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, I share with you the elements of a recovery program that has 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.
1) What are the things that I am doing to contribute to my pain? In recovery, am I doing things to reverse those behaviors?
2) 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 I am able to incorporate these into my daily or weekly schedule.
Commitment: I have made a commitment to my health and my recovery. It is non-negotiable. It comes first. Period.
Gratitude Practice: Beginning the day writing down three things I am grateful for sets the mood for the day. No matter what state of mind I wake up with, those gratitudes take precedence to anything else.
Higher Power: I do a sadhana every morning. It is a time to begin the day with a bow to the Higher Power of my understanding. This further impresses my focus for the day – Thy will, not my will be done. How can I serve – You, myself and others?
Exercise: I make sure to 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.
Nature: I make sure to spend some quality time out in nature each day. I 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… beyond the hustle and bustle of civilized, citified life.
Taking Responsibility: I take extra care to not blame my situation and circumstance on others. It’s not always all my doing, but I certainly play a part in how my life plays out. This is a key piece of keeping clear about what I am up to 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. I practice several times a day for at least twenty minutes. Further, I have developed a way to walk through the world in more of a meditative state than otherwise. It is helpful in staying calm, focused, and releasing stress.
Community: I create community time into each day. Isolation is one of the hallmarks of the chronic pain sufferer and addict. So, fellowship is the antidote. I am mindful of gathering with like-minded people, and people who are on a path similar to mine, if not a bit further along that path.
Laughter: Life is full of joy – I just need to tune into it. I also find great value and relief in being able to laugh at myself.
Diet: I follow a diet plan that works for my physiology. 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: I look to professionals when I need to. It’s that simple. And I am grateful for their expertise and guidance.
Forgiveness: I have 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. I do this for others … and I make sure I do it for myself each day. There is so much work to be done around this subject. I have found it remarkable how much I find myself letting go, the more I practice this.
Compassion: This is paramount to healing my inner world of the harsh inner critic that ruled me for so long. I am so grateful to be able to say that deepening my capacity to be compassionate to others – and myself – has been instrumental in currying a stable, sustainable sense of inner peace.
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. I have been able to cut through and drastically reduce my negative thinking habit, calm and reset a stress response gone wild, and find inner peace and contentment on my life.
I wish the same for you.
Gently in light and love,