I find pain to be an excellent, elemental, biological, primal motivator for change. There is nothing so concrete as pulling the hurting flesh away from the flame. So quick, so efficient, so puzzling – what goes on before, and after? Can I learn from it? Can I not touch that flame again? Any flame?
In me, there’s a bit of the original active alcoholic who wanted to drink despite all the evidence that it wouldn’t work and I shouldn’t do it. A million things come to mind. I have to experience the pain of overweight in order to do something about it and diet. I have to experience the effects of a government I can’t abide in order to do more than vote and cry. I have to become dissatisfied with the experience of AA in order to read about it and write about it.
I do get better at it. I do like to grow for the sake of growing. It is a pleasurable sensation and one I seek out without experiencing pain. That would be some small proportion, though. I know I don’t often seek out change without something unpleasant as the motivator.
The other side of this is that I do now know and understand that painful situations will result in gains in serenity, eventually. It’s part of my mind set that they must do so. “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” “We’ve learned what not to do,” that sort of thing. Almost everything fits this. Exceptions exist, though. Especially in getting older and declining, I see that somethings can make me weaker. I can’t recover from everything completely, or always get better. There exist tragedies, also, that I imagine people cannot recover from. At times, brave people use tragedy to help others, but I can’t imagine those people ever feel recovered or as good or as joyous ever again.
And that’s what it still always comes down to for me. How happy will I be as a result of this situation? Where is the pleasure, and how much is there, for me?
The literature says that we as a fellowship have turned tragedy into triumph and that is so true. I’m blessed to be able to thrive in the helping atmosphere of AA. It says that pain was the admission price we (lucky ones) paid to enter a new way of living, a new life. It was more than worth it for me.