Learning to Understand and Deal with Pain, Without Painkillers

If someone else treated me the way I treated myself I would’ve had to kill them. The massive amount of mental and emotional suffering I brought upon myself throughout my life has been insane. At 35 I am realizing that even though I have experienced a tremendous amount of pain, I never learned how to process and deal with it. I didn’t understand how the grieving process works and what steps should occur in a healthy mourning period.

In the past, when my skin started to crawl and my mind wouldn’t stop replaying the same thoughts, I was lost with how to interpret and handle those feelings. My therapist recently brought this fact to my attention.

For as long as I can remember I used foreign substances to cope with the pain I was going through. I stuffed whatever I didn’t want to face deep down inside of me. I numbed my senses with opiates, cocaine, women, money and alcohol. I used anything that allowed me to get out of “myself”. For that brief moment in time it would my fill my void and bring me some small, but fleeting period of happiness.

My life had become a vicious cycle of chaos and pain. A considerable portion of my pain was due to my inability to allow myself to be happy and content. I struggled to accept happiness and success; even when I had fought so hard to achieve them.

Something inside of me kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to be happy. I didn’t deserve it. If I continued to stay optimistic something bad would surely occur. I didn’t understand that it was ok to allow the good to come into my life without fear of repercussions. I continuously self-sabotaged my life and created chaos.

There’s truly a sick sense of comfort in chaos for someone like me. It’s very familiar and I understand how it works. I was fearful of what life would look like without chaos. What would it’s replacement look and feel like? This thought process caused me to stay sick mentally and live in my own turmoil.

When I decided to make a change I looked at my life and decided that I had two choices. I could either stop taking painkillers or I could kill myself. There was no middle ground for me at that point. Those were the only viable options for my life.

I was able to associate the feeling of such overwhelming pain with the use of opiates that I kicked cold turkey. My mind finally got to the point where the pain and suffering of withdraw, as well as having to deal with my emotions, were not nearly as great as continuing to use. That was the key for me. Forging a mental association that linked taking painkillers to creating more pain in my life, rather than taking the pain away.

The first couple of weeks I was physically sick from withdraw. However, the next several months of having to deal with all the mental and emotion pain was far worse. I had to face what I had created in my life and it wasn’t pretty. I had to accept that I had lost relationships, business opportunities, money and most importantly time because of my actions.

Occasionally I felt that I couldn’t handle all the mental anguish. I thought It may be too much and it would consume me. I’ve seen people experience tragic events in their live’s and never came out of it the same. They stay stuck in a rut with their past haunting them forever. Continually living out the same patterns ad nauseam, only replacing the characters in their story.

I’m only seven months removed from that life, but writing about it now seems foreign to me. It’s as if I’m not writing about my own life. When I replay my past actions in my head it’s like seeing a bad movie that so embarrassing to watch it makes you cringe. It’s unfathomable to me that I lived that way for so long.

I’ve learned dealing with pain is supposed to hurt. Allowing myself to feel whatever pain comes into my life and learning from it is necessary. Pain is the most powerful teacher we have in this world. It is the cornerstone of growth and change. It has taught me many of my greatest lessons; as well as evoked the most change in my life. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

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This weeks Podcast: This is Water, This is Water