Alison's Insights

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

Layers of Protection

I love fairy tales. There is a rhythm to those stories that leave me feeling joy and hope for what could be. However, one connected with me in ways I couldn’t understand until now.

This is the story about the princess who endured a sleepless night due to a pea hidden underneath mattresses and feather beds. Even with all that separation from something so small, she still felt pain.

When I first heard that fable, I wondered how such a little thing could cause so much discomfort. Surely all those layers of softness would protect her from hurt.

I had no idea how that story, and that belief, would impact me for years to come.

Silent stories I told myself about how life worked never seemed to match how I felt about what happened around me. When others heard bits and pieces of my emotional confusion, their response was either in disregard or complete dismissal of my feelings.

Rather than any attempt to further that conversation, I buried those little girl emotions with layers of self-imposed rationalization to confirmed how I felt didn’t matter.

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However, no amount of coating placed over what I hid, or distance put between when I did, that unacknowledged emotion festered. Instead of a deep dig to uncover and release what I denied, I sought relief in the form too much alcohol and not enough food. That magic mixture helped blur what pierced through me when others seemed to have a better shot at life or why I was never good enough in the eyes of those whose approval I longed for.

I couldn’t make sense of rejection, shame, or “less than” feeling because I never learned how. That’s why everything seemed a whole lot easier when lost in a drunken delusion or dazed from poor nutrition.

In time, just like that pea beneath the princess, the pain underneath the protective layers I put in place became stronger than my ability to avoid the hurt. I faced a crossroad where no amount of booze or lack of food could prevent me from the truth about who I was, how I felt, and what I needed.

With no idea how that could happen, I asked for help from those whose footsteps I now follow. The suggestions made led to actions I took to peel back the layers and investigate what I hid from and why.

Layers of protection are great for contact sports, winter snowstorms, and a leap from a plane, but they are no good when distracting from the truth.

A Moment to Breathe

For most, acknowledging emotion is not easy. The tendency to belittle or even hide from them is strong but dangerous. Are you using unhealthy behaviors to layer over how you feel as a means of protecting yourself? Take a moment to breathe. Consider what’s more painful; dealing with emotion, or the chaos and shame unhealthy protective layers present. Take another slow deep breath and consider what you really need to unveil truths long-buried beneath the stories you tell yourself. 

Feel free to leave a comment below or include your thoughts when sharing what I wrote via your favorite social media site. Either way, thank you for taking a moment to breathe with me.

 

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