There are a couple of non-negotiables for most people in regard to how we want to live. We all have needs that must be fulfilled to allow us to survive each day. Needs like food, water, shelter, and air are not optional; without them, we die. We have other needs too that the absence of may not kill us but are still necessary in order to live our lives well. Some of our 'non-essential' needs are personal and may not apply to everyone but others are arguably as important to our ability to live a successful life as food and water.
Today's core belief may begin at birth for some of us and not until we are adults for others. It all depends on the way we grew up and the way we chose to live our adult lives. Regardless of when the core belief began to manifest, once it did, we can be left in a state of unease, insecurity, and uncertainty for as long as we continue to believe that core belief. As addicts, feelings such as these can certainly trigger our addictions and unfortunately, this core belief perpetuates itself even more easily than others. It is able to do this because each time we allow the trigger to initiate the use of our addiction, the meer act of using positions us in the very state we did not want to find ourselves; an unsafe place.
I am not safe
While simply living in a physically unsafe environment cannot kill you, circumstances surrounding the unsafe place can. We all certainly deserve a home free from danger and if we do not have access to this, then our environment can definitely be a trigger for our addiction. In regard to recovery and sobriety however, the unsafe place I am referring to is not a physical one, it is an emotional one. I chose to focus on emotional safety because it can be caused by environmental, sociological, economic, physical, as well as emotional issues. Regardless of how we developed a sense of feeling unsafe, the end result affects us mentally. Mental unease can trigger our addiction and causes us to want to escape because we feel unsafe.
What does it mean to be unsafe? If safe means to be free from harm, then there are a myriad of reasons and causes for someone to feel unsafe. The lack of food, water, and shelter are immediate concerns that affect us directly and if we are in this position we need to seek help immediately. Crisis Connections is a resource to seek help if you or someone you know is in this position. A lack of a desire to live due to our circumstances is another immediate concern and help is available, if necessary, at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please seek help immediately if you are physically at risk of harm.
Other reasons for feeling unsafe are not so immediate, at first, and can build up slowly over time. The way we were raised as children can lend to a beginning decline in our feeling of safety. The choices we make as young adults may affect our living situations and make us feel unsafe. A bad relationship whether friend or romantic can cause us to feel unsafe. A bad experience relating to any form of emotional or physical abuse may interfere with our ability to feel safe. Abandonment on any level makes us feel alone and unsafe. There are endless reasons and causes for the eventual development of the core belief that we do not feel safe. So, how do we approach changing a core belief that is largely perception-based?
I am strong
When thinking about how to challenge the core belief of feeling unsafe, we have to consider what we are doing or could be doing to help make ourselves feel unsafe or safe. Speaking from my personal experience, what I found immediately after quitting drinking, nicotine, and other addictive behaviors was a feeling of confidence. With confidence came a feeling of strength. Let's look at the word strength: Noun; the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations and events that are distressing or difficult. Yes, strength can refer to our muscles, and while muscles can help aid in our feeling of safety, the feeling associated with emotional or mental strength is unparalleled in regard to sobriety. Many of the reasons and causes of feeling unsafe can be overcome by the ability to mentally or emotionally combat them which negates a potential trigger.
The strength I found in setting aside my addictions has allowed me the ability to approach difficult situations differently and with more confidence than ever before. One of the most common statements I hear from people in recovery is the inability to deal with cravings. While I did not experience as many cravings as others due to changing the way I viewed alcohol, I still felt them. I learned that cravings only last somewhere between twelve and twenty minutes. All you have to do is garner enough strength to make it through that short period of time. I did this by writing, exercising, or simply sitting with the discomfort. All of which require a certain level of strength but it is a level achievable by anyone. By believing we are confident and subsequently strong, we offer ourselves another tool in our emotional toolbox to deal with difficult times.
I want to clarify that I do not believe strength and willpower are the same things. It has been scientifically proven that willpower depletes over time. A person can only do something out of sheer will for a period of time. Emotional strength, however, is endless once it is accepted and believed to exist within ourselves.
Have confidence in yourself, believe you are strong, and act from a place of mental and emotional strength and you will begin to, once again, feel safe.