Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Kahil Gibran
Who chooses pain?
“Not me!” I want to shout.
Julia Cameron refers to the morning pages taught in The Artist’s Way as meditation suited to westerners. They work for us because one doesn’t actually have to be still; you write to access the wisdom of your interior self. In my box of “recovery tools” this is one I have favored lately. There are many others.
Which tool works best? “It works if you work it” is the chorus spoken in unison routinely to close most 12 step meetings. Still I find there are days I resist picking up any tool and “working it”. Take the morning pages – “I am cranky, so I didn’t write them” or is it “I’m cranky because I didn’t write them”? Am I troubled and unfocused because I haven’t been vigilant, choosing self care, good food, less drink, more rest? Have I been doing too much and not allowed myself to just be?
This month I can answer yes to most of those queries, thus, I guess I must conclude:
So who chooses pain? “Clearly me”.
In my troubled times especially, when focus is difficult and the morning pages have not been enough to quiet me, I pick up a book of daily mediations from one of the 12 step programs. This quote about “the bitter potion “… begins a July meditation in the OA (Overeater’s Anonymous) book, For Today (1982).
If it were not for the pain, I wouldn’t be here (in recovery). Only when the pain of (food addiction) became worse than the pain it was intended to kill did I become willing to abandon the pretense of controlling my life.
Getting in touch with my pain is a new experience. Until the day it brought me to my knees, food was my first line of defense against any and all pain, even that caused by the food itself.
In OA, I have come to understand that I must let myself feel the pain before I can recover.
For today: I no longer choose to avoid my growing pains. My Higher Power, my program, my meetings, my friends – all stand with me as I face, head-on, whatever must be faced.
Have you “chosen pain”?
My guess is that if you are still reading “food” might not be part of that choice, or even alcohol, drugs or gambling – but perhaps workaholism, depression, perfectionism, love addiction (see Pia Mellody’s landmark book). Whatever behavior we use, I have used almost all of the above, we choose the behavior to numb the feelings we think would otherwise overwhelm.
What feelings are we numbing? To know you have only to honor the physician within you. And start assembling the tools that will be the help you need in order to be supported on your journey inward.
You are the physician. The sick self is merely the part of you that is keeping you from being the best you can be: the most content, the most available to joy, the most fully present in each day.
And let me close with an apology if this seems trite or canned or easy.
My own struggle began with not even knowing there was a sick self to heal. I was fine. I was in control. I had it all.
The fact that I was irritable, cycling through moods from depressed & paralysed to wildly energetic & creative was not a problem, it was simply “how I am”. It took hitting bottom – multiple times, confronting the demons of addiction in my behavior, perfectionism; in my attitude, pessimistic; in relationships, codependent and controlling; and substance, food; to bring me to my knees. To the “rooms” for AlAnon meetings almost thirty years ago, OA meetings and a treatment program twenty years ago, CoDA meetings after that, and therapy all along.
Sadly, as I read that instead of the gentle voice I have cultivated in my efforts at self care – I am hearing a bit of a judging tone, “really, you needed thirty years to get this?” So let me gently assure myself – and you – that this is not a linear process.
Recovery is the journey of a life time. Simply living a conscious life. There have been struggles on the way – daily in the work itself, but the struggle left me not bloodied and scarred but open and vulnerable. This is not an arming for battle, adding a layer of armor to deflect blows. It is a stripping down, a shearing of the thick coat of matted, coarse and wiry fur insulating us from real feelings. And as we work through the grief and the sadness, experience the anger cleanly and throw off resentment we expose soft skin. Only then can we await the touch of kindness and support available when we learn to seek it from the right people in safe places.
And if learning to trust the abundance of good people and safe places takes you less time than my thirty + years, I can confidently assure you that every moment of pain experienced is redeemed with many more moments of exquisite joy.