There is a story I once heard about a man that lost half of his leg in the war. After waking up from surgery, the man thanked the nurse for saving his leg. He said this because he swore it was still there. Unfortunately, the nurse was left with the chore to inform the soldier that he lost his leg from the knee down. However, the soldier was sure this was wrong. He even argued with the nurse.
“But I can still feel it,” he said
“It still hurts.”
Could you imagine that?
Could you imagine feeling something that’s no longer there, attached, or even exists?
There is something known as ghost pains. Ever hear of this?
A ghost pain or phantom pain is the sensation or feeling of a limb that is no longer attached to the body. This means a feeling sensation on a piece of your body that you don’t have anymore.
In some cases, a sensation like this never actually goes away. Instead, the feeling lingers to act as a reminder of the loss. Of course, the sensation is psychosomatic, which means this is all in the head. And of course, it is. This has to be all in the head because It can’t be in the limb, — especially when the limb is gone
This is something that makes sense to me. And let me tell you why . . .
I was in a class and asked about transformational relapse. I was asked about the reasons why wellness plans, self-help groups and treatment facilities have such a revolving door. Why do people go back to old settings or old ways of living?
In fairness and to be very clear, I believe in person centered treatment. I believe that empowerment comes from within. The road to recovery has more than one path. And secondly, any path towards wellness can be successful so long as the path is true and the effort is constant.
I do not buy into the narrative of some who stake their claims in the “Only” road to wellness or recovery. To each their own; as in to each is their own culture, their own DNA, their own reasons, background, influence and vision. Therefore, treating people with blanket statements and one-size-fits-all remedies will fall short.
I say this because the truth is wellness is personal. Self-help and self-awareness is personal. In simple math, the idea of personal achievement works out to a simple equation: The depth of our commitment equals the span of our success. It’s really that simple.
There are people who argue this point. There are people who say things like, “But I really tried this time.”
But did they?
When I signed up to quit some of my habits, I was told about the first rule, which is if you don’t do it then it can’t happen again. See?
The math here is simple, and yet, somehow we manage to complicate our own equations.
I think about this sometimes. I think about the reasons why people backslide into unfavorable habits. My first thoughts are about the reservations we keep. We keep them like tiny secrets in a special compartment that says, “Break Glass in Case of Emergency.”
I think about the toying with the mind and the mental masturbation that goes on with old habits that provide euphoria and temporary relief. I would say this is so with drinking. I would say this is so with drugs and with other addictions. The compulsion is towards a short-lived relief that results in long-term hardships. Or better yet, the compulsion to feel the euphoria has been more accurately described as great sex with a terrible girlfriend (or lover).
The teacher asked me my opinion on drinking or drugs. I was asked what I think about other “Isms,” aside from just alcoholism (or what I choose to call self-destructive response disorders) that spiral out of control.
At least in my case, any route I chose, the goal was to find some kind of satisfaction. Whether this was through a substance, chemical, experience, or food, my goal was to find something to fit my reward system.
I looked to find whatever it was that would release dopamine and create a self-satisfying transition. Whether this was an adrenaline rush or something else, — if you ask me, anything I chose to do was only a distraction from the challenge or discomfort in front of me.
The reasons for things like recidivism and relapse is because of the phantoms we invest in. These are the feelings we contend with that somehow go unsettled and unresolved. And when you haggle and bargain and can’t find the right trade; when you can’t relax, you can’t sleep, nothing is going well, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel; the mind remembers the path of least resistance.
The mind knows how to fit the reward system. The reservation is the old memories of old comforts, which provided a flash of instant gratification. This is something that gives quick relief and instant bliss. This is where the doubts build their muscles so that when therapy does not fit or if the reward system goes unattended, the mind knows what to do. Just in case, or should I say it; “In case of emergency,” we break the glass. This is why we go back to old habits and old remedies.
Our minds are really very simple.
We want what we want.
And when do we want it?
We want it now!
Sometimes the stir of an inner whisper can trigger a downfall. Next, the feeling machine starts to trip. We begin to short circuit and the emotion machine begins to overload.
Next, the anxiety builds. And here’s where the reservation comes in; here’s where the mind goes back to old default settings. This is why self-indulgence repeats itself regardless of the harm and the aftermath.
When the thought machine goes into alarm mode, all you want is peace. All you want is to feel better. You want to be able to breathe, to relax and exhale. All you want is to be appeased and to have the dilemmas become solved without effort. To put this simply, we want to be pacified. In cases like this, the aftermath is often overlooked and unthought-of. We want what we want. Period. End of sentence.
In an effort to soothe the over-stimulation in our minds, we break the glass and go back to an old source of relief. All the mind wants is to be compensated. We want relief. We want to be free of our connections to experiences with pain, discomforts and fears. We want to be free. So we take the dose without even thinking about the consequences. Or, wait. Maybe we are thinking about the consequences and since the pain from them is still in sight, the discomfort only grows deeper.
The reservations we hold are stored here in the doubt chambers, in which, no matter how well we do in life, — it’s easy to do the right thing when life is going your way. However, when triggers happen and self-doubt comes in, that’s it. Now we’re talkin’.
When the fear receptors flood the mind and overreact, we feel the old pains from emotional limbs that no longer exist. We feel the pasts that are long-since-gone. We can feel what we’ve lost as if the loss is still with us. Meanwhile, the mind is only looking for comfort. The mind wants peace and ease. But yet, the mind cannot see anything else but the struggle. Hence, this is the reason why I call addiction a self-destructive response disorder.
So, let’s get back to the ghost pains.
Ghost pains are the remnant and the reminders of loss. And like the man that lost part of his leg in the war and suffered from the phantom pains, the reason why people reach for instant gratification is to solve a pain that no longer exists, This happens when you can’t stop the thought machine and like the soldier after surgery; we swear the pain is still there.
We swear the problem is still there too.
But it’s really not.
I’m sure the soldier dreams at night. I am sure the soldier dreams of walking on his two legs — only, when the soldier wakes up, it’s almost like waking up after surgery and learning that he lost half of his leg all over again.
To me, this explains so much.
In response to the ghost pains when they grow too painful, we give in to the reservation to soothe the pain and the memories of loss — we look for the distraction so we can forget. We want to avoid the feeling. And like the soldier, we don’t want to wake up and relive the bad news all over again.
This is why people struggle to get off drugs or quit drinking. This is why people react and go back to their ways of instant gratification. It’s things like this; like the ghost pains and the memories. It’s the shame and the regret, the blame, and the guilt.
All we want to do is stop the feeling of something that isn’t even there anymore. Sometimes, I swear, the anticipation of the ghost pains are worse than the pains themselves. The fear of fear can be more crippling than fear itself. This is why so many people keep their reservations because in case of an emergency, they break the glass. The next part is the real bitch. The bitch of it is because now we have to start all over again. Now we have to deal with the feelings and ideas of failure, which only serves to promote compulsion and not recovery.
To each their own, which means individual and personal, centralized treatment is what the answer is.
Find what works for you is what I answered the teacher.
This was my take on it. I said this because I have my own ghost pains. There were some in the class that disagreed with me. But that’s fine. To each their own. Right?