The progressive nature of chronic pain and addiction leads you to be less able to do things you once did with ease. Ongoing use of opiates and other medications leads to impaired thought processes. As this happens, your self-image and self-talk can become increasingly negative and focus nearly exclusively on your losses and deficits. This may happen gradually enough that you are unaware of the changes in your thinking and the way you view yourself. It is not unusual to be defensive about this and be unwilling or unable to admit to yourself and others how badly you are feeling about yourself. You may overcompensate by trying to be perfect at the things you can do and pointing this out to others. Or you may withdraw, and even stop trying altogether, since having a “normal life” may seem impossible. The pain recovery process encourages you to look specifically at what you think and feel about yourself—your abilities, your limits, and what matters to you. This is part of the process of change that will lead you back to balance and the life you want to live. You may have become so identified with your chronic pain that it becomes part of your core identity; you begin to think of yourself as a “victim,” and pain becomes who you are rather than an experience that you sometimes have. The attention, concern, and sympathy you often receive from medical professionals, family members, and significant others serves to reinforce this self-perception and identification as a sufferer and/or victim, thus expanding the vicious-circle dynamic from how you relate to your own thoughts and emotions to the way you relate to others and to the world. Many people who live with chronic pain can, over time, come to define their sense of self in terms of their pain and impaired functioning. “I used to be able to do this or that” or “I used to provide better for my family” have roots in reality for some, but can also equate to “I am very weak” or “I’m no longer valuable to my loved ones.” Maintaining a balanced sense of self is essential to overall health. From a self-image standpoint, this might take the form of “I have lots of pain to deal with, and I’m developing tools to recover. I’m grateful for what I can do. In spite of my challenges, I have the ability to have a meaningful life, and it all begins with the way I think about myself.” 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).