“It’s all in your head, you know.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that in the last 20 years. And then there are the well-meaning medical professionals who try to cushion the blow a bit by saying “Well, there is a psychological component…”
Well, yeah, technically speaking. Regardless of where pain may originate in your body or its causes, your brain still has to process it in order for you to feel it. So it’s sort of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, this issue is such an important one, because experiencing chronic pain impacts every aspect of your life and can seriously mess with your recovery. And for some of us, it was chronic pain that led us to our drug of choice in the first place.
And let’s not forget that pain is subjective. Our doctors and counselors can’t even see it, and there is no test that will reveal how bad it is or where it originated from. Of course, many of us while suffering from pain will exhibit certain responses that validate our claims, especially if our pain is acute. Chronic pain, however, is a bit sneakier.
Chronic pain is defined as discomfort that lasts longer than three to six months, which means our bodies get accustomed to it in a weird sort of way. It’s simply not as obvious for the untrained eye to see.
Unfortunately, chronic pain happens a lot more often than acute pain and is often a catalyst for developing an addiction, or it develops during recovery, which can lead to relapse. Either way, it can be a big roadblock to sobriety.
Since it cannot be easily seen by others, it is important for us to understand the common causes and effects of chronic pain. Some of the more frequent causes include:
- Lower back pain
- Inflammation/Damage to nerves
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Recurring headaches
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Malignant tumors
- Being in recovery
There are many effects of suffering from chronic pain that you and those in your inner circle will be able to feel and see over time:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless
- Struggling to meet the requirements of steady employment
- Avoiding activities we used to enjoy
- Depending more on others
- Decreased mobility
As mentioned previously, chronic pain can, unfortunately, develop while we are in recovery. Here are some of the reasons:
- A poor diet is common during active addiction and can lead to nerve damage.
- Chronic pancreatitis sometimes develops.
- Alcoholic liver disease causes abdominal pain.
- Injuries sustained during active addiction can lead to chronic pain as we age.
Chronic pain can also affect our personalities over time, quite frankly, because we are feeling miserable most of the time. Relationships can become strained. This can take a lot of the joy out of our recovery, and we may find ourselves rationalize using our drug of choice, because we “need it” to cope with others and numb our physical pain.
We also may be hesitant to seek medical help, fearing that whatever medication we are prescribed, another addiction will follow. In our minds, it’s better to stick with the devil you know, right?
This, however, is the greatest mistake we could ever make in our recovery, because there are plenty of non-narcotic options available to us to effectively treat our pain so we can continue on reclaiming our lives.
Is your pain valid? Whether you have found yourself somewhere in this narrative or not, remember, pain is subjective. If you feel it, you should seek treatment But get some good advice, and if you’re in recovery, talk to your sponsor and your peers!
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, you can talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, contact us today. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.