Pain often seems so intolerable that we'll do almost anything to diminish or alleviate it. Regrettably, we usually choose behaviors that yield only a superficial and temporary relief. We lie, get angry, use sex, earn and spend money, and so on, but even though the rewards are superficial and temporary, the relief feels quite real. We welcome it. But then the effects fade, and we feel compelled to use the same or similar behaviors to achieve that brief relief. It becomes a repetitive cycle that qualifies as an addiction.
I have talked about the necessity of treating the cause of the pain rather than simply the discomfort alone, and one way to make this possible is to stop treating the symptoms with our addictive behaviors. But this puts us in a difficult position. In order to genuinely eliminate our pain with Real Love, in the short term we must give up the only behaviors that have ever given us relief–however temporary. As long as we're using our addictions like a narcotic, we can't even feel the Real Love that will heal our wounds.
How, then, can we muster the ability to stop our addictive behaviors long enough to achieve the measure of sobriety and sanity that will make it possible for us to find and feel Real Love? Allow me to share some of my own experience. For years I was a drug addict. I used narcotics because nothing else consistently provided a release from my emotional pain. On hundreds of occasions, I made a solemn vow that I would never use again, but when the pain became unbearable, I forgot my promise and used drugs again. I could see no way out, which was deeply discouraging.
Among other approaches, one that helped me was to "play the rest of the tape." Years ago there were no CDs or DVDs, so audio and video recordings were imprinted on magnetic tape, which was wound on large spools or on cassettes. To "play the rest of the tape" meant that I simply asked myself the following questions (and provided the accompanying answers):
1. "Are you in pain?" Duh, of course.
2. "If you use narcotics, will your pain decrease?" Yes, narcotics have always worked.
3. "If you use narcotics again, can you play the rest of the tape? Do you have enough experience with this behavior to see–from past videotapes–what will happen if you use drugs?" Yes, the relief will be very short-lived, then the pain will return, then I'll use again, and I'll be stuck in the same pathetic loop I've been repeating for years. I'll be numb to all the joy in life, and I'll miss out on full participation as a husband and father. I'll feel guilty and trapped.)
4. "Knowing what the rest of the tape looks like, do you really want to start down that path again?" No, not really.
On many occasions playing the rest of the tape helped me not to resume use of addictive behaviors. The questions above apply equally to the use of anger, or controlling, or pleasing people (for the sake of winning their approval), and more. When you're tempted to use anything to relieve your pain, play the rest of the tape, and you'll often lose your desire to re-enter a loop of feelings and behaviors that has always proven miserable and has no hope of changing.
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