When Hurt No Longer Helps

by Bill Brenner on January 21, 2011

I was going to continue my tirade about people in AA and OA who take the program too far, but I find myself thinking about friends who are hurting. It’s the kind of hurt that’s justified. But after awhile, it stops being helpful.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o22eIJDtKho&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

Hurt can be a helpful thing at the beginning of a traumatic experience. In a whacked sort of way, it’s a survival tool. If you’ve lost someone or your marriage is crumbling, for example, the hurt is actually like a bizarre shot of morphine and adrenaline.

It keeps you numb enough to be around people, and just self-righteousness enough to walk and talk.

In a sick sort of way, hurt helped me survive during some of the worst moments of my life, including the death of MichaelSean and Peter. Hurt also fueled my survival instincts when my parents split up, my mother was being abusive and my emotional health was coming apart early last decade.

Henry Rollins actually brought up this phenomena in one of his spoken-word performances, where he talks about the kid hiding in his black-walled room, writing on black paper and yelling, “Here in my room… I reign supreme!”

Teenagers love to feel hurt. It gives them a reason to not listen to their parents or teachers. It gives them something to talk about. I’m not trying to belittle the real, crippling pain kids have to endure all too often. I’m talking about the typical emotions of a rebellious teen. Somewhere in there, there are usually hurt feelings to rage over. Rage isn’t an energy we should hang onto. But sometimes, rageful energy is better than no energy at all.

The hurt that springs from losing someone you love is a lot more complicated and hits you like a knife to the gut, and it takes much longer to fade.

Hell, I’m still not totally over the deaths of my brother and two friends.

I bring all this up because an old friend from the neighborhood I grew up in expressed the hurt she still feels over the death of a dear friend who lost a blistering battle with drug addiction.

She thinks she could have done more to help her friend, and that feeling of failure hurts deep. The word she used was “sting.”

I felt the same way after one friend’s suicide, but at some point I had to drop the hurt. It’s easier said than done. I guess you could say I was able to pull it off my neck and lock it in a metal box under the stairs in the garage.

When the hurt weighs you down so you can’t move, it’s gotta come off.

For me, therapy and a recovery program for mental illness and addiction helped a lot, though my answers aren’t necessarily going to work for the next person.

This old friend lives on the other side of the country and appears to be doing very well for herself. I’m glad to see that. 

Hopefully, she’ll wake up someday and realize she probably couldn’t have done much more to save her friend; that addiction has a way of closing a person off from the help friends and family try to offer.

And when that person gives up in the crushing onrush of depression, there’s nothing anyone can do.

When you realize that, the sting isn’t as bad.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEW8riKU_tE&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

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