No one wakes up one morning and thinks, “Wow, you know what I should do with my life? I should become addicted to drugs and alcohol.” Addiction is not a plan; it is usually a subconscious attempt to alleviate pain in our lives. However, self-medicating does not solve any problems; it typically creates more pain and more problems in our lives. So why do we self-medicate?
Sources of Emotional Pain
We are born as infants, new to our bodies, and new to the world around us, ready to experience life. Unfortunately, part of that life can involve pain. Hopefully, the pain we endure is minimal, especially emotional. But some of us are not so lucky. Many of us experience deep emotional pain and trauma before we even reach adulthood. Some of the sources of that pain include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- The loss of a loved one
- Physical or emotional neglect or abandonment
- Enduring the effects of mental health issues or addiction in others
- Heartbreak in a relationship
- Loss of an educational or professional opportunity
- Personal failure in school, family, or work environments
- Toxic relationships
- Violence at home or in the community
- Terrorism, war, or natural disasters
- Discrimination or other lack of social justice
How We Get From Pain to Addiction
Some of the pain in our lives stems from misunderstandings or negative thought processes within ourselves or from perceived injustices. The source of our pain is less important than what we do with it. If we are able to confront the pain and work through the surrounding emotions, we can move past it. If not, then the pain stays inside of us and festers and grows beyond our ability to control it. That is when we often try to take action.
When we have that unresolved pain within us, we want to numb it out, make it go away, or escape it. The experiences that substances offer is a perceived ability to escape or forget the pain. Sometimes it works, but only temporarily. That temporary escape from our reality leaves us wanting more relief, so we drink or use drugs again. One thing leads to another, and soon we still have our pain and an addiction to one or more substances.
The Myths of Self-Medicating
The idea that we can escape a pain that is inside of us is a myth. Even if we try to use substances to self-medicate, the pain is still there. Like putting makeup to hide a wound instead of treating the wound so it will heal properly, the pain within us grows and festers under the makeup that is substance use.
Worse still, the act of self-medicating creates addiction. Now we have pain, and our minds and bodies are being modified to create a physiological need for substances that ultimately harm us. Any relief we may have once received as a result of drinking or drugs is replaced by addiction and more pain. There is no true way to self-medicate from such serious pain, and we need to find professional help to heal these types of emotional wounds.
How to Truly Relieve Our Pain
If we came with an instruction manual, page one on emotional malfunctions would tell us that we need to process pain as soon as possible to allow ourselves to acknowledge, sit with, and feel the pain and all of the accompanying emotions and work through them. The next page would say that if this did not work, we should seek professional help to work through the pain not to cause greater damage.
But that manual doesn’t exist. We don’t always know how to relieve our pain, so we do the only thing we can find that offers us any relief–self-medicate. To truly relieve our pain, we must heal our addiction and process those emotions and heal our pain as well.
Healing From Addiction and Pain
The good news is that residential treatment for addiction also includes healing our pain. We cannot change what has happened to us, but we can change how we move forward. By seeking this healing treatment, we can remove the need to self-medicate by healing the emotional pain that originally caused us to use substances. Treatment for substance abuse can actually heal us from both addiction and pain, especially if we truly want healing and are willing to work hard to find it.
Why do we self-medicate? We medicate ourselves to alleviate the pain. Because we don’t come with instruction manuals, especially for dealing with emotional pain, we do what we can to try to escape the pain and discomfort. However, as we may have learned the hard way, substances only create bigger problems and more pain for us. At Rancho Milagro Recovery, we focus on healing the whole person. Whether your pain is from early childhood or is more recent, we are happy to help you truly find relief from your pain by healing both the pain and the addiction. For more information about healing both addiction and pain, call (951) 526-4582. Our compassionate staff and friendly rescue animals await you on our beautiful Southern California ranch to help guide you through the healing process. You do not need to self-medicate, you can heal from pain and addiction in our residential treatment program.