The Challenge of Pain in Addiction Recovery
When people are dealing with chronic pain, it can greatly reduce the extent to which they enjoy their own life. The discomfort can impact almost every aspect of their day-to-day experiences. It can lead to depression and thoughts of giving up.
Some people who escape addiction may have to deal with chronic pain in their recovery. This can be a challenge. Some may be tempted to revert back to their old maladaptive behaviors in order to hide from the discomfort. This is always a great pity, because there is usually an effective solution for chronic pain. It is almost always possible for such an individual to build a satisfying pain-free life away from addiction.
Chronic Pain Defined
Pain that lasts for longer than six months is categorized as chronic pain. This time scale is not universally accepted, and some experts will classify pain as chronic if it lasts for more than three months. One of the biggest difficulties with this type of pain is that it can often be hard to establish an exact cause. This can get in the way of finding an effective cure. In many instances the only solution will trying to manage the pain.
Common Reasons for Chronic Pain
The most common types of chronic pain include:
* Arthritic pain
* Damage or recurrent inflammation to nerves
* Recurring headaches
* Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord.
* Restless leg syndrome, which requires that the individual keep moving their legs in order to escape discomfort.
* Lower back pain
* Fibromyalgia, a type of chronic pain that people get in their muscles and connective tissue.
* Pain related to cancerous tumors
* Irritable bowel disease
The Effects of Chronic Pain
If people are experiencing chronic pain, it will tend to have an impact on their life. The effects of this type of lasting pain include:
* Depression and thoughts of suicide
* Difficulty concentrating on anything
* Struggling to maintain regular employment or giving up work altogether
* Avoiding enjoyable things due to the risk of exacerbating the pain
* Feelings of anger and frustration
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Reduction in mobility
* Inability to sleep at night
* Increasing dependence on others
* Loss of independence
* Unwanted side effects caused by pain medication
* Anxiety and fear about future pain
* Inability to relax
* Alienation from loved ones because who do not understand the problem
* Fear of dependence on pain medication
* Apprehension about how to manage the pain in the future
Chronic Pain in Recovery from Addiction
Some people who achieve sobriety end up having to deal with chronic pain. This may be as a result of their years of addiction or it may be due to an unrelated cause. There are several ways that substance abuse can lead to chronic pain:
* Many addicts suffer from nutritional deficiencies which can lead to permanent nerve damage.
* People with alcoholic liver disease will often experience abdominal discomfort.
* Chronic pancreatitis can also lead to long-lasting pain.
* People who are intoxicated have accidents which later lead to chronic pain.
* Some addicts experience restless leg syndrome.
Chronic Pain and Personality
It has been claimed that personality is a factor in how people will experience pain. It has even been suggested that some personality types are more prone to develop chronic pain than others. The evidence for this link between chronic pain and personality is not well-supported. It seems more likely that people’s personalities change in response to persistent pain.
The Dangers of Chronic Pain in Recovery
If people are dealing with chronic pain, it can take much of the enjoyment out of their recovery. It might also give them a good excuse to relapse back to addiction. They can justify this by believing that alcohol or drugs will help them cope with the pain more effectively. This is unfortunate, as there is almost always a way that people can learn to manage their pain and live a rewarding life free of addiction. For those suffering from chronic pain, it is vital that they actively seek appropriate ways to deal with it. Just trying to ignore the pain is not an effective strategy.
Pain Medication in Recovery
Those individuals who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs in the past can feel reluctant about using strong pain medication. They will worry that this will compromise their sobriety, and put them at risk of becoming addicted again. This concern is understandable because opiate medications in particular can easily lead back to addiction. This is why it is always important to discuss such concerns with physicians.
There are plenty of non-opiate analgesia medications available. There are also other non-medicinal options for dealing with chronic pain. Doctors will often recommend these other options first before moving on to opiate drugs, especially if they know their patient is worried about addiction. In many cases, these alternatives will be effective, but this is not always the case. It may be that the only effective way to control the pain is to use opiate medication. The individual should never view this as some type of failure. The priority will be to bring their pain under control. The main thing is that they only take such medication as prescribed.
Ways to Deal with Chronic Pain
These are a few options for dealing with chronic pain:
* Many individuals find that hot baths reduce the symptoms of chronic pain. It seems to work particularly well for lower back pain. The heat of the bath improves circulation and reduces the amount of pain signals being sent to the brain. A hot bath also has a relaxing effect.
* Distraction can be effective as a means of reduce the symptoms of pain. If people are actively thinking about the discomfort, it is likely to be more noticeable. A distraction such as watching a favorite TV show or talking to a friend can be enough to provide an escape from the pain.
* Some individuals have noticed a significant reduction in their symptoms following hypnotherapy. The goal of this technique is to produce deep relaxation and tackle the deep seated fears that tend to intensify the experience of pain.
* Some people will use a TENS machine rather than relying on medication to treat their pain. This machine is most often used to help pregnant women deal with their discomfort. It works by sending out tiny electrical impulses. These interfere with the pain signals that are being sent to the brain.
* Relaxation techniques can also be highly effective for dealing with pain. These can also help people get to sleep at night.
* Mindfulness meditation has received an amount of praise due to its effectiveness at helping people deal with discomfort. It encourages the individual to concentrate on what is happening in the exact moment. In many instances, pain occurs (or is made worse) because people are tense due to anticipating discomfort. Mindfulness also allows the individual to take a step back from the experience so they can be more objective about it. The discomfort is only ever intensified when people attempt to resist it.
* It can take a bit of experimentation before a physician finds the right combination of pain killers to handle the pain. Though it may be frustrating, there will usually be a solution that provides good control of the pain with few unwanted side effects.
* There are support groups for people who are dealing with chronic pain. This can be a great option for those seeking understanding, support and practical advice.
* Some people find that keeping a pain journal is a tremendous help. This not only allows them to chart their discomfort levels but also provides an outlet for frustration. It can be hard for people who are not dealing with chronic pain to understand. A journal provides a space to vent frustrations.
* Those individuals who have some type of spiritual practice may find that this helps them deal with pain more effectively.
* People in recovery who belong to a 12 Step group may find that they will get solace from the program. There is also likely to be other people in the group who are in a similar situation.