Discomfort is the price of admission into a state of spiritual growth and emotional stability in recovery. So often we look at pain or discomfort as a source of suffering and naturally are opposed to the sensation. Sensations that make us uncomfortable are often looked at as an indicator of something being wrong. This makes sense when you think about being a child and learning not to touch the stove, or that sticking your fingers inside of the fan is going to seriously hurt.
But the lesson that arises out of surviving discomfort is one of resilience. Not knowing good without having experienced bad. Not knowing that something is sweet without tasting something salty. It’s the child taking their arms for granted until one is broken and an entire summer is spent with a cast; sidelined from the normal activities of everyday life. It’s the return to normalcy, the first day of moving their wrist from side to side where they realize how special their arm was and how they had missed it.
The same can be said about returning to a life of normalcy after a life of addiction. A source of satisfaction comes our first job interview sober; or the pleasure of our first paycheck. A first date – something that hadn’t been had for years or decades is now a new experience. The result of a life we had previously tried to avoid is exciting either once again or even for the first time. The effect we craved through drugs and alcohol is now achieved through being sober, because it’s different.
When you’re high or drunk all of the time, it becomes normal after a while. The idea of homeostasis, or your body returning to what it considers normalcy is altered, and as this occurs withdrawal and agitation arise when the drugs are removed. Obviously, factors like dependency, amount of use and method all have their place and are the obvious culprits, but also the lenses through which we’ve been experiencing life is one of distortion, and the world appears to be much more crisp through a pair of sober eyes.
The problem with sobriety that many recovering addicts and alcoholics discover is that their emotions can be much more raw and noticeable than they were when they were using. It may or may not have started out as a way to ease anxiety or depression, but over time addiction becomes a crutch and the glue that holds our lives – in whatever capacity – together. Once drugs and alcohol are removed from the equation the feelings that may or may not have been there are amplified or arise newly, leading to an overwhelming sense at time of discomfort. Medication is usually the first line of defense within the realm of treatment centers. This isn’t good or bad. This is what it is. Many people need medication despite what some folks who seem to think they know better will suggest in an unsolicited fashion. Many people only need medication for the first year or so of their sobriety. Others don’t need medication until months or years after getting sober. Whatever the time frame or reason, it’s safe to say that many addicts are resistant to medication or have a craving for more medication. Addicts in general tend to have an opinion on medication. Generally, the medications that are given out in a treatment center are not likely to be abused, or at the very least won’t produce any psychoactive effects or euphoric feelings when abused.
Through the experience of medication, hopefully a new threshold is developed to allow feelings to arise without the feelings being too overwhelming to allow a new understanding of discomfort. It’s very often, unfortunately, that through discomfort we learn who we are, what we’re capable of handling, and what ways have helped us to handle the discomfort. Things like meditation, a support system, a sponsor or a therapist are different avenues to explore the sense of self and how to survive discomfort without drugs or alcohol. It seems that in most cases, recovery’s price of admission is discomfort in some manner. Through discomfort is growth, and if it becomes too much there’s always a different solution so long as we’re willing.
Discomfort is both an incredible blessing and a difficulty in early recovery. When people relapse, it tends to be the result of many moments of discomfort strung together. It could be anger, anxiety, or resentment. When we get sober and no longer are actively numbing our emotions, we are suddenly presented with a whole new set of emotions to deal with. Although they can be overwhelming at times, these are the experiences that help us to grow. As we learn to deal with discomfort, sometimes with the help of medication, a sponsor, friends, or a spiritual path, we learn new things about ourselves and strengthen our ability to face discomfort in the future. Dealing with discomfort is part of life, addict or “normie.” In recovery, discomfort may be the price of admission, but we must find ways to address our discomfort in a healthy manner in order to make the most of it. This could be any number of things, and something different often works for different individuals.