Pain Is Your Friend: Why Else Would Anybody Go To Treatment?

Pain Is Your Friend! I know we live in a society where it is considered “abnormal” or “unacceptable” to have or experience pain. We are inundated with messages telling us that not only should we not experience pain, but that it is our right NOT to experience pain. However, pain is your friend.

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I’m not just talking about physical pain.  I’m referring to all forms of pain, including emotional, mental and spiritual. We are taught to mask or treat every emotion or feeling as if we are not humans who are designed to think and feel. We avoid, at all costs, ourselves (and others) to feel any discomfort.

However, at times pain is good, accepted and even necessary. Pain is a signal that something is happening.  The pain in childbirth, for example.  Or the pain associated with surgery that eventually makes things better. Things often get worse and more painful before they get better. In fact, a great deal of pain is proof-positive that change is happening. Sometimes it is called “growing pains.”

Pain can be great motivation. Often times, we need a little pain to help motivate us and drive us to necessary change.  It’s amazing the lengths people will go to avoid their own pain and help other people avoid their pain as well.

Is total avoidance of pain a possibility? Of course it’s not! We are humans. When we get cut, we will bleed and we will hurt. Our bodies are brilliantly designed to send warning signals to let us know when we need to address danger that is causing us harm. Not just physical harm but emotional harm as well. There are a few things wrong with society’s quest to be pain free besides the fact that it’s just not possible.

Pain and discomfort are very powerful teachers.  When we pay attention to the root cause of pain, we learn a tremendous amount about ourselves. Why am I feeling uncomfortable? Does this tell me something about myself? The tricky part is knowing what to do with what we learn from pain.

Too often, the immediate response is to nix the source and only focus on getting rid of the symptoms and the associated pains. In doing so, we can often miss the lessons needed to avoid future bouts of the same pain.

“Pain is your friend” is one of those lessons. This is especially true for people with addiction.

The quest to avoid pain becomes a negative feedback loop of consequences and denial. For the person struggling with addiction, there seems to be a disconnect between cause and effect, particularly the more progressed the addiction becomes. 

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For example, if a person drives drunk and gets a DUI, he/she will be flooded with consequences related to getting that DUI. Embarrassment, legal consequences, financial restitution, and possibly family or employment issues just to name a few of the “pain points.”  

Did you know the average cost for a first offense DUI is about $10,000?! For most people, feeling the pain of these consequences is enough to change their behavior and not drive intoxicated. For the person with addiction, the pain of such consequences is soon forgotten, leading to a tendency to repeat the same behavior.  The root formula that tightens addiction around a person’s life is this: “Short Term Relief.  Long Term Grief.”

Raymond Scott, owner of Transformations Statesboro, SC and a longtime friend of mine, often tells family members of addicts, “It’s ok if he/she feels the pain of consequences – It’s not only OK, it’s necessary.”  Of course this often baffles the family members who have been consumed and obsessed with enabling the addicted person and minimizing the pain associated with these consequences.

Letting a loved one feel their own self-inflicted hurt and experience negative consequences from poor decision-making can be a tough concept to digest at first. Upon reflection, family members can begin to see how their alcoholic/addicted loved one needs to not only feel the full impact of their behaviors but they also need to be given the dignity to work through their feelings and initiate their own behaviors of change. 

Ironically, the “Tough Love” scenario can be a win/win. The family members are released from their sense of over-responsibility and protection for someone else’s’ behavior and the alcoholic/addict has the opportunity to learn and grow from his/her own natural consequences related to their addicted behaviors. 

Pain can also be a great motivator to lead an alcoholic or addict to treatment. As Carol Lind Mooney says, “No one wakes up and says, ‘It is a beautiful day. I think I will go to treatment.” Unfortunately, it often takes negative consequences like getting a DUI, having a spouse file for divorce, losing a job or failing out of school to realize and properly accept that there is a serious problem. Many of those negative consequences can be messages to the alcoholic or addict that things are in fact, not “normal,” and are often the catalysts of change.

Pain is your friend doing what it can to get your life back on track, a blessing in disguise and exactly what you may need to get you to start asking for help into recovery.

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