Friday, June 26, 2009

I Just Want To Feel Better.

I've had physical problems for years, ever since a work accident long ago. Once I was out of the hospital and things had stabilised, I was faced with what to do with the chronic pain that resulted from the injury. I hadn't been a couch potato, I had a dog, so I walked a lot, and I adored bicycling. But apart from that and gardening, I've always hated sports, so I didn't do regular structured, scheduled exercise.

My doctor, who I've always felt embodies the phrase "iron hand in a velvet glove," was an irresistable force on the subject, ramming home the information that my pain level was, on the whole, going to be directly tied to my exercise level. I have found this to be true. I practise yoga, go for long dog walks, and if I'm having a day with more discomfort than usual, I will exercise a bit more, rather than less.

Often, when someone with physical difficulties asks me how do I manage my pain, the scenario is the same: focussed interest as they ask the question, and then a sort of shying back when they hear my reply.

Some folks know they want to feel better, but that wanting only goes so far - if they have to do some actual work to get the relief, well then, they don't want it that badly. I had one lady in my Al-Anon group who kept taking me aside in the parking lot after meetings, asking me repeatedly, how did I deal with the pain? I'd give my stock answer: "I have a regular structured exercise program, which I follow on a daily basis." I could see that this wasn't the answer she wanted, but we'd have this conversation every week, with her giving long enthusiastic recitals of her physical misery, and how awful her life was, and how she could do less and less as time went by, until finally, one day, after my reply, she burst out with, "Don't give me that sh__, tell me something useful!"

That was when I realised that she didn't believe me, and had never believed me; all along, she had thought I was fobbing her off.

We stood there, beside my car, with her glaring at me - she was breathing loudly through her nose, lips pinched together in disgust and frustration, anger radiating from her in palpable waves.

I said "You ask me that question, I tell you the truth. I exercise for at least an hour a day, not including dog walks. I have a yoga program I follow - stretching exercises to keep me flexible. That's the unvarnished truth; that's what works for me."

She swung around on her heel, stomped off to her car, got in, and drove off in a huff. She never returned to the meetings.

I had to really work at letting go, so as not to feel as if I'd failed her somehow, or feel responsible for her not coming back to the meetings. (I can feel guilty about anything, given some encouragement to do so.)

 We want relief, but sometimes we don't want it enough to work for it. That's why we as Al-Anon members may also have to hit bottom - to reach a place where we are truly willing to do whatever is required to achieve serenity and peace of mind.

There are days when I am grumbling and muttering to myself as I begin setting up for my yoga practise - moving the chair, unrolling the mat - because I don't feel like exercising, I'm stiff, I'm sore. But experience has taught me that this is a given: if I just push through my own reluctance, and do the work, I am always, without fail, grateful afterwards. Always.

12-Step is as simple, or as complicated, as we choose to make it.


  1. It's amazing how sometimes people want to hear only the truth that they find acceptable.

    You are certainly not responsible for that or anything else other people think or do.

    Thank God your exercise regime works for you.

    Prayer Girl

  2. This is a message I needed to hear, not from the perspective of a wife of an alcoholic, but from the perspective of someone who needs to lose 80 pounds. I don't like the way I look or feel at this weight, but I haven't been willing to do the work necessary to change it.