As much as I hate to admit it, the corny mantra you see above can be very appropriate in the life of a recovering addict. I used to go to the gym a lot and got used to the soreness following a very intense work out. It’s common to say something like, “Man I’m really sore from my workout but its a good kind of sore.” Working out and embracing the pain in order to see progress in my body is probably the only type of pain I have tolerated throughout my life. And I really mean the ONLY type of pain.
I am deathly afraid of feeling pain. There I said it.
One of the problems facing addicts is pride hindering us from admitting things that make us look anything less than a modern day super hero. We want people to admire us, respect us, love us, accept us. How can they do that if we are flawed? So for me, saying the words are not easy at all. Pride is so strong it stiffens my fingers as I type and fills my head full of doubt and my heart full of fear.
But I hate pain. I always have.
The pain of being alone.
The pain of being abused by my father.
The pain of rejection.
The pain, the pain, the pain.
I run from pain, I avoid it at all costs. I am addicted to any way to ease it or make it go away.
Welcoming the Pain
In January I had shoulder surgery to repair a torn tendon that occurred back in September. I was so ready for the surgery, desperate even! I was so desperate for the surgeon’s scalpel I temporarily forgot about all of the pain I would experience during recovery. It’s been over three months since my surgery and my flexibility is still very limited. Therapy sessions have gotten progressively more painful as my PT guy Vincent (AKA “Vice Grip Vince”) has gone from treating my shoulder like fine china to using it to practice his wrestling holds for his future career as a WWE star!
A few weeks ago “Vice Grip Vince” informed me that the surgeon gave the go-ahead to be “more aggressive” with our stretching exercises. Before that day I thought I knew what physical pain felt like. But I had never experienced this kind of pain. Ever.
Before we began, Vincent said something very interesting: “Now we must welcome the pain.” He has a great sense of humor so I thought maybe he was joking around at first. 10 minutes into that therapy (torture) session massive tears were streaming down my cheeks. My arm had not gone that high since before my injury so my body was not happy about it to say the least. Vincent assures me almost every time he sees me that pushing through the pain will be worth it. That there is a correlation between how much pain I can tolerate and recovery time.
I think Vincent is on to something. This principal can quite possibly be applied to my life outside those torture chamber walls. Instead of avoiding the pain of life, I need to feel it. Feeling it is not fun but necessary for my heart and the ongoing recovery that is happening inside.
Recently I experienced a different kind of pain. I had been dating someone for a few months (long distance) and we were getting pretty serious. So serious that she was actually considering uprooting and moving to Kuwait if we decided on marriage in the future. Then she broke it off. Even though she did it in the most loving and caring way possible. Even though we both want to remain friends and hang out whenever I am in Nashville…
It still hurt.
At first I didn’t want to admit it hurt. I wanted to try and brush it off, not talk to people about it and try and move on with my life. But then I remembered Old Vice Grip and his words of wisdom: “Welcome the Pain.”
This life is full of pain. I have a choice each time I experience it. I can run from it by avoiding talking about it and/or medicating it. Or I can face it head on, look it in the eye, and welcome it into my heart like I would an old friend that I trust. I must welcome it because welcoming it is feeling it. When it’s worn out its welcome then I can show it to the door, but not before we have a little chat and I see it as a gift for a healing heart.
Pain is like that awkward neighbor who makes you feel uncomfortable when you are around him. You don’t necessarily go to his door and invite yourself in but when he comes to your door the right thing to do is welcome him in for a short visit.
Then when the time is right, send him on his way.