A Pained Life: Painaholism

A Pained Life: Painaholism

freeimages.co.uk medical images“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I think most of us are familiar with those words.  It is the serenity prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous.

As someone who has had chronic pain for over 30 years and only recently stopped writing “disabled – at present” when I had to fill in my occupation on forms, I have tremendous difficulty in accepting what I cannot change, at least when it comes to my pain.

I have fought for most of these 30+ years to change the pain.  Sometimes I have been successful, other times not, sometimes overwhelmingly not.

I am not sure when courage becomes desperation.  Just as an alcoholic hits bottom and says “no more” — we have to learn to say “I accept that pain is a part of my life and it is time to live with that knowledge, to make the changes I need to in order to accommodate the pain.”

Unlike alcoholics who cannot drink again, we cannot swear off trying to stop the pain.  It is a bargain, accepting the reality, but also knowing and hoping that medicine makes strides every day. What is not fixable now may at least be helped or stopped sometime down the road. Relying on hope makes the present that much harder to live with, makes the acceptance that much more challenging.

Support groups help.  Whether online, in person, or both it is good to be where we know we are not alone, that others know and intimately understand our struggle.  A place where we are free to share our fears and struggles, to vent and to know someone will hear us.  To know they are the same as us.  It is a validation that too many of us do not get elsewhere.

There is actually a group called Chronic Pain Anonymous. Should we be embarrassed or shamed because we have chronic pain?  The idea of a support group that invites the comparison of chronic pain to alcoholism takes the analogy way over the line.

At some point, we do need to look at how we live. Alcoholics talk about the alcohol taking over their lives, how they are powerless against it.  Taking back their lives means taking back the power.

When the issue is pain and the power it has over us, we need to make a choice, one that may be just as wrenching and as difficult as the decision to stop drinking is for an alcoholic.

We have to say, to feel it deep within ourselves, for me to feel it deep within myself, that I have given the pain authority over me.  We need to affirm it is time to take back that power, to let the pain be a part of us but not the overriding part.

Let us announce, as of this moment. Pain, you are not in control of me.  I am in control of you.

Carol Levy

Carol Levy

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.”  Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.

Carol is the founder of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness”. Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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Authored by: Carol Levy, Columnist

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i do not like the idea of pain being compaired to alcoholism … i cannot see how they are anything alike .. i did not chose to have this .. i did not cause this .. i am not ”hooked on my pain or am i hooks on meds .. yea i got the lets try to live as tho pain wasn;t a part of life but i can,t do that .. and i don’t know how anyone in significant pain can ,at least not without help with some sort of pain control . which we as people with cronic pain can’t get help with ..

Shauna Kay

I’ve lived with chronic RA pain for 50 years. This is how I have always looked at it: It’s going to hurt no matter what so I might as well go out there and live it up.

Shana N.

Come on people Carol is not saying we resemble alcoholics…..she is simply saying ( from how I read) that The Serenity Prayer has been helpful to HER! The comparisons have nothing to do with comparing alcoholism with chronic pain sufferers…..but the way We react to Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We can be the victims or the victors…..and That Is Our Choice, no matter what the ailment, disease, disorder or syndrome you face. I encourage all of you that feel the need to defend chronic pain to use that energy in a more productive way…..say maybe refer to The Serenity Prayer 🙂
Peace,Comfort, Love & Abundance to you all

Dennis Kinch

I’m a bit confused which side you’re on. Are you saying we are not like alcoholics, or are you saying we are like them. To me, chronic pain is nothing at all like alcoholism. We did not choose it nor do we sacrifice everything so we can have more pain. We are definitely not at all at fault, period. So go ahead, write “disabled” on your forms…it’s perfectly ok. you did nothing to ask for the title…I hope.

Anna Laver

Hi, I am a chronic pain sufferrer of 20 years due to arthritis, scoliosis and osteoporosis. I fought pain for very many years and couldn’t accept the way I am, descending into depression and lethagy. Then one day and it was 9 July 2009 I woke up and for one day and one day only I was pain free. I don’t know why this happened and it hasn’t happened again. On that day I thought this is how it used to be and I must say it was wonderful!!! However I realised that it wouldn’t last and as much as I enjoyed it I found that I actually missed my pain, that it really wasn’t me without it. From then on I owned my pain and realised that it was every much a part of me as my personality. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it and if they could cure it tomorrow I’d be there in a heartbeat, but it is part of my life and it is NORMAL for me.

Dennis Kinch

My biggest fear here is that the use or even the mention of a comparison to alcoholism is sending another message aimed directly at self-identity and self -esteem. Pain is NOT our fault or choice. An alcoholic must learn to STOP alcohol, we must learn to LIVE with pain. Big difference.
Try comparing us to people grieving instead. We have suffered many losses and it feels like our spirit has died.
I am not addicted to pain…I am stuck with it.

Shana N.

How wonderfully encouraging! Carol Levy is an angel! She summed it up completely, we can’t waste our life fighting the pain but instead LIVE our lives IN SPITE of the pain. Realistically for most of us the pain is not going away but that can not and should not allow it to ruin the rest of our lives! I will read this article frequently for the rest of my life (or until chronic pain is cured) to remind my that I have a wonderful life that needs to be cherished and I can’t keep waiting for a pain free day to appreciate it 🙂 and that itself is very relieving!

Hi Carol,
Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece. I believe support and especially support from others who get it is essential. I just found the group you are talking about and was wondering about the alcoholism and pain parallel. Not drinking takes the crutch away from the alcoholic who then has to learn how to live without it. For us who live with chronic pain, we don’t get to leave that at the door. Instead it is that we have to live with what is in each moment, not lose hope, and surrender but not give up. It is a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone who lives with pain. But the rewards can be amazing and the ability to have a full life. Whatever that looks like. Because it is authentic, hopeful, and open. -Here is to finding a cure for your pain and living to the fullest along the way!