Frustration - for all of humanity it is an annoying, physically and mentally draining state of being that negatively affects our health.
For the recovering addict, chronic frustration is a one way ticket to "busting" and all the implications of it. "Busting" simply means using or drinking again. And the next bust may be the one we never recover from.
Frustration affects recovering addicts quite profoundly. Up until recovery we are used to dealing with frustration by turning to our substances of choice for relief. Suddenly it is no longer there to calm our thoughts and to numb the senses. We are left with random thoughts spinning in our minds until our brains feel as though they will escape our bodies via our eardrums.
So exactly what is frustration? It really is another word for stress. Stress is the feeling of a lack of control, but stress can also be a positive thing. There are two main types:
Distress - Anguish of body or mind. (Think of the word "DYSentery - A disease attended with inflammation and ulceration of the colon and rectum, and characterized by gripping pains and a constant desire to evacuate the bowels"). I think that describes it perfectly!!! ....in other words, things become a pain in the butt and situations give you the s....!
Eustress - The euphoric state induced by meeting a particularly challenging situation and emerging victorious.
Unfortunately, our modern lives seem to be plagued more with distress than eustress opportunities. But some of this frustration can be traced back to situations that we actually have control over. We just need to examine how we ended up in the position in the first place and learn not to repeat it. Any situation that we have appropriate control over decreases the chances of distress and increases the probability of eustress.
As addicts, we excel in getting ourselves into nasty situations. Our expertise falls down in getting out of them - this usually required the intervention of others. So while we are on the road to recovery, we need to take a serious look at our approaches to life situations. How are we dealing with them? If we are utilizing techniques from our dark days, such as sweeping things under the carpet or lying our way out, we are in trouble. Thought precedes action. I remember a cliché from my initial days of recovery that helped me out - "Stinkin' thinkin' leads to drinkin'. Okay, so it's Pollyanna rhetoric...but it worked for me; I used a mental library of these little quotes to help me through the tough days!
Being clean and sober is not just about abstaining from substances, but also changing our attitudes and defense mechanisms.
Dealing with frustration may mean that we need to learn to assert ourselves effectively, to allow people to know that they are "treading over the line" and giving them the opportunity to step back. There is a very fine line between assertion and aggression. Being assertive is to defend your rights and ideals without infringing on another's. Being aggressive is to attack another person. If we assert ourselves properly, there is less likelihood of being caught in situations we find frustrating.
Instead of allowing our frustration to build to a point that we lose control of our emotions, we need to recognize when events are piling up on us and take some affirmative action to clear our headspace.
We can get so bogged down in the day to day stuff of life, that we forget to nourish the person within. Recovered addicts have a tendency to be very hard workers, making up for lost time I guess. Hard work is good and rewarding, but can sometimes make us lose sight of the big picture. So we must take the time to "stop and smell the roses"....whatever the "rose" may be. And yes, mum and dad, if you are reading this I know exactly what you are thinking.... the term "hypocrite" springs to mind? ;-)
Also, it would seem by our very nature that we are easily frustrated people - it's written into us from the day we are born, part of the "Addictive Personality" (more on that in another article). We need to accept that things won't always move at the pace we wished, including our recovery, that the bus won't always be on time and people won't always see things our way....even when we are right.
When we had rid our bodies of the substance that had ruined our lives, we were left with the legacy of deeply ingrained inappropriate behavioral responses. They are the demons we must face at some stage of our recovery. There are many of these little demons tucked away in the corners of our minds and low frustration tolerance is but one. I'll examine more aspects of what I will term "Legion" in future articles. "Legion" relates back to a biblical story of a man who was possessed by demons. They were commanded to identify themselves. They replied "Legion, for we are many!". I am not a religious person, but that line always sent shivers down my spine. I see many parallels between addiction and the ancient concept of possession.
"Keep the demons down
And drag the skeletons out
I got a blind man following me in chains"
(Guns & Roses - Use Your Illusion Album).