Learning to Trust Your Intuition in Recovery
In early recovery, alcoholics and addicts start to experience feelings again, both positive and difficult ones. It’s been said that early in sobriety the highs are really high and the lows are really low. This makes sense when considering that during active addiction all feelings were numbed out including the good ones.
Among the feelings that come back in recovery lies intuition. The “gut feelings” that are beyond wise if we simply heed their guidance. Simple, maybe, but certainly not easy. And that’s because intuition usually comes in a flash and then it’s gone. It’s the doubting, analytical mind that tends to hang around. It takes practice to learn to trust the intuitive feelings. We’ll discuss how to develop that skill, but first let’s look at how intuition is developed.
The Gift of Innate Intuition
All of us are born with intuition. It’s an innate ability. However, many (if not most) alcoholics and addicts grew up in dysfunctional families that did not validate or approve of feelings being expressed. Feelings start getting repressed early on when growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Alcoholics and addicts also tend to be very sensitive people, meaning that they are usually able to sense when someone is unhappy, upset, angry, etc. But growing up in a family that does not acknowledge feelings can get confusing. And even worse – if the child senses things are not right in their household but everyone else maintains that things are “fine” or “normal,” then it leads to the child not trusting his or her intuition. The child is feeling pain and chaos around them while everyone else denies what is going on.
It’s not unusual for children to begin numbing their feelings with food or overachievement at an early age. By adolescence, they often resort to drugs or alcohol to turn down the volume of the sensitive, intuitive parts of themselves that are sensing the craziness around them. Unfortunately, by numbing out the craziness, they also numb out the wise inner voice of their gut instinct (or intuition).
Fortunately, with recovery, the body, mind and spirit all heal and restore. The intuition will return, but it takes courage and perseverance to develop it.
Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Developing intuition requires discipline and a practice of slowing down and listening. A few ways to develop a practice are:
- Quiet Time
Create a morning practice for yourself that includes quiet time or meditation. I’ve often heard people say they can’t sit quietly or meditate because their thinking never stops. And that’s true! It’s important to remember that the goal of meditation is not to have the thoughts cease. The goal is simply to sit and be still and quiet for a specified amount of time. You may only be able to start with 3 minutes, and that’s okay! You can slowly build up to longer periods of time. With practice you’ll begin to notice that the thoughts actually do begin slowing down. And it’s not what happens during the quiet time that matters, it’s what happens outside of it. By dedicating time to a daily practice you’ll begin to notice that anxiety is reduced, emotions are more regulated and intuition is more present.
- Listen to Your Body
Rather than trying to figure out what you “think” about something, find out what you “feel” about it. Bring the topic to mind and then tune into your body. Do a body scan and see how you feel when you think of the subject. If you are trying to make a decision, see how each option feels in your body when you consider it. Often the path that feels most peaceful will not make logical sense. This is where it takes courage to follow the path that feels right even when family, friends, or society are telling you otherwise.
- Get Creative
Developing the right side of the brain (which is where creativity, intuition and spirituality reside) will help strengthen the intuitive process. Try doing a daily “stream of consciousness” writing to help keep your subconscious clear. This entails writing 2-3 pages without taking your pen off the page. Simply begin writing what is coming up in your mind and keep following one thought after the next until all pages are filled with your flow of thoughts. You may be surprised at what surfaces.
Do a collage. Flip through a magazine and without putting conscious thought into it, simply tear out the images and words that you are drawn to. Tear out words, colors, textures, and hues you find satisfying without judging or analyzing why. Next, get a glue stick and piece of poster board and start gluing. Often you’ll end up with a unique piece of abstract art.
- Notice the Flashes
Follow little intuitive hits. Notice when you get a little intuitive flash, like turning down a road you’ve never been on, or stopping at the library as you drive by, or speaking to the person standing in line next to you. Just try it and see where it leads. You may be surprised at what develops. Just like a muscle, the more you practice following your intuition, the stronger it becomes.
Avoid the Traps
Developing intuition often times requires rejecting the will or the ego. We may be solidly determined for something to happen and yet there are little intuitive flashes that indicate otherwise. Often our ego state will get very loud and insist that we work, push and reach that goal! It’s easy to allow our perseverance and drive to make things happen rather than utilizing intuition which tends to allow things to happen with much less effort.
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