“The cure for pain is in the pain.” – Rumi
We drink and drug to excess for a variety of reasons. Maybe we find that we don’t fit in; we can’t relate to our peers, and drinking makes the awkwardness and exclusion go away. We drink and we can speak – we can interact, we can socialize, and we don’t hate ourselves quite as much. Maybe we find that our family dysfunction is too overwhelming; our parents fight, and getting high makes the incessant chaos seem tolerable. We get high and we can breathe – we can tune it all out, we can mind our own business, and the abuse doesn’t enrage us as much as it used to. Maybe we find that the pills stop the unrelenting physical pain, or that drinking quiets the voices in our head.
In the vast majority of cases, we begin drinking and drugging to numb some form of pain – either emotional, psychological, or physical. It is essentially impossible to treat substance dependency unless the deeper issue is first addressed. In many instances, this means that the underlying cause of the pain must be identified and worked through.
Facing Pain in Addiction Recovery
Working through past grief is uncomfortable, seeing as we have likely devoted the majority of our lives to ceaseless numbing, possibly convincing ourselves that the pain did not exist to begin with. Facing reality can be emotionally devastating – but it is through facing our pain that true growth and healing can occur. There is a concept referred to as ‘post-traumatic growth’ which applies to the experiences of many individuals in early addiction recovery – especially those undergoing intensive therapeutic treatment. Following the acceptance of immense pain and trauma, positive growth can occur. Rather than dwell on the pain and allow it to overwhelm and rule us, we can address the pain head-on, using traumatic experiences as opportunities to learn more about ourselves, other people, and the world around us.
Addressing past pain will lead to immense personal growth, and experiencing enormous amounts of personal growth will lead, in turn, to new pain. In order to grow and change, we must be willing to step outside of our comfort zones. Logically, when we step outside of comfort, we step into discomfort – and discomfort is uncomfortable. When we step away from what we know, we run the risk of failure, and the possibility of this can be unnerving in and of itself. However, when we step outside of our comfort zones and succeed, we begin to build up a critical sense of self-esteem. We teach ourselves that there are other ways to live our lives – that we are deserving of contentment and fulfillment. Changing our perspective is absolutely vital to long-term sobriety.
Pain Leads to Growth, and Growth Leads to Pain
When we live in a place of negativity – when we spend our days desperately attempting to drown and numb and relieve – we are likely to sink deep into purposelessness and depression. We live in a constant state of anxiety and fear, afraid of facing reality and what that will mean. We avoid the inevitable until we no longer can, and our glued-together world comes crashing down around us. Now, we are given a choice. We can either face our pain and our grief, and take the opportunity to step into discomfort and grow more than we ever deemed possible. Or, we can climb back into the ruins of our former selves, continuing to hide from truth. If we choose the latter, our pain will persist.
If we choose to see ourselves, our circumstances, and the very reality of our existence in a different light, our pain will be fleeting. We will have to deal with a little discomfort, sure – but we have dealt with far worse and made it through unscathed. We will eventually settle into ourselves are we are truly meant to be – healed, whole, and happy. Our pasts will shift from a source of self-loathing and shame to a beautiful story which has made us who we are today. We have a lot to offer. Because of what we have lived through, and because of the changes we have made… we have quite a lot to offer.