Strengthening Pain with Pride

In 2001, Jason Bing watched the 9/11 devastation unfold on a television in his college dorm. Fired with patriotism, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to one of the toughest training sessions offered. The goal of basic training at his camp was to push recruits to their limits while instilling the fundamental skills of foot soldiering. But it did more than that—it also introduced them to a military culture that seemed to regard pain as good and complaints about pain as a sign of weakness.

When Jason sprained his ankle during training, he decided to follow this model and leave his pain unreported. Three years later he fell during a drill, creating a knot in his spine and a lumbar disc protrusion. This time he could not ignore his pain and reluctantly sought help from the base clinic. Jason’s pain did not ease, and while he was once someone who believed in a zero substance lifestyle, prescribed opioids became his form of relief. Jason’s physical pain subsided, but with the development of PTSD, his emotional pain grew and he became overly reliant on medication.

A common assumption of chronic pain patients who suffer from addiction is that they are chasing a high. In the case of Jason and many others, opioid addiction stems from a cycle of trauma, first physically and then emotionally. As a doctor, I know that prescribing opioids to a patient who may be emotionally unstable is a risk. However, most patients who are initially prescribed opioids live happy lives, ones that are mostly damaged by the stigmatization of their pain as it grows and tests relationships later on. If a family member suffers from fibromyalgia or a fellow church member admits to overtaking oxycodone, we back away, we judge, we dramatically change our relationship with them. Just when others need us most, we make their life harder. We subject them to our own friendly fire.

While Jason was plagued by the horrors of war, his emotional trouble stemmed from the shame his condition brought upon him and a lack of support from his surrounding community. People who develop pain must know that their condition will test relationships and that they must look for people who are willing to stick by their side. In turn, we must change our attitudes toward people who have pain or are struggling with addiction because our distance and stigmatization only weakens their fight. The physical aspects of pain may affect an individual, but the way we address it is no doubt a community issue. Pain and pain treatment can be approached differently, but it begins with me and you.


  1. Alex on February 9, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me stagtrhi.

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