PV Mirror, Apr 30-May 6, 2011, issue #133

People always ask how they can decide what to do when they don’t like the options they have to chose from; when neither are attractive. We all need to decide what we’d rather do or feel, or endure, or tolerate. Which thing should we resolve and which should we allow or tolerate. Both options are going to be painful and so my advice is “pick your pain!”

Choosing to stay in an unhealthy relationship that causes you to feel resentment, hurt, confused, anxious,

“Until death do us part” and forget the rest of the promises

The decision to cheat or have a long-term affair and not end the marriage: However much this defies what most of us believe to be appropriate behavior, there are several advantages. An affair meets certain emotional and sexual needs outside of the marriage, which helps to decrease the tension and anger in order to go home to your wife and have a more civil or possible enjoyable relationship. You also go home to your children, function as a family, and parent on a daily basis instead of living apart. Imagine only seeing your children a few days a week or on the weekends, or if you live in different cities or states, maybe only spending time with them every other holiday or for summer break. Not to mention, it is also much more cost efficient; cheaper to run one household than two.

Of course there are several disadvantages beginning with how difficult it is to live with the guilt and lies and to exert the energy necessary to protect your secret, or worse, to become complacent and eventually not care who finds out and who it hurts. It is also a very temporary fix; underneath you are still unfulfilled and unhappy and probably resentful towards everyone involved for whom you’ve sacrificed and compromised your true happiness. There is a very deep sadness that is always present, friends may notice that you don’t laugh the way you used to, or that you are quieter and not interested in things the way you used to be. You may feel like you are wasting your life. A sense of personal deprivation lingers making you feel suffocated, stunted, unable to grow and move beyond. In essence, you feel held back like a captive bird that cannot fly.

The thing is to determine which pain you absolutely can not live with and which you would rather tolerate and endure, and looking back 10 years later which one will have the least regrets or the lesser consequences.  Pick you pain!

Should I keep living with the drugs that are killing me?

It is very common with addiction for the person to struggle tremendously with the decision to quit using or not. Just as in the example about cheating, there are several advantages and disadvantages. From the addict’s perspective, life as he knows it includes his alcohol/drug use and he counts on it to soothe his pain and he feels better. It is also fun. He hangs out with his friends, picks up girls, dances without caring who is watching, and everyone likes him. He’s more seductive and enjoys sex more. Since he’s more friendly and his defenses are down, he does better at work; is more creative or gets more sales. He’s more patient with his children and he buys them more things.

Although the drugs soothe his pain, it is a temporary postponement of the inevitable. He is miserable, suffering silently unable to admit it. Some days he wants to ask for help and him alone so that he can escape into his intoxicated world. The idea of quitting and finally getting help frightens him because he cannot imagine life without his drugs; without his best friend. He wonders how he will ever tolerate his feelings for more than 10 minutes without escaping or at least calming them. What will life be like in his sober, raw, crude state? Will he like himself? Will other people like him?

However, he can’t stand feeling “like shit” anymore. He’s tired and desperately wants “his life back” or maybe the chance for a better life than he’s ever had and he knows that means he must chose to stop using and seek sobriety and recovery. Both roads are painful. He knows all too well the addiction road he’s been on and could easily continue, after all, it is familiar and wouldn’t require any effort or changes, even though it would most definitely be painful and eventually be fatal. On the other hand, the road to recovery is unknown/ unfamiliar, and he’d have to meet new friends and learn new ways of thinking and behaving; nothing would stay the same. It will be very difficult to make so many changes and worst of all, he will have to feel all of his feelings; all of that pain he spent so many years escaping and pretending wasn’t there. How will he face it all? They often complain that “It’s going to hurt like hell.”  “That’s right,” I answer, “you will have to pick your pain.”

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC