The Critical Point // Accept the Pain

Continuing from “The Hangover and the Recovery”:

The first step is to expect and embrace the discomfort of the hangover. Sobriety is necessary for clarity, and sobering up is a process. Throughout the process, there will be headache and stomachache alike, and it will be tempting to reach for some easy medicine. But it is important to resist the temptation.

The pain of sobering is legitimate suffering, and it is inevitable. Whether sobriety comes by choice or is forced upon you by the exhaustion of available intoxicants, it cannot be avoided. But it is better to embrace that pain now than to delay it. Better to endure it while there is still time to have a life post-intoxication.

You should transform the pain of sobering up into a reminder to yourself in the future, when you are tempted to reach for that bottle of instant gratification again, that there will be consequences afterward. When you emerge into your life of self-reliance and are faced with a set of difficulties that you must endure in order to progress, you will think about your old life nostalgically.

It is an evolutionary defense mechanism that in times of pain our memory selectively recalls the positive parts of our past. It is so common as to be cliche that we often remember our past relationships with fondness, neglecting all of the frustrations, hurts, and difficulties that led to their demise.

This happens with our vocational life too.

You will say “oh, it was so much better when I had a normal job and didn’t have any real responsibilities,” or “it was easier when my parents were supporting me, even if I did have to live by their rules,” or “it was easier when I had a boss to tell me what to do, even if it did cause me more stress.”

These doubts will lead you to question your newly discovered calling, so remember the pain of sobering up; it will discourage you from going back to being misaligned with your calling.

Whenever the way you spend your time is out of alignment with your calling, you will be in pain. You may not yet know what your particular vocation is, but you know that what you are currently doing isn’t it. Or maybe you have known for some time what you should be doing, but you were afraid of doing it, or perhaps have just been unsure of taking the first steps. Nothing could be more important to your life and happiness than determining your calling and pursuing it with all of your energy.

Accept the pain. Resist the false promises of a return to Eden, for it will only disappoint, and the next hangover will be worse than this one.

The discomfort of the hangover, in addition to being a useful reminder, is also instructive. If you examine every uncomfortable sensation and emotion closely, you will find hints of what to do next. When you have a headache, you know that you need to hydrate. When you have a stomachache, you know you should eat something healing. The same is true in your vocational hangover. Your discomforts will point you in the right direction.

Remember the lessons you learn here as you continue the recovery process.


This is the fourth part of “The Critical Point”, an essay written by Exosphere founder Skinner Layne. You can read the third part here. The next chapter is “Trace Your Path Backward“.

You may download the full essay directly here.