No one is exempt from little annoyances. How we handle them depends largely on our coping skills. Most people who do not have any sort of personality disorder develop their coping skills in their teenage years. In other instances, people don’t develop them until much later. When someone has an issue with substance abuse, they may postpone developing these skills. In many cases, a person may impede their ability to deal with life, and instead self-medicated with alcohol and drugs.
In essence many people with addiction problems get “stuck” in a teenage mindset. As they turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate whatever emotional disturbance they may be facing, whether it arises from childhood trauma, the loss of a loved one, a broken home, or other related issues, they may feel better for a time.
However, sooner or later this abuse of substances to try to fill a lack of coping skills and heal some emotional wound catches up. It eventually results in much worse problems that have tended to pile on for years. The issues that can stem from this type of behavior can easily persist far into adulthood, and even long after a person has achieved any amount of sobriety.
There are many little annoyances that can affect our lives every single day. Some we can shrug off. Others we may stew over for an hour, a day, or a week. For those with substance use disorders (SUD’s), the impact of little annoyances can be fatal if not properly dealt with. The good news is that whether you are an alcoholic or not, we can all handle whatever difficulties we face with good grace and a positive frame of mind.
What are little annoyances?
I doubt I have to explain this, but here goes: you spill your coffee as you’re getting ready for work. Your car won’t start. A light-bulb burns out. You rip your favorite jeans on a nail. The store is out of whatever item it is you just went to purchase. These are all common, routine annoyances that can happen to anyone.
In general, most of these things won’t jeopardize your livelihood or life. Now, life can also throw you big events. They may include things like the death of a family member or friend, a wedding, buying a home, or losing a job. Each of these qualifies as much more than an annoyance: they are life-altering changes. Some can be planned for. Others are unexpected.
Alcoholics often talk about worrying about events, holidays, and parties. It is my view that these things are much more easily dealt with than the subtle, everyday annoyances that can throw us a curveball.
Why are little annoyances dangerous to recovering people?
In life, it is often the little things that cause us more trouble than the big ones. It is these things that often go unforeseen. If you step in gum and ruin a brand-new sneaker you are going to be annoyed by it. Well, for a person who has never really developed coping skills, and may have the mindset of a 16 year old, they are going to flip out. If you want to run a similar experiment, and you have a teenager daughter, see what happens if you take away their phone for a day. The results won’t be pleasant.
It is this same type of emotional over-reaction that can be present in a person with a SUD. Their reactions to life are, in many respects, similar to a 16 year old girl who has had her phone taken away. So, for them to step in gum and ruin a new sneaker becomes a very big deal. If there are other problems also present at that time, such as financial insecurity, or family problems, this annoyance may result in a “trigger” reaction that makes them want to use.
How to Handle Little Annoyances in Sobriety
The reason many 12 step support groups function with such high success is no one has to face “little annoyances” that could lead them to drink or use drugs alone. At any given time, no matter how stupid an issue may seem, an individual has the option to pick up the phone and contact someone who understands. The more a person uses their support network, the better their odds become of staying sober. The worst thing to do is let the thought of alcohol or drugs take over your entire consciousness. The longer that thought seems good, the harder it becomes to resist.
As a person continues in sobriety, and acquired time, they gradually get accustomed to dealing with problems that once may have been insurmountable.