“…how complicated a life can get without the guidance of pain.”
I used the movie Get Low, in my last newsletter, to talk about the damage caused by the hidden shadow; un-addressed grief, guilt and shame that plagues our world, and the solutions to this. At the bottom of the blog I mentioned something said to me the second time I went to treatment and here’s a bit of that story.
I wrote previously of my first time in treatment in 1968, a lock-down ward with meds but no 12-Step or anything we traditionally came to equate with substance use disorder treatment in the second half of the 20th century in America. Eventually I made my way back to treatment some 15 years later. Finally, the third time, 8 years after that, took.
My final time in, detoxing & sick, the intake was, shall we say, quite cloudy. It’s all fairly standard questions/paperwork, but when asked if I had ever been to treatment before I answered no. I didn’t count the first time and had completely forgotten the second time. My brain was stuporous and dazed and sustained detox coupled with supervised living and regular spiritual actions began to lift the fog around 90 days later. There were a number of spiritual revelations that came to me in the coming weeks as the fog lifted, usually triggered by the loving support that was around me. Some went off like clarifying grenades in my head (and heart) and I cherish each and every one of those and search for more until this day. A biggy was the moment I remembered I had done treatment before. Immediately, what my counselor said to me came flooding back.
The short time I was there she only said one thing to me. As those in long-term recovery who work with people suffering do, she repeated it often. She was planting a seed and years later, around 90 days detoxed, it sprouted. At the time I didn’t understand. You see, I didn’t “think” I had a problem, having been sent to treatment by a loved one. I viewed it as a health spa and I was just resting up. The fact that it was a Salvation Army program (a great one, btw) and there was no massage or hot tub did not compute. But when I remembered this treatment, what she said came rushing back and instantly made complete sense. She kept saying, “You can let this pain be enough”.
Man did it come flooding back. As everyone says, the three key components of the disease of addiction are: progressive, incurable and fatal. Incurable but it can go into remission, there is a way out; fatal if un-checked and; the progression looks different from person to person and mine was picking up speed.
When you have the disease of addiction and you don’t think you do and you keep going, the progression tends to speed up which creates wreckage. It’s a part of the holistic/holographic nature of the Universe, issues we ignore eventually come back to us swifter and harder. And all that’s painful and that is what she was saying; if I end my denial and get with the disease, respect it, I can stop the pain that’s coming. And she was right, I left treatment (early), resumed my ways and began to roll down the tracks at breakneck speed. I hadn’t had enough pain yet.
What a toweringly elegant spiritual concept. Now this gets into philosophical nuances that some debate so allow me to place this within context. I am talking of myself and my own experience, first off. The fact that pain works is our hardwiring. There’s no sin in that. That is a fact neither good nor bad. It’s actually a good thing. There are children, a statistically small amount, born with a congenital nerve disorder, that means insensitivity to pain and they are at serious risk of burns and bone breakage as they play and live that present real issues for the families. There was an article in the New York Times about the disorder and I love this quote. “Her life story offers an amazing snapshot of how complicated a life can get without the guidance of pain. Pain is a gift, and she doesn’t have it.”
Nervous system pain response is reality, we cannot change that. What we can control, the question in all this, the spiritual lesson for me, the blessing of it all is; we have control over how much pain we need.
That’s what she was saying! I could let this pain be enough! I could change starting right NOW!
All this led to actual surrender, which literally freed me completely from the obsession to use drugs, released me from the bondage of addiction, from then on. There’s a future topic, including as it relates to the medical; A spiritual principal gave rise to a physical benefit. The spiritual actually affects the material. E=mc2!
I have not wrestled one tiny bit with drug usage ever since, and let’s be very clear; that was a full-on gift given to me and I take no credit for that gift. I do attempt to show my gratitude.
Since then, I have wrestled with numerous other things in life before realizing that surrender would be the best response and it has been curious to me that despite such a wonderful gift and experience with surrender I still needed to wrestle with many other things and THEN it really hit me. Letting this pain be enough could be applied to many things/lots of things/anything!
The upshot of it all, now, twenty two years later, is that I know anytime I wrestle with something, stress over something, I am self-willing and attempting to control and that ultimately leads to pain. By letting go, giving it to the Universe, trusting, not just focusing on what the little i wants, there is freedom. And we’re not talking about wanting “bad” stuff. I don’t wrestle with robbing banks and such. In recovery, I can be ego driven about all sorts of “good” stuff. We can think we are doing good, when actually it’s still ego. We’re trying to control way too much around us because that was the pattern we learned when we were young and the pattern we repeated in our addiction. Those were the tools we learned and needed at the time, to cope and there comes a time to learn new tools. The saying goes, Do the right thing, for the right reason. The second part is most important. And that has been my lesson. In searching for the higher good, effortless effort is the way to surf. Straight up to the Heavens.
A last quote, from the NY Times article; “It is an extraordinary disorder,” Woods said. “It’s quite interesting, because it makes you realize pain is there for a number of reasons, and one of them is to use your body correctly without damaging it and modulating what you do.”