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Illness In Recovery

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There is a promise, with recovery, that somehow life will be solved, sorted, fixed by not using anymore.

Of course, when we put down the drink, or the prescription meds, or the illicit drugs, or the sex, gambling or food, we meet ourselves and our own lives head-on. There is a saying in the rooms of fellowship meetings, that we have to live life on its own terms, but this is something we have to learn as our recovery grows. The immediate aftermath of recovery, if I can put it like that, involves looking at ourselves as we really are, in whatever state we happen to be in. And most of the time, it isn't pretty.

So what happens if we come off, then find ourselves broke, isolated or in pain, as was the case for me?

When I went through the painful process of weaning off fentanyl lozenges, I was greeted by my own pain at the end of it. That was my 'prize' if you like. And I have to work hard every day to accept that pain and the limitations it places on my life.

I have to accept the tiredness, which sometimes feels like being hit by a truck, deadening and weighty. It floors me, and accepting that is very, very hard. We say in the rooms that acceptance is the 'golden key', but accepting life as it is, involves a process of grief. I had to mourn my pre-illness life, before being able to fully accept my lift as it really is today.

Of course there are amazing gifts that would never have manifested had I not stopped the self-destructive, insane path of addiction to my prescription drugs. My baby son would be the first of my miracles (as well as getting clean in the first place), as well as reconnecting with family and friends I should, by rights, have forfeited due to my old, sick behaviours. These are all gifts, along with my programme which I work at in a pretty haphazard fashion, but it's always there to pull me through the dark times.

Living with pain and long-term health conditions isn't easy. Recovery isn't easy either. The two together sometimes feel like an up-hill battle, but my God I'd rather be feeling my pain than numbing, dumbing, escaping it.

For help with pain management, go to Action on Pain

For help/resources for addiction to prescription medicines, go to

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Cathryn Kemp is author of Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage To Redemption which charts her descent into addiction to prescription drugs and her eventual recovery.

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