Pain Addiction / by padhia hutton


I was lost in a state park once when I was small. I was running fast and panicking when I noticed a daffodil under my foot and then another and another. And when I looked up I had somehow found myself in a field so impossibly full of daffodils that to this day I wonder if it was real. I remember laying down and losing myself in the color and the soft sound of their delicate yellow swirling in the gray breeze. But what I remember the most is how the fact that I was lost, totally disconnected from the world, and all the events leading up to that, completely vanished. I’ve spent my life chasing that state of Home within myself regardless of external chaos.

In the never-ending pursuit of that, at some point I realized that I have an insidious addiction that I had never heard anyone talk about. I get high on lows. I feel sick just seeing that in print. I’ve never talked about it before. But I think the fact that we often don’t have words for our very human struggles keeps us suffering in silence and shame and feeling disconnected. Two of the most healing words I’ve ever known are : “Me too”. When the lights started to slowly illuminate this part of my internal stage, leaving giant scary shadows all around, I realized: I have an addiction to pain. It’s an extra slippery addiction because there is bottom,no one ever finds out, and therefore no one can ever save you.

It started early on. The feeling of being annihilated into tiny bits and watching most of myself fragment while the exposed electrical jellyfish of my core substance retreated into an insulated rabbit hole. It’s like time would stretch out and bend out of it’s usual linear march and there was no gravity or right side up, I would lose my body and form and just be free floating and spinning. A centrifuge of particulate spinning wildly around a sharp anchor point of pain. I think It’s actually a form of cutting- Emotional Cutting. Later in life I began to see more clearly this pattern of addiction, as I learned to do it to myself- setting myself up somehow to be inflicted with feelings so strongly painful they would shatter me and carry me away to what feels like another world. I was largely able to stop, because sometimes just letting yourself know you do actually have a choice in the circumstances you are creating can give you enough courage to choose a giant void of nothingness over something that will hurt. But it’s some deep old wiring and I still often catch the circuits firing up.

I felt the tug recently and saw myself lining up all the instruments to cut again. It was more than a tug. I’m actually still sitting here shaken and teetering on the edge. Enticed by the deliciousness of that old familiar annihilation- to get carried away to somewhere no one should ever know exists, and that I never chose to learn about in the first place. There is just something about seeing myself scattered into bits across the darkest night sky that I have always found secretly magnificent.

I have spent the last few years cleaning out my life of pain and sadness anytime I became aware of it. Furiously fusing together all my disconnected parts, even to the point of doing things I never could stand like yoga and restoring the long ago destroyed connective pathways between my brain and body. As I sit here, craving internal destruction, I realize how much I actually like what I have built of my disconnected pieces- this strange patchwork creature full of bizarre scars and mismatched parts collected from strange and often mis-adventures. For the first time I can ever remember, I feel a fondness for what I have built and more importantly, Mercy. And I am realizing that when you can show your own self mercy, that is true power.