The Adult Ride: Emotional Maturity in Addiction and Recovery

I’m Patrick, a counselor at Duffy’s, and I’d like to share some observations on the topic of emotional maturity. I’ll focus primarily on the emotional maturity of two groups:

  1. The alcoholic/addict in active addiction.
  2. The alcoholic/addict in recovery.

I’ll often hear that the emotional maturation process is stunted for those with addiction issues when they begin using their substance as a way of coping with life. I’ve heard this described by many individuals, and have even experienced it in my own life.

In Addiction

As alcohol or other drug use eventually becomes the primary coping mechanism, it seems the individual fails to develop other ways of dealing with problems. This seeming lack of maturity may also be observed in individuals with late onset alcoholism or addiction. They seem to use developed coping skills less in favor of using alcohol or another drug to cope with life.
I’ve heard from folks in treatment, at meetings, and have even experienced in my own recovery journey, that as addiction progresses your whole world seems to shrink. Opportunities, options, and creativity seem all but non-existent to the individual.
I like to think about it this way: When you go to an amusement park or carnival, and approach what appears to be an exciting ride you often see an amusing character on a sign at the entrance. The sign usually says something like, “You have to be this tall to ride this ride.”
The alcoholic/addict with emotional immaturity or limited life coping skills, may not be emotionally tall enough to handle the challenges of life. Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and sorrows that require a variety of coping skills. Even for mature “grown-ups”, sometimes all we can do is hang on. But the adult lacking emotional maturity may only be tall enough to ride the “kiddie ride”.
Births, deaths, careers beginning and ending, relationships beginning and ending, love, heartbreak, joy, sorrow and so very much more—this is a ride for an emotionally mature adult.

In Recovery

In recovery we can develop a variety of coping skills to help us not only hang on, but become quite good at adjusting to the ride of life. We discover we no longer need to numb out or dull down the intensity of life’s twists and turns.
Our emotional range grows from that shrunken world of life in addiction, to the broad range of feelings available to mature human beings. I believe there is a direct correlation between the ability to feel and understand emotions and the development of life coping skills.
“ I believe there is a direct correlation between the ability to feel and understand emotions and the development of life coping skills.”

The well-known principle of acceptance described on page 417 in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous uses the phrase “Life on life’s terms.” I understand this to mean reality, or however life happens to show up at any given moment. This requires flexibility and the ability maintain the balancing act life can be.
Many alcoholics/addicts in treatment or in early recovery concern themselves with ideas that life will be dull or boring if they give up their substance use. But the experience of many in recovery, and my personal recovery, is that life is nothing less than exhilarating, expansive and fulfilling. It’s like being on a noisy, fast-moving, wooden-framed roller coaster, sometimes scary, and absolutely thrilling with its twists and turns and ups and downs. Then it comes to a stop, you catch your breath, and you’re ready to go again.

The life recovery hands you is exciting, fulfilling and rich; and not one to be missed.

Since 2006 Patrick has compassionately counseled guests here at Duffy’s. His dry sense of humor and genuine love for helping people, make him personable and someone that our guests enjoy being with.

Patrick’s personal experience with addiction gives him a distinct ability empathize with each guest that steps into his office.

As a father, and grandfather, Patrick enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He has a passion for spirituality, music, and his relationship with God. And he makes a mean homemade habanero hot sauce.