“Pain is the mother of all change"
Body building when drained, running when tired, writing when day-dreamy, loving when grouchy, fasting when hungry, believing when fearful, alone when lonely; they all involve pain. The greater the pain, the greater the payoff.
It still hurts though. Peeling off the onion layers hurts and often results in the uncomfortable sensation of exposure and vulnerability. I would far rather endure the muscle pain of body building than the emotional pain of removing an addiction. It’s the emotional pain that causes most of us to fail. The thought processes while enduring the pain go something like this: I would rather be fat than feel this way. In shape and miserable—forget it! Just kill me. We mistakenly think that the initial pain of withdrawals is what we will have to live with for the rest of our lives. The pain feels inescapable. Ironically, it’s emotional pain that drove us into addiction in the first place, so here you are vulnerable and exposed without the sedation of food. One of the key messages you need to hear right about now is the pain does not last. It may feel like it will never end, but persevere—freedom is just on the other side.
I wish the process was reversed, where we could feel the freedom on the front end, and once hope has been established, then bring on the withdrawal pains. If it were so, I think many more would succeed. It takes faith to endure the pain, faith that it is only temporary, and this is especially true when starting for the first time to deal with the deeper issues. Even after 16 years I am still amazed how quickly I am able to digress back into an addictive behavior. The difference today is that through experience, I am aware that the emotional pain of cleanup only lasts for a short time and that helps a great deal.
There is a secret to greatly reducing pain while increasing your chance of success. Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do. I cannot eat chips anymore. I cannot drop into to Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home from work tonight, flirt with Marge, and grab a Danish. And worst of all, I cannot binge the blues away. All the joy of change is robbed by the “cannots.” They become an oppressive law, and all too often, an obsessive, repetitive message in the head, with only one way to shut up the nagging voice.
The answer is to think about what you can do. It’s funny how crazy our thinking becomes when giving something up. It may be as simple as the Danish on the way home from work. In the thick of Danish-withdrawals there is only one good thing in your whole miserable life that means anything. Danish. That’s it. Now it’s gone, leaving a huge Danish-hole no love or joy could fill. The cannots have exaggerated your need for Danish outside the realms of sanity. Stop for a moment and get things back into perspective. I have a great family. In a couple of months, I will feel good about how I look. I can have a Danish tonight, but I have chosen not to because I want to make healthy changes. I will regret eating it later. Think of all the creative, powerful things you can do. Visit an old friend. Spend quality time with a family member. Go for a walk. Read an educational book. The list goes on of the things you can do. Think about all the cool things you can do. Be proactive in your thinking.
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