnerability can help us address emotional distress and how it impacts our lives.
How to Practice Emotional Vulnerability
Learning to be honest takes time. One way to work on being vulnerable is to find one person who we trust and open up with them about small things. It doesn’t have to be the biggest challenge we have ever had or a deep dark secret. Small honest moments can help us inch our way towards feeling more comfortable and safe with being vulnerable.
Another option is to write down feelings and be honest with ourselves first. We can try writing down how we feel about different people or situations to help ourselves get comfortable recognizing and admitting what is happening internally.
Emotional vulnerability is the basis for regaining and building new relationships and is important for effective treatment. When you allow yourself to own and share your feelings and actions, current and past, it can help you to work through painful events that may have been the cause of your problems. The skill of honesty takes practice, so be kind to yourself if you struggle with it, and know you will get better over time. Treatment is not an easy path, and it is essential to seek professional help that will provide tools and community. At 449 Recovery, we can guide you on the journey. We believe vulnerability can lead you to an independent and happy life after treatment. We are here to help and are committed to your success. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health and addiction, call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.