The Only Way To Deal With Pain Is To Go Through It

Me on my college soccer field

Me on my college soccer field

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong and you just feel like you can't get out of your funk? It doesn't take much for me to get into that mindset of "why me?" and "life isn't fair." I had one of those days this week.

I've been having stomach issues off and on for the last year. I saw a gastroenterologist in June and was prescribed some antibiotics that gave me some short-term relief and I continued on with the mindset that the issues would just go away. When they didn't, I finally decided to head back to the doctor and that appointment was this week. They told me I needed to schedule a colonoscopy to make sure it's nothing serious and that I should cut dairy out of my diet. It could be that I developed a lactose intolerance. Or it could be something else like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (ugh). Not only did I get this news, but the doctor also gave me a speech I've heard one too many times. He told me I needed to do some "soul-searching" about playing soccer after 6 knee surgeries and what impact that could have on my health and future.

Needless to say I left there in tears. I felt defeated, angry, and with the overwhelming sense of once again, life is not fair. How am I going to live without dairy? I love cheese! And I can't drink coffee without cream, and coffee is my lifeblood. I'm already an alcoholic damn it. I cut alcohol and drugs out of my diet and now I have to cut out milk, cheese, pizza, and a million other things? On top of all that, this guy had the nerve to tell me to stop playing soccer? Who did he think he was? Doesn't he know what I've been through and how I've already given up so much? My mind was running wild. I looked for sympathy from some friends who thought it was stupid I was getting upset about not being able to eat dairy. "What's the big deal?" they said. That's not something to be sad about. I fired back, "Well you're not an alcoholic that has had 6 knee surgeries and is being told to quit the sport she loves by every doctor she sees!" I immediately quit writing back in the group chat before I said something that I regretted. I was furious.

As I worked through my pain I realized something. I was angry because people were telling me I shouldn't feel upset, in addition to being mad about what the doctor said. After calming down I told myself: the only way to deal with pain is to go through it. I took some tools out of my virtual toolbox and remembered a few things my sponsor has told me. Life is full of ups and downs and it's only when we are constantly trying to avoid the pain that we begin to feel discomfort. It transported me back to my drinking days where I was in a state of constant pain and misery, always saying to myself, "Stop it you're not supposed to feel like that. You're being ridiculous." And then always asking "What is wrong with me?" Well nothing is wrong with me. I'm allowed to feel upset, even about something someone else considers to be trivial. I tried avoiding pain for years and it consumed me.

Today I am aware enough to know that I'm having a bad day, not a bad life. That although I'm uncomfortable, sad, mad, and momentarily feeling sorry for myself - that's ok. All I can do is feel it, let my tears out, talk it out with someone I love, and know that this pain I feel is temporary. But I'm not going to beat myself up for feeling upset or feeling pain, because it's a part of life. I am giving myself the permission to feel what I feel when I feel it. I spent too many years of my life numbing away the pain with alcohol and drugs and then creating more drama to keep myself in a cycle of chaos. Feeling pain now is raw. It's different. It's something I'm still getting used to.

Even through my feels - I told myself what I'm feeling is normal and I will feel this, and then move past it. Maybe having to cut dairy out of my diet isn't fair. Maybe having 6 knee surgeries isn't fair either, but oh well. My hand has been dealt. I'm alive, I'm ok, and I will get through it. I might cry along the way, but I will live.

The best way to deal with pain is to go through it. Take care of yourself, love yourself along the way, and know that everything will be ok. Stop beating yourself up. Stop trying to avoid it and just feel. We're not invincible. We're human.

I wanted to tell the doctor that I'd been doing a shitload of soul-searching these last 2.5 years that I've been sober, but I held my tongue. Maybe he's right. Maybe I do need to do some soul-searching about my knees. But that doesn't mean it won't upset me. I think feeling the pain, the grief, and the unfairness is the very first step.