So you are probably wondering what the big secret is–how a person can actually ditch their alcohol or drug dependence so that they can enjoy a life of freedom, right?
How does it actually happen? What is going on inside of the person who finally “gets it” and manages to change their life?
I can tell you what happens first and foremost: They finally surrender.
The addict or alcoholic finally surrenders fully and completely. Which means that they finally admit to themselves and to others that they have a serious problem, AND they admit that they need some sort of professional help in order to fix their own life.
That is a two part surrender. Key point. One part is admitting and accepting, the other part is surrendering to the idea that you need professional help.
Sometimes an addict can admit to the problem without quite yet being ready to embrace a new solution in their life. They are still hanging on to a need for control, and therefore they are still in a bit of denial. They cannot let go completely.
So how exactly does a person surrender? Do they just up and decide one day to let go?
From all indications that I have observed over the years–combined with my personal experience–an addict or alcoholic does not really get to choose when they surrender completely. Instead, the consequences of their addiction pile up in their life and eventually, based on their own unique personality, they finally reach a breaking point.
Unfortunately, some people have a breaking point that drives them into jails, institutions, or even death before they finally surrender completely. I don’t know of any reliable way to override this issue and force a person to surrender sooner. My experience is that anyone claiming they have figured out how to do this is lying, or they are selling something that doesn’t actually work. The one thing that we cannot seem to force on a person is to surrender and suddenly want to change their life for the better. It just doesn’t work that way. It seems that you cannot force a person to surrender. They must come to it naturally, on their own, typically after facing an onslaught of consequences from their addictive behavior.
This is why they teach detachment at support groups like Al-anon, so that friends and families of addicts can learn how to step away and stop enabling the addict in their life, to stop rescuing them when they screw up, so that the addict actually ends up reaping what they sow. They face real consequences that way and therefore they can naturally reach a point of surrender.
In other words, if every time a drunk driver goes to jail they get bailed out the same day by an enabler, it is probably going to take longer for that particular alcoholic to reach a point of real surrender. They are not reaping what they sow because someone is helping them to evade the natural consequences of their actions.
So the key is for the addict or alcoholic to endure a certain amount of suffering in their addiction, such that they naturally come to a point of surrender. That amount of suffering is going to vary from person to person, and there does not seem to be a way to speed this process up by force.
If the addict themselves is curious about how to go about reaching this surrender state quicker, my advice to that person would be to try to practice self honesty. I was never very good at this in my own journey, which is just another way of saying that I stayed stuck in denial for a long time. What I would recommend is daily journal writing. If an addict is serious about exploring their own denial, then have that person write down their feelings and thoughts on a daily basis in a personal journal. That’s it. If they keep writing every day then eventually it will wake them up to the fact that they are miserable in their addiction.
Keep in mind though that just because an addict realizes that they are miserable in their addiction does not automatically mean that they will have hope that recovery can help them or “fix” them. Many addicts and alcoholics struggle because they do not believe that rehab or recovery programs can do anything for them (they are wrong, of course). So getting to the point of surrender can be a long and difficult road.
However, always remember that this is the fundamental principle that separates the “winners” in recovery from those who continue to struggle or those who relapse. Some have surrendered fully, others have not done so yet. That is the one fundamental truth of recovery.
So after surrender, the world is now your oyster. Not only are you willing to go seek professional help, but just about any option that you choose is going to be a valid choice for you. In other words, the details don’t matter too much because you have made a decision, something fundamental has shifted within you, and that something is surrender. Now you can move forward, take positive action, and actually listen to suggestions from people. Before, when you were stuck in denial, you were not open to suggestions and feedback.
Breaking through denial and finally reaching a point of surrender means that you can now say things like “yes, I will go to rehab.” Or “yes, I will go to AA and seek therapy.” And you will actually mean it, you will follow through and actually go do those things and start to build a new life for yourself.
In order to live a free life you have to “pay the cost” before you can get there, and in this case, that “cost” to be paid means total and complete surrender. It means letting go of the need to control things in your life, it means letting go of the idea that you can create happiness out of thin air by using your drug of choice. Surrender means that you take a leap of faith into recovery and into sobriety, trusting that a better life is waiting for you….so long as you put in the work.
The cost of a better life in recovery is the surrender and willingness that comes from going to treatment and working a recovery program. It doesn’t really matter too much which program you choose, so long as it is based on positive action and is not your own crazy ideas about how to self medicate your way to happiness. If you really want to be free from dependency then you have to surrender and trust in the process. Going to inpatient treatment is the single best way to make the leap of faith that is required of you.