My friend over at the discovering alcoholic cites a study showing how prescription painkillers and opiates have become the new gateway drug of choice for young people these days, overtaking Marijuana. This is pretty scary stuff….it means that kids these days are finding their way into addiction and alcoholism through prescription painkillers more than any other route.
But the Discovering Alcoholic also mentions that he has noticed a major shift in society’s attitude–in that we seem to have this expectation that any pain we are experiencing should be promptly taken care of by medicine and science. This is the modern era…we should not be suffering, right? And so we expect to be able to live our lives pain-free, without feeling any discomfort from either physical or emotional pain. This attitude is unrealistic and unhealthy, and I completely agree with the Discovering Alcoholic in this regard.
Just consider the onslaught of antidepressants that the world has seen over the last two decades. Clearly there is the idea out there that we should not be “sad” for too long, lest we become unhealthy by being so sad. I can honestly say that I am grateful for my emotions today, and I’m glad I went through some of the sadness that I have seen in recovery. For example, I have lost some family members and also a close friend or two since I got sober, and I’m grateful that I was able to get through these experiences without self-medicating.
Now this is not a rant against antidepressants, or even against prescription painkillers, because clearly there are people out there who need these medications and benefit tremendously from them. What I’m cautioning against here is the attitude of entitlement–the idea that we are not supposed to feel any pain or suffer any emotional loss in our lives. This idea is simply not true. Sometimes we need to feel sad and to do so is a perfectly healthy response.
I can look back at my emotional low points in recovery and be grateful that I went through them, because they were a growing experience and all of them helped my spiritual connection as well.
As much as I hated to admit it, a huge part of recovery is about learning how to simply feel our feelings again. To get sad and to just let yourself feel it without self medicating–that is a huge leap to make for many people in recovery. So I’m not arguing against using antidepressants here…instead I’m cautioning against the attitude that we should never have to feel uncomfortable emotions.
What about physical pain?
The same idea applies to physical pain–I think our society has become too quick to demand that their physical pain be completely eradicated by modern medicine. This is not a healthy attitude, in my opinion, and goes against the tenants of nature. If we do something and get burned and feel pain, then we’re supposed to feel pain–and possibly learn something from the experience as well. This is a natural process. Introducing massive amounts of painkillers to eradicate any hint of pain whatsoever is not natural.
I’m fairly lucky in that I have a sponsor in recovery who suffers from a hefty amount of chronic pain from an automobile accident, but manages to control it with a simple and safe regimen of over the counter medications. He also uses holistic techniques to control the pain, and does specific exercises each morning to help with this as well. Seeing him overcome such obvious chronic pain with mostly natural methods has been quite an inspiration to me.
So how can we avoid falling into the trap of entitlement? Here are some suggestions:
1) Find gratitude in all your emotions. Sadness might be healthy in some ways, and help show you contrast to appreciate the good times. Anger might give you the energy and motivation necessary to drive you to change yourself. Be grateful for it! Harness your emotions and put them to work for you. Empower yourself.
2) Tap into holistic principles to combat physical pain. You might have to experiment a bit to find the right ideas. Hot showers, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques….these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing pain. There is a whole world of possibilities out there other than prescription painkillers.
3) Focus on gratitude that you’re alive and be grateful for any relief that you do get. Your attitude towards your situation will have a profound effect on your level of pain. Stay positive!