Chronic Pain & Recovery from Addiction: Elements of a Recovery Program

How does someone work a recovery program focused on clearing chronic pain and addiction? As someone in recovery from over half a century of chronic pain and decades of addiction from prescribed medication, here are the elements of a recovery program that have worked for me.

Just before I left the Pain Management Program where I went through my treatment for long-term opiate and benzodiazepine use, Dr. Peter Przekop, Program Director, reminded me, “You are not just a recovering addict; you are also a chronic pain patient in recovery. Make sure you take care of them both.”

While there is much overlap in the changes the brain undergoes from chronic pain and addiction, I am aware of a few things my fellow ‘normal’ addicts do not seem to have to contend with. My recovery program addresses both addictive behaviors and the other destructive habits that chronic pain sufferers have.

What are the things that I am doing to contribute to my pain?

In recovery, am I doing things to reverse those behaviors?

Chronic pain changes the brain – as does addiction. Am I doing things that help heal these changes the brain has undergone?

Here are the main categories of my program: commitment, gratitude practice, Higher Power, exercise, nature, taking responsibility, meditation and presence, community, laughter, diet, professional help, forgiveness, and compassion. These categories are in no particular order and for me, one is just as important as the other. It may look like a long list, yet it is easy to incorporate these into a daily or weekly schedule.


Make a commitment to health and to recovery. It is non-negotiable. It comes first. Period.

Gratitude Practice 

Beginning the day by writing down three things you are grateful for. It sets the mood for the day. No matter what state of mind we wake up with, gratitude takes precedence to anything else.

Higher Power

Do some sort of a sadhana every morning. Begin the day with a bow to the Higher Power of your understanding. This further impresses the focus for the day – Thy will, not my will be done. How can I serve –  You, myself and others?


Break a sweat every day. I have a focused Kundalini Yoga practice, as I am a certified yoga teacher. I do other activities to exercise. Most of the exercise I do requires a meditative mind and conscious breathing. Just as the soul needs nurturing, the body needs to be tuned so I performs maximally.


Make sure to spend some quality time out in nature each day. Take a walk, sit quietly at the roots of a tree, or beside a stream or river, or other outdoor activity. It is so calming to connect to nature, the root of who I am anyway. Move beyond the hustle and bustle of civilized, citified life.

Taking Responsibility

Take extra care to not blame your situation and circumstance on others. It’s not always all my doing, but we certainly play a part in how our life plays out. Keeping clear vision about what your place in the world. This viewpoint is the difference between living in the world as a victim or as an empowered person. As a chronic pain sufferer, I often felt that I was a victim. It is difficult to find traction to move forward when one is settled in the victim mentality.

Meditation and Presence

The brain has a chance to heal when it experiences meditation. Practice several times a day for at least twenty minutes. Further, this helps to develop a way to walk through the world in more of a meditative state than otherwise. It is helps us stay calm and focused.


Create community time into each day. Isolation is one of the hallmarks of the chronic pain sufferer and addict. So, fellowship is the antidote. Be mindful of gathering with like-minded people, and people who are on a path similar to yours.


Life is full of joy. Take time to tune into it. Find the value and relief in being able to laugh at yourself.


Follow a diet plan that works for you. Part of my chronic pain was due to a highly sensitive response to inflammatory foods. My diet keeps me well hydrated and supplied with the nutrients I need to recover and thrive in my recovery.

Professional help

Look to professionals when you need to. It’s that simple. Be grateful for their expertise and guidance.


I established a regular forgiveness practice as part of my work as an Ancestral Clearing Practitioner. I got into the Ancestral Clearing space because the work was so powerful for my own healing. There is so much work to be done around this subject. You will discover how powerful and how easy it is to let go of unhealthy attachments the more you practice this.


This is paramount to healing the inner world of the harsh inner critic that ruled us.

The elements of this recovery program include working a 12-Step program, focused physical practice such a yoga or qi gong, quieting the mind, and nutrition. These form the backbone of what has been a successful recovery from the devastating effects of chronic pain and addiction. You can drastically reducing your negative thinking habits. These tools can calm and reset an unbalanced stress response so prevalent in the chronic pain sufferer.  They lead to inner peace and contentment on your life.


Chronic Pain Elements of Recovery


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