Disruption is fundamental to recovery from addiction.
What exactly does this mean?
When you disrupt something you break the pattern. You make a change. Without any disruption, things will continue on their current course.
Addicts and alcoholics are stuck in an unhealthy pattern of living. They need a way to break free from this pattern. This takes more than simply declaring that they want for things to change. Simply wishing that things were different is not enough to overcome a pattern of addiction.
It takes more than that.
Recovery is all about changes.
If nothing changes, nothing changes
If you go to enough AA meetings then you will eventually hear someone say “If nothing changes then nothing changes.”
Recovery is nothing if not change. The whole idea of recovery is to change your life from something negative into something positive. It really is that simple in some ways.
The problem with addiction is that it keeps sucking you back into the unhealthy patterns. Every day when the alcoholic or drug addict comes to, they have to deal with the consequences of their actions. They have to deal with the reality of what their life has become. And usually this is pretty difficult to do without self medicating. In other words, the cycle of addiction perpetuates more addictive behavior. The negative outcomes of addiction tend to lead the addict to self medicate again. It becomes a vicious cycle because abusing drugs and alcohol is the easy way to escape from reality. After a while it becomes the only real option for the alcoholic. They don’t know what else to do or how else they might handle reality. All they know how to do is to self medicate.
In order to recover from addiction you have to build a new life by taking positive action. This takes time and commitment. But before the alcoholic can even attempt to put this solution into motion, they have to have a foundation. They have to have a platform from which they can attempt to get clean and sober. You cannot do this while you are stuck in the environment of chaos. You cannot get sober while living in a liquor store. You cannot get clean if you surround yourself with negative influences.
Therefore, disruption is necessary. You have to get some sort of clean break. You can either instigate this yourself by checking into rehab, or you can try to arrange this positive track in your life by eliminating all of the negative influences. Doing this without going to rehab is quite a challenge. This is what makes inpatient rehab so effective.
What makes inpatient treatment effective
If you really want to make it through early recovery without relapse then you should consider going to inpatient rehab.
Inpatient treatment is the most powerful form of disruption available to most people.
There are other forms of disruption. Consider that some people might end up in jail or prison. This disrupts their addiction too. Or they might end up in the hospital. Or in a psychiatric ward. All of these things may disrupt their pattern of abuse. But you will notice that not all of those disruptions necessarily lead to long term sobriety. In fact, some of those disruptions may include new addictive drugs (such as being in the hospital).
So what makes inpatient rehab different? It is the best form of disruption because it is focused entirely on the goal of helping you to stay clean and sober in the long run. Everything that they do at inpatient treatment is geared towards this outcome. Sobriety is the entire point of rehab. Therefore there is a great deal of focus on the solution, on recovery.
Of course going to a 28 day program is by no means a “cure.” It does not insure that an alcoholic will stay sober forever. People can go to rehab and then relapse later on. That certainly happens.
But that doesn’t change the fact that going to inpatient rehab is still the most concentrated form of help that you can receive. It is still the best solution. It is almost always the best option for the struggling alcoholic or drug addict.
You want to build a new life in recovery. You want to get a fresh start and a clean break. There is no way to do this unless you shake things up and take serious action. Change requires change. Change requires action. If you don’t do anything to shake things up in your life then you will keep getting the same old results.
Don’t pretend that you want things to change but then refuse to go to inpatient treatment. This is denial. You either want to change your life or you do not. If you are not ready then that is understandable, but admit to yourself that you are afraid to face your fears and go to rehab and change everything. Otherwise, embrace this form of disruption and get ready to build a new life.
Little changes versus massive changes
Recovery is all about change.
If you try to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs then you need to make changes. Obviously you start with abstinence and then build more changes onto that.
If all you do is stop drinking then this will not create recovery. If this is the only change that you make then relapse is all but insured to happen. Continuous success in sobriety requires lots of additional changes. In fact, you basically have to keep reinventing yourself on a regular basis in order to stay sober. The only constant is change.
This has a lot to do with intensity.
It took me three trips to rehab to figure this out. Of course my real problem was a lack of surrender, as I was still in denial the first two trips to rehab. On the third trip I was no longer in denial and I had surrendered completely. Therefore I was willing to do anything in order to recover.
This is a key point. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to recover? Are you willing to go to rehab and follow their program and do what they tell you to do?
Are you willing to dive in and embrace recovery? Are you willing to take massive action?
Small changes are useless in early recovery.
That may sound like a harsh truth. But think about it: Most struggling alcoholics and drug addicts have already tested this one out for themselves. Intuitively you probably realize that this is true already. Small changes are useless.
Remember when the alcoholic tried to switch from liquor to beer? Or they tried to cut back from a 12 pack every day to a six pack? Or when you decided you would only have a few drinks each night and a little marijuana on top of that?
Every alcoholic and drug addict tries to control their consumption at some point. And if they are a “real alcoholic” or a real addict then they always fail at this eventually.
And if you really consider the situation you will realize that these were always small changes. Switching from liquor to beer is a small change. That is not a big change. You are simply changing the type of booze you are drinking. But you are still drinking booze. If you simply drink beer faster then there is really no change at all!
No, in recovery we need big changes. We need massive changes. Just tweaking things a little bit here or there is not going to have an impact.
In order to break free from an addiction we need to employ the use of overwhelming force. We need massive action. We need big changes in our lives.
But how do we do this?
Overwhelming force is needed to overcome an addiction
I went to treatment three times. The first two times I was not ready for real change. I stayed at the first rehab for two weeks and the second rehab for a month.
The third treatment center suggested that I move into their long term unit and live there. I did this and stayed for almost two full years. That was when I finally discovered recovery.
