Many struggling alcoholics and drug addicts are wondering how they can find just the right treatment center in order to help them overcome their problems.
They believe that if they can find just the right facility that their problems will magically melt away. Or they believe that if they could just find the perfect therapist, the perfect sponsor, or the perfect AA group, that everything would just magically fall into place and they would remain sober forever.
The truth is, recovery doesn’t actually work like that. Life doesn’t work like that.
Let’s find out why….
The myth of the perfect treatment center
There is no perfect treatment center. They are all just doing the best that they can to help struggling alcoholics and addicts to get the help that they need. Some of them may be better at it than others, but for the most part it all comes down to personal responsibility.
The problem is that we don’t want to believe this. Instead, we want to believe that if things would just magically line up for us that all of our internal problems would go away.
Some people believe that it is a question of economics. They believe that if they just pay enough money then they can purchase a solution to the problem of addiction. Surely the best modern medicine that money can buy should be able to take care of any problem with addiction, right?
Not so. This is not how the world works. We assume that there is a magic cure out there for just about everything, including addiction, but this is not the case. You cannot help someone who does not want the help. You cannot force someone to surrender to their disease, no matter how much money or resources you throw at the problem.
No, success in recovery has to be paid for with suffering. Misery and chaos are the motivators, unfortunately. No one gets clean and sober when things are going well for them. That would not be rational. Instead, people finally seek the help that they need when they are truly desperate for change.
And no one wants to change. No one likes to dive into the unknown, to face their greatest fears, to get honest with themselves and with others. No one wants to do those things, ever. It is never going to be easy to take that difficult path of change in recovery.
But some alcoholics and drug addicts will reach a point when they decide that facing those fears and doing that hard work is a better choice then continuing to self medicate. When you reach that point you have broken through denial and reached the turning point.
At that time you can go to the perfect treatment center (if such a thing existed), or you can go to a strictly average treatment center, and chances are good that you will do well in recovery.
Because you surrendered. You hit bottom. You are done with your addiction and you truly want to change. Even though the changes are scary and there is a huge amount of fear to overcome you are willing to face that fear instead of continuing on in misery.
When you reach the turning point you have a choice: You can continue on in the misery of addiction, or you can face the fear that represents change, recovery, and sobriety.
At that time neither choice is appealing. You won’t really want to be stuck in addiction, and you will not want to face your fears and pursue sobriety either. Both choices are bad.
Getting past your denial means that you finally realized that staying drunk or high is the worse of the two choices. Because you finally realize that you are completely miserable when you drink or use drugs and it never gets any better. Therefore you decide to finally take a chance on sobriety, even though it is scary to do so.
Many people will not admit that this fear is there at all, they completely deny any fear about sobriety, and that is quite normal to do. But that doesn’t mean that there is no fear! If you were not afraid then you would have recovered already.
It is fear that holds us back from recovery. It is misery and chaos that pushes us to face that fear.
Going to a treatment center—any treatment center—is a step in facing those fears and getting past our denial. But just attending treatment is not enough. We also have to get honest with ourselves and become willing to do the work.
Finding the willingness to attend treatment and break through denial
Breaking through your denial is only the first part of the journey. The second part involves doing the work in early recovery.
What exactly does “the work” consist of?
This will vary a bit from person to person. First of all you have to surrender to the idea that you cannot drink or take drugs like a normal person. So you go to inpatient treatment and you stop putting chemicals into your body and you make a decision that doing so in the future is not good for you.
Next you have to figure out what was driving you to self medicate, and attempt to fix those problems so that you are not driven to self medicate in the future. If you were taking drugs or booze in order to medicate a specific problem then that problem needs to be addressed.
For example, many people in recovery have resentments that drove them to drink or use drugs. Or some people may have started taking painkillers due to a chronic pain condition. Or someone may have self medicated because they liked to feel sorry for themselves all the time and they enjoyed the chaos and the drama that came along with their addiction.
We all had our reasons and our excuses. We all have a past that is unique to us. But we don’t have to drink or take drugs over those old excuses any more if we choose not to do so. Making that choice may take some serious work though. We can’t just walk away from certain kinds of negativity without doing some work to correct it.
For example, if you are in the habit of feeling sorry for yourself every day then this can lead you back to your addiction. Just putting down the drugs or the booze is not necessarily enough. If you continue to feel sorry for yourself on a regular basis then eventually you will have all the excuses that you need to go self medicate again.
So how do you fix this? This is what is involved in “doing the work.” So first you have to realize that you have this issue, that you tend to feel sorry for yourself, and that this is dangerous and detrimental to your sobriety.
Second of all you have to make a decision that you are going to stop feeling sorry for yourself at all costs. You create a policy with yourself in which you allow for no tolerance at all, no slip ups when it comes to self pity. You know that it is bad for you so you make this decision that you will not allow it at all in your life. You make a commitment to yourself to change.
Third you go ask for help in implementing this new change. You ask people in recovery, sponsors, therapists, peers—how they were able to do this particular challenge and what actions they took. Then you emulate their success and take their suggestions. If they tell you to write out a gratitude list every day then you sit down and write out a list every day. You take action. You follow through. You do the work that they tell you to do.
This is a process. It is also a learning process, because you will have to trust in the fact that you will get good results by listening to other people. Normally we only trust ourselves and we do not want to listen to the ideas of others. This is normal. It takes guts to trust in other people and to take their advice. What if they are wrong, or we look stupid, or it doesn’t work? Fear is usually the enemy. We have to trust, to have faith, to trust in the process of recovery.
