Suffering is Optional: One Woman’s Thoughts on Sobriety and Spiritual Growth
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute . She’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping the still sick and suffering woman.
There’s a famous saying that goes a little something like this – “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” That, my dear friends, is what I’d like to talk about today.
Of course, making a blanket statement like “suffering is optional” is a vast oversimplification. Still, in terms of recovery from substance abuse and other harmful behaviors, it holds true.
Think about it, as men and women in recovery we’ve overcome some incredible challenges. We’ve done so in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds (that 1% of people stay sober junk). We’ve done so despite our best judgment and thinking.
To put it another way, we’ve done the impossible. We’ve gotten sober! Before going any further, let’s take a moment to pat ourselves and our sober brothers and sisters on the back.
Getting sober doesn’t come without its fair share of bumps and bruises. These roadblocks, these potential setbacks, are where the idea of suffering being optional enters the picture.
Pain in Inevitable
Getting sober is painful. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that. Quitting drugs, booze, self-harm, disordered eating, or anything else, takes dedication and a burning desire. It takes honesty, open mindedness, and willingness (my hat is off to my twelve-step friends!).
Getting sober also takes walking through some pain. It takes addressing and working through uncomfortable situations. Think about it, we didn’t drink and drug because our lives were perfect. We drank, used drugs, and engaged in harmful behavior because there was something fundamentally wrong inside our chests. There was something missing from our souls, if you’ll permit me a cliché saying.
So, getting sober requires facing that pain. It can take the form of trauma, depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, low self-esteem, secondary addictions, heartbreak, and so much more. It can take the form of anything and everything. Remember, one person’s joy can be another person’s pain.
In order to get and stay sober, we have to address that pain. We have to look it square in the face, with our heads held high, and say “you’re not going to hold me back any longer!”
And that’s where suffering falls by the wayside!
Suffering is Optional
When we face our problems, they lose their power. That isn’t to say that everything gets better overnight. Any recovering addict or alcoholic will tell you that’s not the case! Still, when we make the decision to work on our pain rather than run from it, like we’re used to, a curious freedom usually follows.
I’m talking, of course, about the freedom from ourselves. We’re suddenly free of our own thinking and neurosis. We’re no longer keeping secrets. Speaking of keeping secrets, we now have friends, real friends, who know everything about us.
What a blessing! Before getting sober, I was terminally lonely. I thought no one understood me. Guess what? No one understood me because I was lying to everyone! Getting sober and getting honest changed that.
I was surrounded by women and men who understood the metaphorical sewers I’d crawled through. I was surrounded by women and men who understood where I’d been and, more importantly, where I was going.
And that, friends, makes suffering 100% optional!