I needed a massive change in order to break free from my pattern of abuse. Short term rehab was not enough for me at the time because my life was so entrenched in the patterns of addiction. Everything that I did revolved around drugs and alcohol.
Long term treatment is nice in this way because it allows you to build a new life while you still have the support of living in rehab. There is a great deal of accountability built into this sort of treatment. For example, they were constantly giving alcohol tests and drug tests so I knew that if I were to relapse I would be kicked out on the street. This helped me a great deal and forced me to remain sober.
Think about the level of commitment that it takes to check into rehab and agree to stay for almost two full years. Now consider what most alcoholics do when they are feeling pressure from their family to do something about their drinking. They might say something like: “I know I have been drinking too much lately, I will try to cut down a bit.” How effective do you think that is going to be? Consider how weak it is to make small changes like this in comparison to taking massive action instead (such as living in rehab for two years). Massive action is what creates success in recovery.
Recovery is about momentum. I worked in a rehab facility for several years and I watched a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts try to get sober. What I noticed is this: Early recovery is like trying to go up this giant hill. The alcoholic is scrambling to climb this hill and if they don’t make it to the peak then they slide back down and relapse.
Therefore you cannot just make a half hearted effort and expect to get to the top of this mountain known as sobriety. If you try for a week and then you let up for a while you will slide back down and relapse. If your effort is not consistent then you will slide back down the hill. If you don’t make a massive effort to really charge up the hill with a lot of momentum then you are never going to make it. Recovery takes massive commitment and focus. You have to push. You have to try harder at this than anything you have ever done before in your life.
Another thing that I noticed is that most people do not understand the intensity that is required on their first trip to rehab. They underestimate how difficult sobriety will be and how hard they have to try. So they are not intense enough in their approach. They do not take enough action. They do not commit deeply enough. If you want to be successful in recovery then you need to make a “supreme commitment” to sobriety and dedicate your entire life to it. This is intense. It should be the most intense commitment that you have ever made before. Anything less than this will result in relapse.
Many people who go to treatment will end up relapsing after they leave. Some of them will come back for more treatment. It can start to feel like a revolving door. But after you fail a few times you may realize just how hard you are going to need to try. It takes serious effort.
Being “smart” does not help with this. You would think that intelligence would allow a person better odds at becoming sober. But this does not seem to be the case necessarily because smarter people seem to be better at fooling themselves. They find it harder to just take the simple path and follow directions and do what they are told to do. Believe it or not this is one of the great secrets of recovery: To simply do what you are told to do. To follow directions. Very simple to do but not necessarily easy. Our egos get in the way.
If not treatment, how will you disrupt your addiction?
If you do not go to inpatient rehab in order to disrupt your addiction, how will you do it?
Remember that small changes need not apply. Small changes in your life are fairly useless in trying to overcome a serious addiction. This is because an addiction is a massive force and it affects so many different areas of your life.
The only way to embrace recovery is to unravel the entire addiction process through making massive changes. Of course this all starts with total abstinence as your baseline. You have to eliminate all of the drugs and alcohol before you can even try to make positive changes.
After you establish total abstinence you have to start making changes that allow you to hang on to your recovery. If nothing improves in your life then relapse will remain a strong option. We want to eliminate relapse as being a good option. In order to do that we need to build healthy self esteem through taking positive action. This takes time and commitment. You cannot build up healthy self esteem overnight. It can’t be faked. It requires real changes and real commitment.
In order to do this you must improve your life and yourself. This is an inside-out job. So you have to make positive changes both on the inside and on the outside. That means dealing with all of the chaos that goes on in the inside: The anger, the guilt, the fear, the shame, the self pity, and so on. You have to find a way to work through all of that and eliminate it. If that stuff continues to dominate your thoughts then it will drive you back to drinking or drugs. It has to be eliminated for your recovery to be successful.
You can’t stop here though. You have to go on and make even more positive changes as well. You have to make changes on the “outside” as well. So you have to change the people, places, and things in your life that might put you on a path towards relapse. We need to change those external things and create something positive instead. Instead of hanging out at the bar we need to hang out at the church. Or at the gym. Or take a nature walk. Or whatever the case may be. But we need to replace the negative things in our lives with positive things.
And we need to make these changes every day. It takes consistency. Because without the consistency we will start to slowly revert back into the person we used to be before we stopped drinking. And after that happens for long enough eventually it will lead us to relapse.
The only way to prevent this in the long run is to keep changing. Continuous change and constant self improvement. Is this really so bad? Is this really that hard to do?
No it is not. Not only is it fairly easy to stay in this cycle of continuous growth, but you are also constantly rewarded for doing so. Your life keeps improving and getting better.
Does it take effort? Sure it takes real effort to live this way. But consider the alternative, which is to go back to drinking and drugging: That takes effort too! In fact, it takes just as much energy to keep your addiction going as it does to keep your recovery going. Both are work. Both require energy and effort. And it is the same level of effort.
You can even hear people speak to this truth in AA meetings. They will say something like: “If you put the same amount of energy into AA that you put into getting more drugs and alcohol, then you will be just fine.” Everyone agrees with this statement because we all realize the inherent truth of it. It takes effort to recover, but it also takes effort to be stuck in addiction. Both paths require hard work! So you may as well take the path that leads to personal growth and happiness, right?
Disruption is fundamental to recovery. If nothing changes then nothing changes. If you are stuck in addiction then you need to find a way to disrupt your pattern so that you can break free. My suggestion is that you seek out inpatient rehab in order to get this fresh start on a new life. Ask yourself: If not rehab, then how will you break free from addiction? For most people there are not a lot of options other than attending treatment. Luckily, treatment is generally available and if you call one up they are more than willing to direct you to the right resources and get you the help that you need. Get on the phone, call a rehab center, and change your life! What have you got to lose at this point?