Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

My Age? Well, that Depends. How Am I Reacting?

Have you ever shown up to a family function only to leave as a much younger version of yourself?  I sure have.

When out-of-town family members come for a visit there’s always a get-together. Maybe two. I arrive feeling connected and collected but then something happens and suddenly I’m a wobbly teenager lacking the sense of self-confidence I carried through the front door.

This type of mystical age transformation is not new and something I’ve tried to better understand about myself over the past several years.

In the early stages of recovery many suggested I take a good look at who I am from the inside out. Soon what once made sense didn’t and what didn’t make sense started to. One of the more challenging concepts to accept was that most who battle addiction stop growing emotionally when they first feel a positive jolt from using the drug or behavior of choice.

I felt insulted by even the suggestion this could apply to me. I was a grown woman, successful in the eyes of many in my profession. I’d managed multi-million dollar pieces of business, got married, bought a house, invested in the stock market, and traveled the world. Now I’m to believe that because I started drinking and investigating ways to attain a body not meant for me at 13 I’m emotionally stuck at that age? I don’t think so.

But then I remembered my commitment to those guiding me. Based on their suggestion I dug a bit deeper. How had I reacted to tough situations? Was I more tantrum-like than calm? When in a tough relationship conversation, did I push for the last word or raise my voice to take control? How often did I give a laser-burning stare then turn my head with angry snap and storm out hoping the dramatic exit would dominate? Did I deflect, deny or defend my behavior rather than calmly interact with a problematic issue?

The answers to these questions were certainly eye-opening.

There was no denying the truth. I had managed most of my adult life as an emotional teenager.

younger and older self

Clearly there were changes to make, parts to nurture, and memories to reconsider. What I learned from that investigation helps me to respond better and assure my words, actions, and reactions match my age.

However every so often I find myself in an emotionally triggering moment when a look on someone’s face, or the loud sigh from another, can launch me back to an early version of myself with a drink in one hand and a fork at a far distance from the other.

This is the moment for a slow, deep breath. The simple but important pause allows my younger self to step away from reacting so my more mature self can step in and respond to assure I’m taking the next right one.


A Moment to Breathe…

Do you relate to any of the questions I posed when facing troubling situations?  Is there any possibility for disparity between your birth certificate age and your emotional age?  To consider this idea, find some quiet space and jot down whatever comes to mind. I’ve found keeping these thoughts in my head causes them to endlessly cycle, get more intrusive and eventually seem too big to handle. Another helpful option is to talk these things out with others who may feel the same way. Feel free to use the space below or include your thoughts when sharing this post via your favorite social media site.  


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12 thoughts on “My Age? Well, that Depends. How Am I Reacting?

  1. ClareLesak on said:

    Awesone article Alison. Holy cow, I never realized this happened to others. Love 🙂

  2. Good stuff, Alison! I totally relate and have certainly has my own struggles to “grow up”! Yes, it’s an ongoing process and I’m grateful to have the tools to do the necessary work.

    • Hi Norman,
      Thank you for offering your insight into this topic. Like you, I am grateful for the recovery resources available to help shift me from a place of chaos and shame to one of contentment and peace.

  3. Jeanie on said:

    This makes so much sense when I think of how I react emotionally to situations. Of course my adult/mom side gets upset at my teen emotional reaction for being so irrational. It is much like the way I react to my teenage children. I “grew up” emotionally too quickly as a teen and never learned how emotional reactions can evolve into problem solving. I am thankful I have given my children a chance to be emotional children so that they can learn how to be problem solving adults who know that emotions are okay in the right circumstances.

    • Hi Jeanie,
      Thanks for sharing your experience with this topic. Amazing the many wonderful ways we have to pay our gratitude forward for what we learn from others and from ourselves. There’s something quite humbling when people let their actions to speak louder than their words. Clearly this is how you lovingly guide your children.

  4. Thanks for doing such a great job of describing our ‘age transformation’. At this point in my sobriety, my emotional age is about half of my biological age. Explains a lot.. Love your way with words, Alison.

    • Well thank you Sue. Seems to me you’ve had a front seat to witness my transformation! And now that I think about it, I’m right there with you in terms of being at the halfway mark of age differentiation! XO

  5. nanette on said:

    My ED started around age 10. I am now 44.
    Most of my adult life, although I worked, married and had a child, have felt that those around me, even if chronologically younger are much older than me.
    Now having been in recovery for a 1-1/2yrs I feel that I am starting to mature.
    I’m not sure that anyone around me understands because I was a GREAT actor and until the last 4yrs no one had a clue how sick I was.
    I’m proud of how far I have come but I have a long way to go.
    Thank you for your article. I truly thought I was crazy feeling like my growth had been stunted.
    God bless and may you continue to take the next right step.

    • Hi Nanette!
      You are DEFINITELY not alone. I’m one of many who have gained this insight and reconsidered how to better align their emotional and biological age. Thank you for your kind words about what I wrote. Perhaps you’ll circle back and read more of what I write about recovery later in life.

  6. I am always happy to read this type of post. It was not until a few years ago that I was introduced to this very real concept of being held up in the age that I developed my eating disorder. I was actually relieved to know this was real. My reactions to people and so many things were just childish. Well, I was 9 when I started my 1st diet. It snowballed from there.
    Thank you for reinforcing that this is common and not fabricated in my own mind.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience Laura. You’re right! There is something very reassuring to finally herd those free flying details of the past.

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