Look at the evidence. Look at people who are living in sobriety, who have years or decades sober. Look at how they are happy. Ask those people for advice and then do what they tell you to do. This is the shortcut to wisdom, but it is hard work.
So this is how you do the work in recovery. You can also figure out this process via the 12 steps of AA. Identify the problem, make a decision to change yourself, then ask for help in making that change. Find out how to go about changing yourself. Then take action. Follow through. Do the work.
Rinse and repeat. If you want to be a better person then keep following through with this process over and over again. Your life will get better and better over time and the misery and chaos will slip away. Peace, happiness, and contentment will replace those things, provided you are doing the work.
How to take action and start turning your life around today
If you want to take action today to start turning your life around then the number one suggestion is to get into an inpatient treatment center.
Get on the phone. Find out what you need to do in order to get into treatment. My suggestion to you is to seek out an inpatient treatment center that has both a medical detoxification unit and also a residential unit.
This is important because it is thorough. It won’t do you much good to go through a medical detoxification if you do not have any instruction to follow that up with. Just putting down the drugs and the alcohol is not good enough for most people. If that was enough then you would not be a real alcoholic or drug addict.
It takes more than that. That is why you need residential treatment as well. Going through a residential program gives you more time to learn, to process your recovery, to start doing the work.
Therefore your goal should be to get into an inpatient treatment center. Don’t settle for a lesser goal such as “cutting down on my drinking” or “switching to a less harmful drug.” Those are not solutions. All that does is to perpetuate your addiction.
The solution starts with total and complete abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances. Most people need inpatient treatment in order to establish this baseline.
Pick up the phone. Call a treatment center. The one that you choose is not as important as the fact that you are making the call to begin with. Reaching out for help is the important part. We can quibble about details if you like, but the bottom line is that if you just get on the phone and ask for help you will be much further ahead than someone who thinks that they need just the right treatment center to attend but then they never take any action.
What to do if you are not ready to quit yet
If you are not ready to quit drinking or taking drugs yet then it means that you are still in denial.
Once you break through denial you will become willing to ask for help. At that point you will also be willing to take action and follow through with suggestions from other people.
If you don’t feel like you can say goodbye to your drug of choice just yet then you need to start doing some additional work each day.
Every day you need to challenge yourself. The way that you do this is by getting honest with yourself.
Every single day you need to ask yourself if you are happy or not. If you are trapped in addiction then 99 percent of the time the answer to this will be “no,” you are not happy at all.
Then you need to start paying attention to your brain, to your mind, and the excuses that it is coming up with.
So you are not happy. What does your brain do with this unhappiness? If you are like a normal addict or alcoholic then your brain will make excuses as to why you are unhappy. For example, your brain may say something like “Well if I had more money then I could buy more drugs or booze and then I could be happy forever.”
Or your brain may say something like “If other people had to put up with the things that I deal with then they would surely take drugs or drink heavily as well.”
You need to start noticing these excuses and realizing that they are just that: Excuses. Your brain is trying to justify your addiction even though it is making you miserable nearly 99 percent of the time.
Getting past your denial means realizing that it is not any fun any more.
The party is over. Drinking and taking drugs used to be fun, but now it is just a chore. There is no fun left in it for you. Sometimes it seems like you can get a bit of that fun back, but then the next day it is gone and you are miserable again.
All of this may sound quite depressing.
This is how you get past your denial. You must realize that you are miserable. You have to accept that you are miserable, and that it is not anyone else’s fault.
Stop blaming others for your unhappiness. Realize that your unhappiness is entirely based upon yourself and your addiction. This is how to break through denial.
If you still can’t “get there” then you should try writing about it. Write down how you feel every day, write down how miserable or happy you are each day, and just keep logging this information. Every day, write it down. This will slowly reveal the truth. You will start to see that your drug of choice does not really make you happy at all, hardly ever. And at some point you will ask yourself why you are going through so much misery, and what the point of it all is.
And when you reach that realization you will become willing to face your fear, to face sobriety, to ask for help. This is how you get past your denial. You must realize that your drug of choice no longer works for you, it doesn’t make you happy any longer, not like it used to. It stopped working, and therefore it is time to move on. Time to try sobriety instead.
How can you tell if you are ready for treatment to be effective?
You will know when you are ready for treatment because you will stop trying to manipulate and control others and you will take advice and suggestions and follow through with them.
It is usually easy to spot someone who is still in denial. But it is a little more tricky to spot someone who is in denial of the solution.
This is a person who admits that they are alcoholic, but yet they are claiming that treatment won’t work for them. They are claiming that AA doesn’t help them, or that meetings make them want to drink, or that counselors and therapists drive them crazy.
They admit to their problem but they denounce any and all solutions.
I have news for you: This is still denial.
If you deny the solution then you are still in denial. If you refuse treatment then you are not in a state of true surrender.
The key is to let go absolutely, to become willing to take advice, to take direction, to do the work.
That is how you know when you are truly ready to change. You let go and you let others dictate your solution for you.
Therefore trust is part of your early recovery. You have to trust in other people or you cannot recover. Because without that trust you will only trust in yourself, and your own ideas will lead you back to relapse.
No one can recover alone. If they can then they were not truly alcoholic to begin with. If you are ready to make the difficult changes in your life then inpatient treatment is the next obvious step.
Where you go is not so critical. Don’t worry about finding the perfect place. Instead, worry about finding the willingness and the commitment to follow through. Then, pick up the phone and make that call.
This is how you change your life. It all starts with a simple phone call….