I’ve been thinking a lot about a question my wife recently asked me. She asked why I don’t show a lot of emotions and why I masked my emotions from her. While thinking about that question, I realized that I don’t show a lot of emotions because I don’t feel a lot of emotions. My emotions are very steady, not a lot of up or down. The question is why don’t I feel emotions as strongly as others.
Then it occurred to me, my addiction is like wearing emotional sunglasses all the time for many years. Sunglasses dim visible light while the lust addiction dims emotions and feelings. I wear sunglasses to prevent discomfort from intense sunlight. I’ve similarly used lust to prevent discomfort from intense emotions. When wearing sunglasses, the difference between black and white is reduced and it is harder to tell the difference between light and darkness. Everything is just darker. My eyes are much more comfortable and I’ve gotten used to wearing them. I also feel very cool, especially when wearing them at night.
When I was in 5th grade in 1980, my mom was concerned about how I squinted all the time when I was outside. Our eye doctor ordered special prescription glasses that automatically tinted when the light was bright. The light adapting film also turned clear when I was inside and the light was not as intense. All of my friends were amazed as we went outside for recess and my glasses automatically went dark. It was amazing and fantastic.
I felt very cool but unfortunately, the turtle shelled frames didn’t automatically convert into a sporty looking frame so I was just a nerd with dark glasses. Luckily, I didn’t know that in a couple years that I would up the nerd factor considerably. When my orthodontist put braces on my teeth, he said they would be much quicker if they included head gear and neck gear. I definitely didn’t look or feel like a character out of Top Gun in Ray Bans walking the halls of junior high wearing all of this corrective gear.
The glasses stopped my squinting problem outside. But, when I went back inside on bright days, they caused a big problem for a few minutes. Outside, they darkened almost instantly. Inside, it took a few minutes for the dark tint to fade. During those few minutes after I entered the school building, I would fumble around blindly, tripping over thresholds and bumping into people. I wasn’t able to read my textbooks. I would take off my glasses but my world was blurry.
Sunglasses at Night
In the 80’s there was a popular song about wearing sunglasses at night that started a mini fashion trend. At night activity like school dances and Friday night football games, high school guys would wear their sunglasses and jeans jackets with their collars up and I was one of them.
Wearing sunglasses at night is dangerous. Signs are difficult to read, it is very hard see what is happening around you. I was much more likely to stumble when walking up the bleacher steps or lose track of where my friends went because I just couldn’t see in the dark. Wearing emotional sunglasses similarly makes other people’s emotions almost invisible.
Sobriety: Remove the Dark Film
Sobriety is like peeling the dark film off the front of the glasses. The world looks different but it is also more uncomfortable. After years of relying on the darkness to make my world comfortable, it is like stepping out of a movie theater on a bright, sunny afternoon, it is almost unbearable. I want to squint, cover my eyes or even shut them very hard because the intensity of the light is disorienting and even blinding. I want the world to go back to the way I’m used to seeing it. I want to make my glasses turn dark again.
In the AA big book, there is a passage about alcoholics that want don’t want to quit altogether but they want to learn to drink alcohol responsibly. It is referenced as “drinking like a gentleman.” This is the desire to keep hold of the addiction, but simply learn to control. It is the desire to control it responsibly. It is similar to the desire I have to use the emotional sunglasses to automatically tint and dim the effects of emotion when I am placed in situations where the emotions from others are intense.
I am learning that the longer I keep the emotional sunglasses off, the more I am able to see around me. I’m able to better deal with the uncomfortable emotions in healthy ways. I can’t quite if my emotional range is changing, or if my wife is seeing a difference but I’m not stumbling as often.