We alcoholics are sensitive people. It takes some of us a long time to outgrow that serious handicap. ~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, The Family Afterward, pg. 125.
For alcoholics, truer words were never spoken. The over sensitive person feels pain in an exaggerated way and therefore has problems tolerating difficulties. Alcoholics and addicts seem to form anchors or associations faster than anybody else. For example, if I had a bad breakup (and who hasn’t) and associated a particular song with that relationship, I may form a strong, painful anchor to that incident, using that piece of music. This in of itself is not so unusual. But alkies take it to another level and obsess on the bad memory endlessly. Like playing that song over and over, in my head! Pretty soon, anyone or anything can trigger the bad feeling. Overly sensitive people are more likely to get depressed and be emotionally erratic because their mood changes whenever any small event happens.
If you tried to put some water on a fresh wound and you experience pain, that’s because after an injury, the affected area becomes sensitive to factors that were not painful before. The same goes with emotional wounds. Being rejected as a child, lacking self-confidence and having self-image problems are all examples of unhealed wounds that can make you sensitive to things that others don’t notice.
There are many ways that can help combat the battle with being easily hurt. Mainly, changing the way you think. After a few inventories where I looked at causes and conditions, I could clearly see the old, festering wounds I walked around with for years, and identify the cause. When I came across a situation that prompted an over the top reaction, I could reference my list of defects and see where the reaction really came from. After awhile, the old anchors were replaced with new meanings. My thinking drastically changed. Not to say that at times I don’t experience emotional drama, but I catch it much faster, and therefore avoid dwelling in self-pity.
Being overly sensitive is a handicap, not a crime. There are assets to being sensitive, and we can use the assets of sensitivity in our service work. Compassion for others, being there for friends and those in need, and most importantly, helping the alcoholic who still suffers. A change of perception is a wonderful remedy for the oversensitive alcoholic.