An SOS Members Article
plus comments and thoughts on the Article.

 

 
The Suffering Factor
 
by Mark Thompson
 
 
Here is an unpopular truth for you: suffering is a necessary, beautiful part of life.  In a sense, suffering is no different from joy; in all actuality, suffering is inseparable from joy.  Those who spend life running and hiding from all pain, never letting themselves fully experience it, those who never let themselves be taken over from time to time by life's suffering, those who never let go and allow pain to come in and run its course, they are the ones who in turn are equally unable to fully realize and experience joy and serenity.  Energy comes from both the positive and the negative; it takes all of it to produce a truly rich, fully human experience.  This is a fact, and here's why:
 
If we look back through the ages, we'll find that all of the great thinkers, artist, philosophers, etc., have all seemed to agree on one common theme: that to truly live, one must suffer.  One must accept the bad with the good - one must be willing to not run from pain, but, rather, to open up and allow themselves to feel all of their human experience, all of it - suffering included.  Those who keep their guard up their whole lives, afraid to hurt, refusing to hurt, those people unwittingly block out also the illuminating beauty of life that makes it all worthwhile.  It is an irrefutable axiom of life: without one, the other doesn't exist.  And this is something in which all humans are subject to err.
 
We all, addicts and non-addicts alike, we all have that one place where we can go to hide from reality.  We all have our own little personal shell, that cave in which we can retreat when the going gets tough.  To each his own, but everyone has something.  But what many people never realize is that their retreat into this cave is, in effect, a sort of spiritual suicide, because that very pain that they are refusing could and should, if they let it, elevate them to a new level of experience, a new level of clarity and receptiveness - but only if they allow themselves the experience of letting go and just feeling the pain.  The suffering that we choose not to deny acts as a sort of spiritual elevator, if you will - it is the gateway to a heightened experience.  This fact may not be the easiest, most pleasant notion for one to accept; but there is no denying that it is, according to the wisdom of the ages, an indisputable fact of human life.  Pick up any time-tested piece of spiritual literature or work by an established philosopher.  It all points to the same thing: suffering is necessary.
 
Now, here's the important thing for alcoholics and addicts.  Remember that everyone has their own little shell - their own little cave in which to hide from life when it gets a little too real.  Well, here's the thing about being a sober addict: our cave is gone.  An alcoholic's cave is alcohol.  A drug addict's cave is drugs.  As true addicts, nothing else has ever worked for us - hence our addiction.  Our chemical was the one thing that we always had, the one thing that could always protect us from having to really live.  So, now that we have chosen a life of sobriety, now that we have made sobriety the very foundation of who we are, we are left without a cave.  And this is a beautiful thing!  On the surface it can seem very scary - but that fear is an absolute lie.  The reality of it is that we are fortunate beyond words for being left wide open to life, with no insulation, no thick skin to shield us from being able to feel in the richest and fullest degrees.  The alcoholic who lives life in continuous sobriety will inevitably live the richest, fullest, most profound life he or she could live.
 
And when the pain of life begins to pour, it is a cleansing river that rushes over us, stripping away those things that keep us from being able to sound the very depths of our being.  And the one thing that keeps us anchored in this cleansing, the one thing that keeps us from being swept away by the powerful current of our suffering, is the anchor of our sobriety.  As we endure the rushing rapids of the river of our suffering, sobriety is the sturdy branch that reaches out from a tree rooted firmly in the bank, to which we cling for dear life as the rapids rush over us, cleansing us, strengthening us...yet unable to wash us away.  Our unwavering, "no-matter-what" sobriety is what keeps us anchored in that river of suffering - sustaining us, allowing us to bear up under, withstand, and finally emerge refined and victorious from the pain which we are so fortunate to experience.

SOS Members Comments and Thoughts on this article

Hello All,

In regard to the article on suffering:

>> The Suffering Factor
>
> by Mark Thompson
>
>
> Here is an unpopular truth for you: suffering is a necessary,
> beautiful part of life. In a sense, suffering is no different
from
> joy; in all actuality, suffering is inseparable from joy. Those
who
> spend life running and hiding from all pain, never letting
themselves
> fully experience it, those who never let themselves be taken over
> from time to time by life's suffering, those who never let go and
> allow pain to come in and run its course, they are the ones who in
> turn are equally unable to fully realize and experience joy and
> serenity. Energy comes from both the positive and the negative;
it
> takes all of it to produce a truly rich, fully human experience.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Until I got sober, I was running as far away
from pain as I could get, through using alcohol. From the time I was thirteen
until I quit when I was forty.

I have learned to experience joy in a new way, with a new perspective, now that
I'm able to balance it against real, sharp emotional pain. My father's death
back in April was the first death that I experienced sober -- I didn't dull all
of that incredible emotional pain through drinking, and I have been hurting and
grieving and feeling since he died nine weeks ago. I know that this is
necessary, I know that the pain will subside, in time, and I know that I would
be left with a multitude of unresolved feelings if I was still drinking my
emotional devastation away.

However. There's a huge difference between the pain that one experiences from
every day life -- from disappointments, and losses, and bad things happening --
than the pain from a severe case of depression. Whether that depression comes
from a chemical imbalance, or whether it comes from some sort of genetic factor,
I don't pretend to know. All I know is that severe, immobilizing depression is
very different from the day to day reality of normal pain experienced by human
beings in the course of life events. And, if I've said this once, I've said it a
hundred times, medications that are used to treat that kind of depression, if
they are prescribed and taken correctly, don't numb one from feeling anything.
They simply lift the weight of the paralyzing numbness and despair that comes
from severe clinical depression. If someone is getting "high" from an
antidepressant, then that antidepressant isn't doing what it's supposed to be
doing at all.

I've been taking paxil for a long time. I have tried to go off of it, and found
myself back in a state where I couldn't move. It's like being in a cave,
alright, with no light anywhere. I've continued to take this medication through
all of the experience with my father's death. It's been horrendous to feel what
I've been feeling. But, believe me, I haven't been numbed to any of it at all.
I've been grieving both silently and loudly, shedding rivers of tears when I
think about him, and even now, sitting here writing this, I'm starting to miss
him -- his death left a big, gaping hole in me. Nothing about the anti-depressant
drug I'm taking has numbed me to any of it. If anything, it's made me level
enough to be able to experience real feeling, rather than being buried deeper in
a hole of depression and despair, unable to process anything.

I don't expect people to understand this if they've not had the experience, or
even if their experience was different than mine. All I ask is that everyone be
tolerant of everyone else's reality.

Thanks for listening.
Sue
 

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