Pain isn’t Failure
I have to start by confessing to all of you, there is nothing about writing this that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (unless wanting to puke counts).
Someone once told me recovery wasn’t always going be sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn farts; and now I know she was right. You see, by writing for Sober Mommies I knew I was going to have to, at some point, admit the horrific truth about myself.
Wait for it…
I AM NOT PERFECT. I AM HUMAN.
There. I said it. Can I stop now?
I’m stalling because I’m too scared to get to the real reason for the post.
Pain. Real, damn near unbearable pain. The kind that impaired my ability to parent my toddler and be present in the world. It put strains on all of my relationships and made it difficult to sleep. This pain went on for months. I tried lots of different things suggested to me. I mean lots.
Before I go too far, I guess I should clarify that I mean physical pain, not emotional. I was prepared for the emotional pain I would go through in recovery, but I wasn’t prepared for this.
I hurt. I tried changing my diet, yoga, meditation, herbal supplements, pain management techniques, and then I went to my doctor.
My doctor is aware of my addiction history and is not the kind of doctor willing to throw narcotics at an addict.
We tried some alternatives; and by some, I mean nine different medications over the course of ten months coupled with tests to figure out the root cause. Meanwhile, Mr. Pain and I were going strong. After exhausting all other options, my doctor suggested a script. When he said the name of that dreaded narcotic painkiller, I almost puked on the floor of his office. I knew it would be very short-term and it came with a diagnosis and another non-narcotic daily medication, but UGH.
I felt like a failure in my recovery because I was putting unrealistic expectations on myself based on what I believed I should be able to handle by comparing my recovery to someone else’s. I had precautions lined up just in case I ran into trouble, but I never needed them. I didn’t feel good about having to take the painkiller, which I took as a good sign. If I found myself happy about hurting, I would throw those fucking pills away. I also hurt so badly I never caught a buzz. I almost wanted to suffer in pain longer than I needed to in order to prove something. That I could suffer in recovery.
“Woo Hoo, look at me, I’m in terrible pain, but I’m clean!”
I was so rigid in my own perception that I MUST BE PERFECT AT ALL TIMES that I almost didn’t take care of my own body.
It took a friend to remind me that the rigidity of my thinking was causing me to neglect a suffering addict. Me.
Before this, I had convinced myself that no matter what, I wasn’t going to use drugs IN ANY FORM, FOR ANY REASON. I remembered stories from others about horrible illnesses they went through in recovery with nothing but Motrin. I wanted to be that perfect in my recovery too. Because suffering means a “perfect” recovery, right?
I felt like a fraud. I was also afraid that you would think that everything I write here will forever be tainted; that I would become the recovering addict that blogs here, but doesn’t deserve to. Here’s the thing that is really bothersome about that fear; I know I did what was right for me. I did not compromise my clean time or my recovery one bit. I followed doctor’s orders, took my script only as needed, and stopped when I didn’t need it. So I carry no guilt for filling the prescription in the first place. That doesn’t stop me hearing the voices in my head of Motrin Guy saying “You aren’t really clean!” Or feeling guilty because I don’t feel guilty.
That is what the disease of addiction does to this addict.
It puts strict codes of conduct on me, and when I cannot live up to them, I feel like a FAILURE. I do this with food, cleaning, grades, you name it. Recovery has given me tools keep these thoughts at bay, but holy hell is it a fight for me. I’m trying, and falling short, but falling short isn’t failure, right? Right.
Please understand, I am by no means advocating taking narcotics in recovery*. I was in a place where every option was exhausted, it was a very short-term thing, and I knew I had tremendous support if I needed it. It’s a slippery slope, and many addicts have slid right down that slope to relapse. I had a healthy fear of that relapse.
I’m glad I decided to write this and want to thank Julie, Lauren, Sarah, Tiffany, and Margaret for the support and encouragement to do so.
Sisterhood is a powerful thing.
*The decision to take or discontinue medication is one that should be discussed with your physician.
Rachel has been in recovery since October 29, 2010, and she’s not afraid to speak out about it. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two daughters.