How many times have we heard I am not into drama? Ever notice that whoever says this usually follows it by complaining about an emotionally exhausting  situation involving a relationship (romantic, family, friends, or co-workers)?  Are you the one complaining about drama or are you the type who suffers in privacy by guarding the secrecy of your emotional chaos and all-encompassing anguish?

Drama was such the norm when I was getting high that I didn’t even register it. Perhaps it’s from having moments of serenity in recovery that make us all too aware when drama  comes along and throws off our emotional balance. We don’t like it – but damn there’s almost comfort in its familiarity.

Whether the source of drama has roots in a platonic or romantic relationship, the feelings are the same – obsessional thinking and a compulsion to continue engaging in it expecting different results. Sound familiar? Without drugs and alcohol, it’s pretty common to discover ourselves in a situation that we seem unable to walk away from no matter how horrible it makes us feel. With romance, like drugs, when it stops working we always hold out for some sign that it is returning to that place of euphoria or bliss that we experienced at the beginning. The cycle of obsessional thinking, compulsion behavior, denial of the reality, and the default setting of turning the pain inward is so familiar that we are able to withstand it long past a healthy expiration point.  But why is it when we are able to bring affirming recovery actions into every other area of our life we feel incapable of letting go of certain relationships or behaviors in relationship even when the pain is causing us to fantasize about using again?

When we were getting high most of us watched our lives shrink. Pretty much our only concerns were getting and using and finding ways and means to get more. Anything else happening in our life had no real emotional effect on us unless it got in the way of our using. Oh – one feeling persisted – shame.  When our sober lives fill with drama centered on another person (usually a romantic or sexual interest) our emotional lives shrink. Everything takes second place to the source of our obsession. We think about him/her all the time, replay past conversations searching for a clue to make sense of the situation and indulge our daydreams in future conversations. We find ourselves reaching out to friends (or suffering in silence) only to describe how we feel in relation to the object our desire/drama.  The fullness of our life is shrinking as we become a broken record of same story different day.

Do we really hate the drama or is it serving us in some way? By having one feeling – pain – displacing all other emotions we retain some level of control. The other feelings can’t affect us if we are blocking them out by our current drama. If we go from one dramatic relationship to another we have succeeded in getting out of experiencing the full range of emotions that life in recovery offers. It almost makes sense for someone in early recovery to jump on the relationship bandwagon because extreme pain and extreme pleasure are safe whereas the whole gamut of grey area feelings are unfamiliar and usually uncomfortable to sit with.

Take a risk and disengage with the drama – give yourself a set abstinence period and acquaint yourself with what might really be going on inside of you.  Journal, meditate, take walks and share your process with someone you trust.  Self-discovery is necessary for deep self-acceptance. How free do you want to be? Recovery is limitless.


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Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.

1 comment

This really made me stop and think. It’s funny how the people who say they can’t stand drama are usually the ones fist deep in it. I’ve always chalked it up to Law of Attraction, what you focus on persists and what you’re think about becomes your reality.

Great article, Patty!

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