Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress. This concept is discussed in AA literature, but it is most certainly a universal truth. Pain is almost always what makes me stop and realize that I need a change. It can be physical pain… my back aches to the point that I must stop whatever physical activity I am doing. Mental pain… everyone in my life irritates me to the point that I must stop and consider that I am the common denominator. Emotional pain… I continue with my addictive behavior until the consequences are so painful, that I must stop and consider a new way of living.
No matter what kind of pain you are experiencing, there is an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for learning. There is no way I would wish for myself (or anyone else) the kind of pain that addiction brings, but I can say that I have learned a hell of a lot about myself, about the disease, and about how to deal with life on life’s terms. And since I don’t get to choose whether or not to be an addict, I must learn to play with the cards I’ve been dealt, so I may as well learn what I can, and apply the knowledge going forward.
And now, when other kinds of pain come my way, I can recognize the potential for growth, and the potential to learn something new, even while I’m in the midst of it.
Here’s what else I’ve learned about pain: you can try to ignore it, and hope it goes away on its own, but it does not. In fact, ignoring pain tends to magnify it. So, when I experience pain, I know I have a choice: deal with it now, or wait for it to get much worse. Either way, I’m going to have to face it.
Got up this morning at the usual time, but it was lighter and brighter, and it is only March 1st… spring is coming!!
This weekend I suffered my first real physical pain since being in recovery: I pulled something in my back (how I did it, I really couldn’t tell you), and I have had difficulty walking for the past 2 days. Multiple “old lady” jokes from my younger husband later…
The story of hurting my back would not be worth writing down, if it were not for being in recovery. It is temporary, and it is not seriously debilitating. It becomes significant, however, because in the past I would have gone running to the doctor’s for a lot less than this kind of pain. So the fact that I made it through without wanting to numb myself… well, it counts for something, anyway.
Having said that, I wouldn’t go out to buy me any trophies. Because now that I’ve had a chance to explore some real pain, and a real response to it, I have to honestly say that pain is not a trigger for me. In fact, it brought to mind a memory from a surgery I had quite a few years ago (and before I was in active addiction). I remember having a prescription for pain medication, and I remember consciously having the thought, “Well, if I take this now, while in real pain, that’s pretty much a waste. Why not suffer through the pain and then have the medication for a time I can really enjoy it?” Remember, that thought was years before active addiction!
That was not a pleasant memory to have, or even to share, but it’s the truth. The difference between then and now is the knowledge I have gained, the ability to identify the irrational thoughts, and the skills I have developed to combat those thoughts when they come my way… namely, to share about them with people who understand.
It is interesting to me that this is all happening as I am winding down the clock on the first year of recovery. Also interesting: as I opened WordPress to write this post, a fellow blogger’s writing caught my eye because she just celebrated her one-year anniversary (congrats Renee!). Towards the end of her post, she wrote, in big letters, “pain must be felt.” So I hope that she does not mind my using her quote for my title, because it sure fits my life right about now!
The support and help from my family, my friends, and the people in my Monday meeting today is nothing less than miraculous. I am truly blessed.