Truth Is Always Painful

When I counseled drug addicts, I frequently dealt with people who had lost all sense of direction.  They couldn’t tell up from down, or good from bad, and lied so often that the truth was no longer clear even to them.  Did Bill really see that movie or was it simply an excuse he gave his wife while on a run to buy drugs?  He wasn’t sure.  Fabricated worlds get erected that take on a life of their own and sometimes collide.

The chimera eventually collapses, lies get discovered, the bottom of the elevator shaft crushes the illusion of flight, and people stumble into treatment lacking a gyroscope.  Where are they going?  How did they get here?  How do they get out?  Former supports destroyed, and knowing they can’t trust themselves, desperation occasionally sets in.  Suicide can be committed in many different ways; not all of them are immediate, simply inevitable.

Addicts in the throes of such upheaval aren’t sure what is real.  Enticing thoughts about drugs and drinking float through their mind, while they repeat to themselves that the enticement is false and the thoughts misleading.  At the same time, the sober life can suck, and they have to continually convince themselves of recovery’s eventual worth.  Everything seems contrived.  Everyone has an agenda, including their own body and mind.

Providing therapeutic advice is difficult in those situations.  Chances are great that anything I say has been said before.  They know the slogans and can echo them back, until it all rings hollow.   The one consistent feeling that is always present, and present to all, is pain.  Whatever confusion might exist, the pain is real.  And so that became where I’d tell my clients to start.  Trust the pain.  The pain will guide them to the truth, if they follow where it leads.

Physical pain reveals problems that require attention.  I’ve had four kidney stones and their unique form of deep down pain is how I know I have another, hitting ten on the pain-o-meter, as my body signals a calcium deposit stuck in my ureter like a pin.  Emotional pain is no different; it’s a form of communication.  If you listen, it speaks.

The problem is listening, because who wants to hear what pain has to say?  We tend to avoid the painful end of the emotional spectrum.  Pain messages are associated with unwelcome facts, ruined fantasies, personal mistakes, and other inconvenient details that we like to ignore.  We act as if not paying attention will make the unpleasant realities go away.

Addicts, of course, have a preferred method for evading pain.  The problem is that their method makes things worse, and facing up to what they avoid becomes a matter of survival.  Nevertheless, I’ve seen many refuse and die.  They chose to ignore what their pain had to say.

Stanley was an accountant with his own business, and a chronic alcoholic.  I met him twice during my work as an addictions counselor- once in a rehab and once in an outpatient clinic.  He was smart, affluent, and someone who drank liquor all day.  If he wasn’t in his office, he was in a bar, to the point that he had lesions on his esophagus.  Bleeding to death was a constant possibility if he kept drinking.

He had been through numerous rehabs and outpatient treatments.  He knew the dangers and the ways to stop.  He didn’t want to quit.  As a counselor, I didn’t get to first base with Stanley, since he regarded any treatment as a waste of time.  He would tell me what I was going to tell him to start off a session.  A few months after leaving the clinic, he died.

Essentially, Stanley died to avoid the pain of recovery.  His chosen method for avoidance was fatal.  Thankfully, most people choose less lethal distractions.  We’ll make do with television, celebrities, politics, sports, religion, music, porn, food, and smaller amounts of intoxicants.  We have all kinds of ways to mask the pains that gnaw.

If Stanley had listened and followed his pain, who knows what he would have discovered.  For any addict, not drinking is simply the beginning of a much longer journey.  But that is also true for all of us, for anyone willing to hear the voice of their pains.

It’s not a matter of whether pain is present.  Pain is an ever present, multivalent fact of life.  It is depthless, in a sense, since it goes to our basic presence in the world, and the sadness of our temporary nature.  There are continual losses, grievings, mistakes, and regrets, if we’re paying attention, and facing them is the only path to a happy, peaceful life.  Fulfilling our humanity means dealing with our pain.  It’s the meaning of the cross.

The only real way to make pain go away is to listen to its message.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

2 Responses to “Truth Is Always Painful”

  1. I think this post is true in some ways on a low level of human nature. I think a lot of the problem is the New World Orders agenda to get everyone addicted to something. The same way they want to then arrest and get more people into their system of control. Then they can pose as the saviors and take away our constitutional rights for our safety. To mention… more anti 4th amendment laws drug testing workers and welfare recipients. Also, saying now Americans that take legally prescribed drugs shouldn’t own a gun anymore because of one incident in CO. People should be the change they want to see in the world. Not just about changing a drinking habit. People need to change the system that puts them in these positions in the first place.

    One change might be to stop making all drugs illegal. Then people can really focus on recovery, instead of just doing it for the sake of probation and things like that. Holland has an open drug policy and they don’t have many addicts. It’s always the government that wins when you restrict something and make it illegal. But then again you would put the police out of business, lol ! People seem to love to be controlled, even when it’s their demise. We get told that Al-Quida is out to get us at every turn! There hiding under your bed or in the closet! So you need to get more police, more Gov troops flying drones over your house, higher taxes to put you out of your house, ect , ect , LOL! That’s when people start to drink and use drugs. When they really need to take to the streets and protest to there Congressman and state legislature.

    I think the power of the world bank and government use these things to their advantage. No matter how much you will try to cure yourself and others in “recovery”, there is an even bigger underlying problem… Our very own society. Our country for the past 60 years has been steadily outcropping nothing but fantasy and self destruction. Either on the TV, or at the shopping malls. Graphic death by vampires and or police shows for entertainment. We have a dark pop culture of ultra pro-gay and live for the moment types increasing in numbers. No more belief in family unity or “real” religious belief. Just an idea of what a church is and what a family looks like in a facebook. Which in itself is just another fantasy world.

    Jesse Dann

  2. I’ve always experienced pain to be a great motivator. It’s how I got my Masters, after a breakup, and not letting my ex out do me. Maybe not the healthiest reason, but he’s not my husband now and I have an MBA. As for the gift of desperation, it is hard, when the disease can be so cunning, baffling and powerful. I used to get so frustrated with individuals when they’d “go back out” and was reminded of a couple of things by those wiser than me, a) that it’s better to get mad at the disease and not the person and b) but for the grace of God…. I guess similiar not hating the sinner but hating the sin.

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