Tug of war. The emotional game we play in sobriety

By Sherryk 09/05/18

My name is Sherry, and I am an alcoholic.

I'd like to address the emotional and physical game that goes on in the minds of alcoholics when they become sober. I would also like to address the topic of being in pain while struggling to stay sober.

Not just the emotional pain, which is huge and scary in itself. But the physical pain that is chronic.

As a general rule, I believe that addicts don't like pain of any kind. We know that there is an easy way out, a fix that can take that pain away in a snap. The quick fix.

Whether it be a drink or a drug, or a combination of both, that emotional and physical pain can be gone. Poof! Ahhhh. Relief... 2 minutes later ... 2 hours later .... the next morning .... there is a whole different kind of pain. On top of the pain that was already there.

It truly is a vicious cycle, and I relate it to a game of tug of war. It takes at least two people to play a game of tug of war, and it is a longer, harder battle with several people on each side.

Mentally, I have both teams covered.

On one side there are players named pain, sick, tired, rebellious, and frustrated, and they are tough players. They are sick and tired of being in pain. Their thought of a "win" in this game is to go back to old ways, to win the game, and get that drink or drug. They will fight dirty. They will kick, punch, bite, knock each other over, and step on each other when they are down. This battle will go on until they have won the game, and gotten that drink .... after all, they deserve it, right?

On the other side of the game is a team of players that are also sick and tired of being in pain.

At times they are sick and tired of the struggle of sobriety, but they are doing it with baby steps, truly one day at a time. These players are named perseverance, endurance, love, self control, and hope.

They just know there is a better way, even if sobriety has brought a whole different level of pain to their life and their bodies. The escape route is always in the back of their mind, and it is probably in the minds of most of us alcoholics with our alcoholic thinking.

Welcome to the team!

Which side are you on?

If you are like me, you are on both sides, and there lies the problem. It is so easy to flip flop back and forth between the empowered sober woman, and the victim who feels like she is already beat.

The game of tug of war involves strength, endurance, and perseverance to pull your opponents across the line. The rope burns your hands, your shoulders ache, sweat rolls down your back ... you really want to let go. It sucks to be on the side that is being pulled in the opposite direction you are trying to go. You feel you have no control, and that you might as well give up. Personally, I have pulled on that rope for decades, and I'm done. I physically don't have the strength anymore. Especially to bounce from side to side, playing against myself and all my inner players.

It's mentally and physically exhausting.

I choose to let the rope go, and I realize there is no winner in the emotional game of tug of war.

Just let it go.

I also choose to put it in the hands of my higher power who I choose to call God. Give God the control he already has anyway. Giving up the fight is so freeing, I highly recommend it.

Life will not instantly be a bed of roses or puppies and rainbows, nor will the obsession to use be instantly gone. At least not for me anyway.

I still have chronic pain. Pain in my neck, my back, my knee, my heel. I have tried virtually everything, and I am slowly getting relief. Physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, spinal injections, and the threat of a serious foot surgery. All of these I have done without pain pills or narcotics, which goes against the grain of my addictive thinking.

I've even resisted the urge to smoke a little dope and get that instant pain relief. And I know that is controversial these days, and ok for some, but not for me at this point in my journey. Mary Jane and I have broken up, and I am in a much better place without her bad influence on my emotions.

Yesterday I had a spinal injection, and I was trying to be brave, as I silently prayed the serenity prayer and every prayer that came to mind. It was going pretty well, until a zinger shot down my leg and into my heel. It felt like I was electrocuted. I totally dropped the F Bomb! I was laying face down on the table wondering why in the world I declined the Valium that was offered before the procedure. And I almost allowed myself to have that pity party. Why can normal people be medicated before? Why can't I ?

Of course, I know the answer. I'm not a normal person when it comes to any addictive substance, and I never will be.

The good news is, that I am feeling some pain relief after the injection.

Today, I am a grateful recovering alcoholic who is learning to live life on life's terms with the help of God, AA, my sponsor, my therapist, and my wonderful group of sober friends I have made.

I'm even grateful for my tug of war battles I have endured, as I would not be where I am today without the struggle.

Now if I can only resist the urge to pick up that rope!

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