In order to deeply and thoroughly transform your life from addiction into the freedom and serenity of recovery, several things have to happen.
What exactly are those things?
For starters, I highly recommend that if an addict or an alcoholic is struggling with substance abuse problems that they begin their journey with inpatient treatment. There are other options that you could pursue, sure, but going straight into inpatient treatment is definitely the strongest path if you want to achieve this deeply transforming experience.
Why is this? Because in order to change your life you must start with a strong foundation. This means that being at an inpatient facility where there is no chance of relapse is a huge advantage for you. Being in a treatment center with professional therapists and staff that can help to guide you through the early recovery process is absolutely vital. Having a set of peers that are going through the same transformation as you are is also critical to your success. Having peers is important because then you can identify with other people and know that you are not alone in your struggle.
The foundation that you build at inpatient treatment begins with detoxification, but it does not stop there. They educate you about recovery, introduce you to support systems such as AA, NA, and outpatient group therapy. They give you an aftercare plan that, if followed, will continue to expand the foundation that you are creating for yourself in recovery.
Now at this point, when you are in inpatient treatment, you have to make a decision. The decision that you make is actually a state of surrender in which you make an agreement with your innermost self that you are going to relinquish control and trust in other people. That is the agreement that you must come to in your own mind.
Some people express this as faith in a higher power. Regardless of how you reach this state of surrender, you must get honest with yourself about the fact that your own ideas about how to live your life are no good, and that you need to take advice and direction from others. If you were in the program of AA then this is essentially the third step in which you “made a decision to turn your will and your life over.” If you try to take back control of everything then you are going to relapse and pay the price for it. If you let go and allow other people to help direct your life in recovery then you will reap the benefits of doing so.
At first this idea of “letting go absolutely” is going to feel quite foreign. You most likely will not fully trust in the process initially because you will not have any assurance that you will emerge from the experiment a happier person. In other words, how can you know and trust that other people have your best interest at heart? How can you know that your therapist or sponsor is going to direct you to a life of happiness and freedom? How can you really trust in these people and their advice? After all, going to 90 AA meetings in the next 90 days sounds like an awful lot of hassle, right?
But this is what is required: Complete surrender. You must trust in the process completely, and even though you may not be confident in the outcome, you must let go completely and allow yourself to be guided.
So you make the decision to take this leap of faith. “Okay fine, I will go to rehab, I will listen to the therapists, I will trust in my sponsor, I will do what they suggest for me to do.”
And so you start doing the work. Now no matter what happens, if you want to transform your life in recovery and really turn things around, then a certain amount of work has to be done first.
What is this “work” that I am speaking of?
It is the same sort of work that you can identify if you read through the 12 steps of AA. It is the sort of work that you will hear if you ask your therapist to give you a brief overview of the next 6 months worth of therapy work that they intend for you.
We all come to recovery with a certain amount of baggage and negativity. We all come to the table with at least some of the following: Anger, shame, fear, guilt, resentments, and self pity.
Now if you are interested in transforming your life and truly remaining clean and sober then you need to figure out how to let go and surrender completely to your disease.
I believe that we cannot choose to do this in a direct way, but we can indirectly pursue the state of surrender by forcing ourselves to see the truth and to be honest with ourselves. This is very difficult to do.
One way that you can force yourself to see the truth is to start writing down your emotions in a daily journal. If you do this consistently then over time it will help “prove” to your brain just how unhappy you are. Because what happens during your addiction is that your own brain is fighting against you, and it is trying to convince you that the mind is happier when it is medicated with drugs and alcohol, and your mind is trying to warn you that you will be supremely miserable if you get clean and sober.
The truth is that after only a few short weeks in recovery you will be far happier on a daily basis than you are in your addiction. The problem is denial–your brain is hiding this fact from you as best it can because your addiction wants you to keep taking drugs or alcohol.
So one of the ways to expose this truth to yourself is to write it down every day. Are you really happy while self medicating? If so, then prove it–write down how happy (or miserable) you are each day. Write down the date, keep a happiness journal, and figure out if it is truly worth all the hassle of abusing substances all the time. Because obviously it is a huge hassle to keep getting more and more chemicals to put into your body just so that you can be medicated and feel good and be “happy.” But…..are you really happy? Really?
So that is what I would recommend if you want true transformation: Do the work, write down your feelings every day, and prove to yourself that there has to be a better life out there than this crummy existence. And there is! Transforming your life is easy once you make the decision to take action. Find your courage and make the call to a treatment center and ask them what is required for you to check in.
This is how you will be able to turn your life around–by surrendering to your disease and then asking for help. If you do these things and follow through with an honest effort then transforming your life will be a simple matter of taking advice and following through with it. Good luck!