Everyone experiences pain, whether it be physical or mental. When pain becomes too intense to handle, as humans, we attempt to find a solution to cope.
Some examples of coping with physical or mental pain can be consuming large amounts of alcohol or other drugs, engaging in bingeing and/or purging, or inflicting harm to oneself.
The addictive behaviors become instantly gratifying in the beginning. The acting out behaviors provide a false sense of controlling the situation. Unfortunately, the pain may appear to have subsided, when realistically, the pain has temporarily gone away but has not been addressed.
The “all too common road to addiction” begins to form when dependency is placed in the coping strategy. A person struggling with addiction resorts to using that behavior to cope and is unable to disengage without consequences.
Some examples of consequences may be seeking hospitalization, harm to physical health or even as severe as death. Dopamine, also known as a “pleasure hormone,” is released and helps to motivate towards taking action to achieve the experience of pleasure.
The chemicals in the brain communicate that the behaviors are important and need to take place, just as other human basic needs such as sleep and food.
Changes happen when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of making changes. At this point in the addiction process, the individual is no longer in the stage of denial and has stepped into the stage of pre-contemplation.
The person is now aware that a problem exists and does not yet know how or where to ask for help. The fear of not knowing what to expect in treatment and recovery for the future may cause the addicted individual to second guess making the decision to attend treatment.
Pain Management and Treatment
Doctors who specialize in pain management have the ability to monitor prescribed medications, which can help to avoid dependency and tolerance.
When seeking treatment for mental pain such as past trauma, talk therapy and other therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help process through the cause and learn healthy coping skills to replace the addictive behaviors.
Recovery from substance abuse, eating disorders, trauma and mood will be more likely to be successful when learning the skills from treatment and then use those skills in everyday living.
The downfall of relapse in recovery is when the addicted individual does not feel the need to continue implementing the healthy coping strategies in everyday living and resorts to the unhealthy coping skills as used in active addiction.
The discomfort produced by beginning treatment is short term, whereas the physical or mental pain in addiction can become lifelong if not addressed. It is incumbent on the individual struggling with addiction to choose which path they wish to take — death, jail or treatment.
Until one decides to enter treatment, attempts towards recovery may not be done wholeheartedly. Recovery takes time and effort from both the individual and the support system. Recovery from pain is possible.
About the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on January 4, 2018
Published on AddictionHope.com