Pain is the root of knowledge. So says the reading in ‘Each Day a New Beginning’. I firmly believe that it is through painful experiences that we grow as people. As Gordon Lawrie frequently says (Clinical Director here at The Haynes Clinic) ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I can honestly state that the misery and suffering I put myself and my loved ones through have made me a broader minded and more empathetic person. I have experienced more unhappiness than I might have sought or ever wanted through my addiction– but I now see the benefits that has brought me in later life.
Just how painful does it have to get? Many of us are prepared to pay quite a high price before letting go of our drug of choice. I was most certainly not affected by any budget increases in the price of alcohol! I was prepared to pay £12 for a bottle of gin; I was prepared to pay £20 for one; I was prepared to throw in the price of my family’s happiness and pleasure in my company; I was prepared to risk my job and home. Nothing seemed too high a price to pay to carry on drinking. I was lucky – before I lost everything, a family intervention sent me into rehab treatment and I managed to get well and hang on to everything (apart from my marriage). I paid a price before the pain took me into recovery but I was lucky to live to carry the message. Not so everyone and for some the price in terms of loss and destruction is higher.
The Just for today reading from Narcotics Anonymous talks about self-acceptance and how the Twelve Step Programme helps us with this. Most of us in active addiction do not like ourselves very much or the havoc we create around ourselves. If we accept that we have an illness rather than that we are a bad person it helps us to accept ourselves and take responsibility for our recovery. If we surrender and accept there is to be no more of that mind-altering substance, get honest, have open minds, faith and practice humility and have commitment to all these things, we will grow as people and have greater self-acceptance.
The Daily Reflections reading from Alcoholics Anonymous has a similar theme. It explains how admitting complete defeat, throwing in the towel and getting off the frantic and painful merry-go-round of active addiction gives freedom. Obsession with alcohol or drugs is like being in a prison of our own making – we become its slaves. When in my addiction, I never wanted to stray too far from access to my next drink. At work I worked towards the next drink – at lunchtime or the end of the day; when out shopping with my children I wanted to get home to my bottle; and I did not want to go to the cinema or theatre as that would mean sitting still for a while without a drink in my hand. That was no way to live!