Pushing Away The Pain
An important part of understanding why we may engage in certain activities that we do is reflecting on our intention…our motivation. One of the most natural parts of being human is to push away what is uncomfortable or painful, and to cling to what we want and feels good. Another natural part of being human is not only to push away what is uncomfortable and painful, but also to feel even greater pain and discomfort because of our unhappiness about the things we don’t want. For example, if we’re in a job we are unhappy in…the more we react to our unhappiness about the situation and obsess and push away from it… the greater the pain and discomfort we have. The more we react, the more we suffer and feel uncomfortable.
Another side of this ‘coin,’ is that the more we like something and it feels good, the more we may cling to it. This may not sound so bad…”so what? you are clinging to something?”…but actually this also causes suffering and pain. The clinging can be fear and pain of loss or change. For example, if we are in a very happy romantic relationship, we may cling to it or think of how we can possibly keep it happy and together for as long as possible. Yet, the irony is, this creates suffering and pain too. The fear of loss or fear of change in the future, often causes pain, neediness and suffering in the present.
Either way, the best approach is if possible, to practice being ‘in the middle’- or being balanced. This means that there is a conscious understanding that part of reality is an on-going balancing act between holding on and letting go… observing and then the choice to react less. Walking in a state of balance is a practice, and a practice of awareness and choice. But it is doable. The first step is having insight on what you’re clinging to or pushing away.
So…how does this tie into addiction and recovery? Well, it is very relevant actually. The back and forth, the push and pull of life, can easily cause us to feel a lot of pain and discomfort. When this happens, one way of escaping the feelings can definitely be some kind of extreme outlet or addiction. It might be whatever ‘does it for you.’ So for some people this might be overworking, for others it might be over-shopping, overeating, over-exercising…whatever. To some extent, you could argue it doesn’t entirely matter what thing you choose, it’s more the attachment to that thing and the escape it provides from the pain of whatever is going on with you that is the issue.
Ultimately, these compulsive behaviors provide limited relief and can’t get to the root of the issue. One way to get to the root is to first reflect, take a step back and identify what the addiction is.
“How are you spending your time everyday?” is another simplified way of understanding this.
Then when this is identified, asking yourself how you can take a break from this addiction (or if you can take a break). Depending on what it is, it may be very challenging to take a break. For example, if the compulsion has been excessive drinking everyday for the last 20 years, it may require a rehabilitation facility to safely take a break and be free of the substance. If the issue is overeating, that may be difficult, but there are support groups and programs that can help support you and potentially be enough to make a difference. The main point is to identify what you are attached to, and make an effort to clear yourself of whatever the addiction is.
Once you get to a point where you have some mental and emotional space from the substance or activity you are addicted (or extremely attached to) you may find that certain emotions come up …maybe things you have been wanting to avoid or cover up. Maybe past memories, traumas, feelings, or events arise when you are clean from the addiction… and this is ok. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. These are likely some of the things you’ve been trying to cover up with the addiction. It’s actually very positive if you can see, clearly see, what you are struggling with. …What you have been pushing away or wanting to emotionally hold on to.
But an important aspect of all this…and this is so important….is building yourself up enough to have the confidence and belief that you can handle any emotion that comes your way. You are strong enough. It will not break you. However, with that being said, if things or emotions come up when you are sober that seem too overwhelming, please seek out the help of a mental health professional, doctor or support group. Please do not try to deal with it on your own if it’s causing harm and feeling too overwhelming.
With that being said, here are some tips on how to potentially support yourself at any point in this process:)
- Practice Mindfulness– practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is very important for managing emotions, experiences and whatever may be coming up for you. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of what is occurring in your reality. It means paying attention and noticing non-judgmentally like an observer and with self-kindness, what is occurring in your daily life.
- Practice a Relaxation Response– find a relaxation response that is helpful for you. This will help you to calm down as things arise and to maintain a sense of balance when strong, difficult emotions come up.
- Practice deep breathing – taking 3 deep breaths in and out can be very useful and supportive for calming down the body’s response to stress and perceived stimuli. In the case of even more difficult emotions, 8 very slow deep breaths is even more effective.
- Connect to Positive, Healthy Things– Make sure you have positive healthy things you can connect to in your life. This may mean learning new coping mechanisms or connecting to new activities and different types of people…but making new connections…if it’s with nature, exercise, positive healthy friends, volunteering- whatever it is- can be helpful.
- Affirmations– It can be helpful to have affirmations that you listen to on a recording, as reminders on your phone, or by writing them down regularly. Whatever it takes. The affirmations don’t need to be things that are true, just things that you would like to be true. For example, “I am very balanced.” “I always feel calm and at peace.” “I can manage anything that comes my way.” (just to name a few:))
The most important part of this is honesty with yourself. If you find that there is significant pain under the surface that comes up from all this, that’s ok. Just take it step-by-step and take care of yourself in a healthy way. Having self-compassion and kindness for yourself and any difficulty you have or are going through can make all the difference, and sometimes that starts with just looking at what is actually bothering you beyond the addiction.
An important part of recovery is honesty with yourself and others. Honesty gets easier with time and is something that can bring a lot of acceptance and peace into your life. Silver Lining understands that you have spent a lot of time dealing with difficult emotions and triggers during your time using drugs and alcohol. These experiences impact your sobriety and a treatment plan for living your best life in recovery. Our policy of treating small numbers of people in each group allows us to get to know you and the exact type of help you need to learn to be kind to yourself and achieve your goals. We help you flourish now and in the future. Let our Huntington Beach location be where you begin again! Call us today for more information. (866) 448-4563.