Pain & The All Too Common Road to Addiction

Woman struggling with pain and a road to addiction

Contributor: Staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

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 which often leads to all too common road to addiction.

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.

Woman sitting in window sillDopamine, 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.

Pain and Road to Addiction

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.

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.

Woman sitting by the sea with opioid addiction

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 and freedom from the road to addiction is possible.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

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 a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, 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 3, 2018
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.