3 Ways I Shed My Emotional Baggage
By Toshia Humphries
Born to a heroin addict and raised in a family filled with addiction and the issues that result from the family dynamics of the disease, I struggled to survive. Physically, I was well provided for. In fact, I had more than most, materialistically speaking. However, emotionally I was completely neglected and deprived.
What most of the world doesn’t seem to know is that, regardless of monetary capabilities, children need love and acceptance and the sense of belonging and emotional security that comes with those two things. Without unconditional love and emotional support, children don’t grow up. They don’t grow much at all.
Sure. Children will still likely get taller and certainly chronologically older. But, as far as emotional development is concerned, they will be stunted.
This is the very reason children of addicts are eventually referred to as adult children rather than simply adults.
That emotional stunting that creates a phenomena of adult children is caused by a great deal of oppression; an ever-increasing weight of the world, so to speak, pressing down and preventing growth while the overwhelming burden of carrying a heavy heart serves as a ball and chain.
The experience is typically darker than the imagery, and the pain is unbearable.
With regard to my personal experience, there was no one who intervened in an attempt to rescue me from this oppressive state. In fact, since I rotated in and out of dysfunctional roles and often found myself playing the hero (getting good grades, participating in extracurricular activities, going to church, etc.,) no school counselor ever even saw me.
Still, I carried the weight of the world; all the baggage my dysfunctional family had passed down to me.
If I was to survive and thrive, I had to reach a point where I was faced with a choice; check out and take the baggage into the next life or stay put and sort through it. Thankfully, when my rock bottom came, I chose the latter.
There was a process I went through in an effort to shed my emotional baggage, and much like shedding pounds, it was a difficult one, to say the least. As with physical weight gain, if it takes years to gain the emotional baggage, it will take years to shed it, if you do it in a holistically healthy way.
Of course, for me, there was no other way to approach it. I’d already seen the rampant negative results from trying to achieve a quick fix. I knew that an emotional crash-diet was not going to benefit me in the long run. And, quite frankly, I never wanted to reside in the darkness of rock-bottom again.
However, as part of the process, visiting that darkness was the first thing I had to do.
Facing the pain. The first thing I had to do was confront the darkness I lived in for so long. I had tried everything to escape from it, even often considering suicide. Yet, it still remained. And avoiding it only seemed to worsen and prolong things.
So, I sought counseling and spent several years dealing with my painful past. Sorting through the baggage with the help of a trained professional was the best and, honestly, most terrifying thing I ever chose to do. I am alive today because of this vital step.
Loving the self. During my counseling sessions, I was learning to love myself. It was obviously a significant part of healing and emotional recovery. And, though I had already taken the most important step toward loving myself by seeking help in the first place, I had a long journey of learning forgiveness, unconditional love and acceptance ahead.
Still, without love for the self, there is no successful recovery from anything.
Reawakening the spirit. The final step was to reawaken my spirit which had been all but destroyed and certainly remained in hiding for fear of being annihilated. The experience of facing my pain and learning to love myself, completely and unconditionally, is what led me to the spirit within me.
Once I rediscovered myself and the spirit within, I began listening to and trusting my intuition, my spirit, and speaking my truth and sharing my story without fear of reprisals. That experience of reawakening is what lifts me today, keeps me from being weighed down or anchored in the past.
The culmination of these three steps leaves me free of the burden of my family’s choices. As a result, today, I walk with a sense of light I only experienced in fleeting, magical moments, as a child. My hope is that, if you have a similar experience with regard to emotional baggage, you too will begin this process and shed the weight of the world and the heaviness that surrounds your heart.
*Original version first published on www.soberrecovery.com: http://www.soberrecovery.com/recovery/how-to-find-healing-as-an-adult-child-of-an-addict/