I never expected that I would have to negotiate the challenges and complexities of chronic pain. As an experienced clinician with a master’s degree, extensive training in psychotherapy, and an advanced credential in clinical hypnotherapy, I know a thing or two about the connections among thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical pain. However, with the onset of my own chronic pain condition in 1998, it was as if all my professional knowledge and experience disappeared. After being diagnosed with herniated discs in my lower back, I allowed myself to become dependent upon conventional Western medicine with its reliance on opiate painkillers, lumbar epidural steroid injections, occasional episodes of physical therapy, and the ever-present option of spinal fusion. I effectively assumed the position of victim. In doing so, I submissively succumbed to the admonitions of my doctors (all extremely experienced, well-qualified, and well-intentioned) and relinquished sports and other physical activities that potentially put me at risk for further injury. As a lifelong athlete, this was an especially devastating loss. As I became more sedentary, I watched my physical functioning deteriorate further, as the vicious circle of chronic pain and addiction to medications prescribed for it progressively took over my world. As a result of the mind-body connection, uncomfortable feelings and my inability to tolerate them created considerable stress, which only made my pain level worse—inviting, no, demanding that I use more and more narcotics. I began to feel increasingly helpless, fearful, depressed, and hopeless. This process unfolded over a period of eight years, gradually taking its toll on my family and career. In fact, my wife had been pleading with me to go into treatment for my dependence on the narcotic pain medication for several years. It reached a crisis point where I couldn’t continue to live like I had been living. Through a specialized pain-addiction program in Las Vegas, I received state-of-the-art education in the dynamics of pain and learned a range of alternative methods to manage my pain level. In treatment, experienced a diverse array of holistic therapies including assisted stretching, massage, acupuncture, reiki, Chi Kung, yoga, targeted chiropractic, and physical therapy techniques I had never even heard of previously. Exposure to this comprehensive range of therapeutic modalities helped to significantly jump-start my healing process. Perhaps most importantly, I was empowered to become much more actively involved in the management of my chronic pain, and began to take ownership of it. An essential part of my program of recovery is a daily morning self-care ritual that includes meditation, self-hypnosis, and nondenominational prayer, as well as stretching and Chi Kung exercises. Before treatment, my thinking usually fed irrational beliefs about my pain: “I shouldn’t have pain,” “This is intolerable!” “I have to take more pain meds,” “Why me?” My overall level of stress is lower, which often has a positive impact on my coping capacity and functioning. I now maintain significantly different beliefs about my pain. I now often “talk back” to my chronic pain; not believing it and not buying into it. I still have pain regularly, but I deal with it very differently. It no longer debilitates me, dictates my activities, or controls my life. In addition to my experiencing noticeably less suffering, my physical functioning has increased dramatically. I play tennis, bowl, and hike regularly, do strength training two to three times per week, and occasionally still play basketball. I maintain an awareness that, in return for participating in such activities, there will usually be some temporary increase in my pain level. I take the responsibility inherent in making a conscious decision to accept that trade-off. In treatment I was introduced to a twelve-step program specific to my recovery from addiction to opiate painkillers. Working this twelve-step program has only strengthened my capacity to manage my chronic pain condition. When I was a teenager and stuck in a negative, cynical mood, my father would tell me that “the city of happiness lies in the state of mind.” At the time, I thought that was absolute bullspit. I know better now. I find that the more solution-focused I am, the more positive and hopeful I feel, and the less space my pain takes up in my head and in my life. As of the time of this writing, I have not used any narcotic pain medications for over twenty-six months. Previously, I would not have believed this to be possible. My recovery process has given me the opportunity to rediscover interests and activities that were an important part of my life until pain and its prescribed course of treatment hijacked my brain, perverted my priorities, and sapped my spirit. Living with chronic pain isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … it’s about learning to dance in the rain! This blog post is an excerpt from Pain Recovery – How to Find Balance and Reduce Suffering from Chronic Pain by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM, Frank Szabo, LADC, Daniel Shiode, PhD, Robert Hunter, PhD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).