Misophonia and Addiction Recovery Meetings: Too Much Noise
For those in addiction recovery who have misophonia, attending recovery meetings is fraught with complications. They say "meeting makers make it," but what if you spend the whole meeting obsessing over coffee slurping, cookie munching or loud breathing? Misophonia and addiction recovery meetings can be a problem (Noise Sensitivity: When The World is Too Loud).
What is Misophonia?
Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is a contested term used
to describe people for whom certain noises cause a person to react in rage, intense anxiety, and/or panic. The nature of the condition (such as whether or not it should be considered a disorder), its causes and effective treatment methods are all debated, and the term itself has only entered the mainstream consciousness in the last few years. I have been struggling with this issue since I was a child and it significantly impacts my life.
I first heard of misophonia in a 12-step program meeting. I arrived at a very crowded meeting and all the seats were taken. As I hovered in the doorway, a woman beckoned me to take her seat, while she moved across the room and sat on the floor. As soon as I sat down, the woman seated beside me began chomping on an apple. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and heard nothing but apple chewing noises until she was done. After the meeting, I thanked the woman who had given up her seat for me. She told me she had wanted to move because she saw the woman pull out the apple and wanted to get away. From there, she told me about having misophonia, a term I had never heard of. After 20 years of agony, anger, self-chastising and guilt, knowing there were other people out there like me was truly a breakthrough.
Struggling with Misophonia in Addiction Recovery Meetings
Ever since I was introduced to recovery programs' meetings, I've been concerned about how I would maintain my attendance with them. The extreme anxiety I experience because of certain sounds is actually something that drove me to drink in the first place. Everyday noises became more bearable with alcohol in my system. But drinking is no longer an option.
Meetings present so many misophonia triggers: coffee slurping, gum chewing and, sometimes, even talking and breathing. For years I white-knuckled and forced myself to sit through meetings that caused me high anxiety, even if I didn't take in anything that was shared. Recent schedule changes have meant that I mainly attend noon meetings now, and because people often bring their lunches to these meetings, I struggle especially hard in these meetings. I know I look anguished at times because of this, or like I'm on the verge of a breakdown, but I can't help it.
How Can Misophonics Attend Addiction Recovery Meetings?
I'm torn, because I want to attend meetings, but I want to get as much out of them as possible. When I am on verge of screaming or running out of the room, I'm not sure I'm getting or giving anything. That being said, I have no plans to stop attending meetings. But I do need to take steps to lessen the anxiety for myself.
Some things that help me attend recovery meetings as someone with misophonia are:
- Try to attend meetings where people are less likely to be eating (needless to say, I hate it when people pass snacks around during meetings)
- Sit in the back of the room (for some reason this helps)
- Leave the meeting if necessary, or take a break and come back
I've even worn headphones to meetings at times with a low-level white noise. I'm aware that some people might view this as rude but I think if they knew my situation they would not mind. They are welcome to take it up with me if they want.
Are you someone who struggles with misophonia and attending recovery meetings? How do you deal with it? Please continue the conversation below, I would love to learn about your experiences.
Lesley, K. (2016, January 25). Misophonia and Addiction Recovery Meetings: Too Much Noise, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2016/01/misophonia-and-recovery-meetings
Author: Kira Lesley
I came across an article saying that if you felt annoyed at the sound of someone eating loudly, it was known as misophonia. I've suffered since around the age of 12 and I'm now 42. After being told it was because I have bad nerves from my mother, I never thought more of it. I usually find, depending on my mental health, some sounds are worse than others. I cannot even be in the same room as my children when they eat breakfast cereals! There have been occasions where I have experienced 'rage' and I have lashed out not just verbally but physically after my partner slurped milk out of a bowl. After begging him to stop at least 4 times, I actually pushed his face into the bowl, knocking out one of his front teeth! He has taken responsibility partly but how I felt in myself made me feel extremely low, sad and ashamed. It has affected certain aspects of my day to day life, such as not wanting to eat around new people, for instance at work for fear of my reaction. Recently, I have been training a new employee at the care home I work in and she's a coffee slurper. I use any excuse possible to not be around like hiding in the toilet, even hiding with a resident and watch television with them for at least 30 minutes. She's a lovely girl and I know for a fact that I would scare her half to death with my reaction. I'm hoping for the day that I don't experience such rage and feel comfortable in environments with such sounds.
As someone who is also in recovery, I can’t help but wonder if there would be some relief in starting 12-Step groups for people dealing with Misophonia.
Since it too is basically a fixation of sorts, perhaps admitting powerlessness over certain noises, working the steps and fellowshipping with others who suffer the same thing might reap positive results.
I’m desperate enough to try it and can be reached at email@example.com. Please feel free to reach out. The sooner the better.
Fascinating. I think I was once married to a man who suffered this!!! This is “ eye opening”! I just listed my email. Can I be included in further articles about this?
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I am so used to being at home during the day and have the choice to keep my radio and TV off if I so choose to. It's amazing how one can actually think in the silence. I have major depression and relish peace and quiet. My one relative babysits and the noise I hear over the phone if and when I call her drives me to the point that I will make an excuse to hang up. Simply cannot stand all that noise. My one form of therapy is to spend time in a Perpetual Adoration Chapel that is close to my home. Also going to Mass is so peaceful. In a sense, this depression turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It started to hit sometime late 2011 and I still see a psychiatrist.
I have always had this. I used to describe it as feeling claustrophobic over noise because I could not think of any other way to say it to other people. When I attend mental health support groups, I bring along things for drawing mandalas because I can focus on that and not the noise. Even then, though it is still hard. Thank you for giving me a name for this. I always thought I was just weird.
Hi Susan, thank you for your comment. When this other woman in the meeting told me about misophonia and gave me a name for it, it was truly a revelation for me. So many of us think we are the only ones, and it keeps us from spending time with loved ones, makes us avoid meetings, sit in the back, and arrange our lives around it. I hope this was made clear in the post, but there appear to be differences between tinnitus, misophonia, and general noise sensitivity. They all can make meetings and other situations extremely difficult, but they may not have the same cause. Much more research needs to be done before we know any more though. I do suggest checking out the work of the audiologist Marsha Johnson in Portland, Oregon. Thanks again.