I have always been addicted to suffering.
Suffering in my jobs, relationships, health and to survive.
That was what my mind was set out to do. I experienced, strived toward and desired all that came with an insurmountable amount of suffering.
Play and fun always came with guilt. Hard work with little to no payoff always came with shame. Failed relationships always came with a sense of abandonment and not being able to let go of the loneliness I felt so deeply inside. Being healthy always came with a price. Vulnerability and trust always came with attack or betrayal.
Anxiety, depression, grief, resentment and a 24/7 hold on to pain was my addiction.
No matter how many times I had said “I quit,” no matter how many times I had detoxed and “done the work,” no matter how many times I had tried to only see the good, I somehow always seemed to relapse.
It wasn’t until my 25th birthday, when I woke up, not just physically all alone but with an internal and intense loneliness that I couldn’t handle anymore, that I hit my rock bottom.
My boyfriend hadn’t spoken to me for weeks, at that time. I had either pushed my friends away into acquaintances or was too ashamed to reach out and call. My dear, sweet mother came to the rescue and tried to make it alright, but she couldn’t, because I just couldn’t let go of the pain.
On that day, I realized that I had created this. I was the one to blame, and I couldn’t pretend to call this living anymore.
From that day forward, I consciously chose each and every day to quit abandoning myself and to open up to all I had truly been craving.
How did I release my addiction?
1. I felt through the pain:
Suffering comes from holding on to pain, and the only way to release pain and no longer suffer is to literally feel through it. Every time my heart would start to ache, a pain from the past would resurface or a lump in my throat took over, I would get quiet, get present, sit still and just feel. Any time a thought would pop into my head, I released it, because this was about the pain and myself, nothing else. Sometimes it would only take a minute, sometimes much longer, but I sat until finally the death grip I had on that pain would slowly start to dissipate, until I forgot I had any pain at all.
2. I committed to what I wanted:
Do we want to suffer? No. Do we want to feel like we deserve to suffer? No. Releasing an addiction comes with committing to our “sobriety,” and in this case, sobriety is our true selves and what we really want our lives to be like. I defined this commitment not just by my visions of the future or things I wanted, but primarily how I wanted to feel. Happy, free, abundant, loved, connected, worthy. Many times, I had to recommit daily and remind myself with post-its on the wall, and remind myself when it was the most difficult thing to do. But by doing this, my perception slowly started to shift to allowing those feelings instead of searching for suffering in as many ways as possible.
3. I kept my heart open:
Suffering causes us to live in resistance and stay as closed off as possible from the world physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I had to train my heart to stay open after years of staying closed tight. A number of things helped me ease into the habit of feeling this way such as meditating, writing gratitude journals and lovingly mothering myself in the mirror when something caused me to want to shut down. I’d say the biggest asset to all of this, however, was finding forgiveness for not just others, but for myself, sometimes on a daily basis. When my heart began to be free and clear of those old resentments and self-hate, it was much easier to keep my heart open, especially to myself.
4. I expressed myself:
One of the biggest ways I suffered was by keeping myself quiet. I kept myself quiet not just vocally, but in any way I desired to express myself. I did this based on experiences from my past and a deep-seated fear of rejection. But as a highly creative and expressive person, I knew this shift was as important as any. I started small by sharing my opinion with strangers, sharing where I wanted to go out to eat and taking a step out of my uncomfortable comfort-zone. This allowed me to slowly grow into speaking my truth unapologetically, especially to those who have judged me in the past, and expressing myself in whatever way I desire as a means of connecting to my world.
5. I leaned in:
I suffered greatly in my relationships by putting up a thick wall to keep me from true intimacy, love and connection. This gave me a never ending sense of loneliness, regardless of who I was with or how many “friendships” I had. But by leaning into being more of me, I was able to open up in my relationships and open up to life. I leaned in by staying and finishing the fight when I wanted to run away. I leaned in by beginning to only expect love, acceptance and positive feedback when I took a new step in being who I truly am. I leaned in by sharing myself, all of myself, regardless of what negativity I thought I might encounter. I was only able to do this once I started to love myself, open up to myself and practice the steps above as a way of opening up to the world.
By choosing these actions instead of choosing to suffer, we actually find what we were searching for in our suffering all along.
Author: Jennifer Neel
Image: Holly Lay/Flickr
Editors: Emily Bartran; Yoli Ramazzina