Why Experiencing Pain can be Beneficial

Along with several million other people last night, I watched Downton Abbey (I also watched the Ryder Cup – the wonders of Sky Plus meaning I could see both). In the episode, Edith was going to be married and was jilted at the altar by her well intentioned older fiancé, Sir Anthony Strallen. He told her he could not tie her to a much older disabled man. She was devastated. Her mother comforted her and told her that she was being tested. But that through that testing she would grow stronger. Edith was not in any mood to hear this but it is something that those of us in recovery would all understand.

Pain is Valid and Necessary

Pain is a valid and necessary feeling. Physical pain stops us harming ourselves – for example, we would not touch a very hot object because burning ourselves is painful. Emotional pain helps us to grow and learn. If we did not ever feel it, we would not have felt our lives were unmanageable and got into recovery. If we do not feel emotional pain, we will not stop doing what we need to stop doing. Or start doing what we need to do. We would not appreciate when we are happy and joyful if we never had any more negative feelings.

Wary of Complacency

We also need to be wary of complacency. When things are marvellous and all going well, it is easy to drift off course from our programme. We can stop attending meetings, not see so much of our good friends in recovery. So get into danger, forgetting where we came from and the dangers that alcohol or drugs can lead us to. Often a little trauma or trouble can take us back to Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous and put us back on track where we need to be.

Working in a rehab clinic, I see a lot of pain. Families of addicts are often in pain sooner than the addicts themselves as they witness the destruction of active addiction and are helpless to stop it. It is only when it has got sufficiently painful for the addict or alcoholic that they will reach the end of their drinking and using and have the will to do something about it. If it is not painful enough. They are still getting more comfort out of drinking or using than they can envisage without it, then why stop? Even though they can say they love their partners, families, children etc (and they do in some way) they cannot stop to please them. Only to stop their own pain. They have to want to do it for themselves.


I have seen pain in several circumstances (such as making someone redundant, experiencing the end of a relationship) and seen that in the end, this was for the best. The redundant person finds a better job. A more suitable partner who makes them happier and is a better match comes along.

We only need to have faith and believe that it will all come right and be for a good reason in the end.

What will happen to Edith? More will be revealed but I hope – and expect – there will eventually be a happy ending for her too (as there was in the golf!).

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol and drug rehab clinic which offers detox and counselling for people with addictions. Call 01462 851414 for free and confidential advice.