Making Sense of Life

Opioid of choice: masking our pain


This isn’t about the opioid crisis. But the current epidemic use of opioids is a wonderful metaphor for another part of our lives.

What do opioids do? More broadly, what do any painkillers do? They stop pain for a period of time. Or they at least dull the pain. Perhaps they mask the pain. But the pain returns, sometimes more pronounced.

This same process happens when we decide to mask our emotional pain. The pain has become unbearable, just like the person with physical pain from a serious surgery or long-term health crisis.

When you and I have emotional pain we humans have all sorts of innovative ways of masking it. Our “opioids of choice” for these occasions include: anger, obsessive behavior with food, drink, sex/porn, shopping, or gambling.

Other less damaging choices might be to watch something mindless on TV, sleep, or get involved with the problems of others. What would the alternative be to these diversions?

First, admitting we have an issue, situation, or problem we need to face. Second, face it. Simple, but not always easy. The joy is that we do not have to go it alone. As soon as we have the desire to change the universe begins to conspire for our success.

The right person, the next book, the perfect idea – all are examples of the ways Spirit can guide us to the healing we desire. Yes, it takes work. That’s why the majority of humanity is looking for cures instead of healings.

A healing requires our personal responsibility and involvement in the process. It may take time. It’s not a quick fix, like the temporary cure the opioid provides. But the effort is worth it as our need for masking problems and obtaining quick fixes is replaced with more joy-filled lives and our ability to move beyond the situation.

What pain would you like to give up today?

Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (


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