The Familiar Pain

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*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.

Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want nothing more than to move past it. But I have inner parts. And I may have an inner part who isn’t ready to let go of the familiar.

There is a phrase: “the evil you know versus the evil you don’t”. I think it sums up the recovery journey well. When pain becomes familiar, letting go of that pain can cause more of it, at least at first. And recovery doesn’t feel like jumping off a cliff. It feels like jumping off multiple successive cliffs. So when faced with one more change, one more risk to take, it might feel better to go with what doesn’t feel good at all, because at least we know it. In this journey, pain may be the only thing that isn’t new. Continue reading

The Pain of Shame

Solace

Recovery work is painful. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is no wonder that I spent two decades avoiding it. Deep down in my unconscious where the memories were stored, I had determined that the pain of the emotional memories was far worse than spending my life defending against them. And my overactive cortex was happy to oblige. I could come up with almost anything to justify my feelings or an image that may have flashed in my head. On the bad days, I could keep myself so insanely busy that there was no time to examine anything. My head would run in circles all day long, only stopping for sleep. It was exhausting. Some days, I felt like I had run a marathon from the anxiety and intensity of getting through the day. But it still seemed better than facing the pain.

After seven years of recovery, I can vouch that the emotional and physical pain of recovery is hard, but it is not as bad as the constant defending. Honestly, and a bit morbidly, it is unlikely that I would have survived much longer if I had continued down that old path of denial. I was getting physically sicker and sicker. There is no doubt in my mind that my life would have been cut short. Continue reading