So now we get to the crux of the matter. You have identified as an alcoholic or a drug addict. You realize that you cannot stop under your own power. You need help if you want to change your life.
What do you do?
The answer is simple: You seek professional help.
You go to rehab.
How to jump start the recovery process
There are lots of different options for someone who is struggling with an addiction. They could simply start attending AA or NA meetings, for example. Or they might go see a counselor or therapist. Or they might get a sponsor in AA and start working through the steps with that person. Or they might start reading recovery literature and writing in a journal every day. Or they might go to group therapy or outpatient sessions where they learn how to live a sober life. Or they might go through a medical detox.
Or, you could do ALL of those things.
I did all of those things and a whole lot more in my early recovery. What was the secret to my success in this? I simply checked into rehab. One simple decision led to all of that positive action.
Could I have accomplished all of those positive steps and taken all of that positive action without first going to rehab? I suppose it might be possible in theory, but I really doubt that I could have done it. In fact, I don’t know how I would have become sober if it were not for detox, short term residential treatment, and then long term rehab. I actually had to live in rehab for almost two full years in order to make the transition to a sober life! This is what it took for me; your situation may be different. They have a saying when it comes to treatment: “It takes what it takes.” They also say that in AA, because it is a fundamental truth. It is also an obvious truth. If someone relapses then they obviously did not seek out enough help and support in order to overcome their addiction.
The problem with that statement, however, is that there is no simple solution to it. You might suggest: “Well, just seek out more help and support then!” Go to rehab, go to detox, get a therapist, get involved in AA, and if all of that fails for you then double down and go find a long term rehab to live in. Then do it all over again.
And the problem with this suggestion is not that the process is wrong. We all know that if you do all of those things that you will stay sober. We all know that recovery works, so long as you work it. We all know that there are certain steps that you can take to rebuild a successful life in recovery.
There is no mystery. There is no great secret. No one needs to go to rehab in order to learn the secret path to sobriety. There is no secret path. It is hard work.
The problem is not that we lack a process. The problem is that the alcoholic is not in a state of surrender.
You don’t need a miracle solution to get sober. You don’t need to learn secret strategies. All you need to do is to surrender to your disease, then surrender to a solution, then follow through with that solution. This is not complicated. There are no secrets involved in this. It is a matter of action and willingness.
Anyone can go to AA and get heavily involved in that program and they will either stay sober or they will relapse. The outcome is based entirely on their level of surrender. Because their surrender will dictate how willing they are. And their willingness will dictate how much positive action they take. Therefore the outcome of sobriety is based entirely on surrender. Either you have reached your bottom and are willing to embrace a new solution, or you have not. In the end it is entirely black and white. There is no middle ground. You cannot be “on the fence” about whether or not you are ready to change your entire life.
Most people get confused about this. They think that they need to go to rehab so that they can learn the secrets of sobriety. They think that they need to go to rehab so that they can get crucial information about how to live a sober life.
But there are no secrets. It is all about the process. And therefore you need to go to rehab in order to learn the process of recovery. And when we say “learn the process of recovery” what we really mean is that you need to start living it. And this is what you get in rehab. You get a controlled environment where there is no temptation to relapse. You get to start eating and sleeping like a normal human being on a regular schedule. And you start to learn just how much effort it is going to take in order to turn your life around.
But there is no real secret to this. You show up, check into rehab, and they put you through a medical detox. Then you start living recovery, one day at a time, while you learn more about AA, addiction and recovery, living a sober life, etc. It is all about the process. Either you take positive action or you return to your old life. There is no middle ground in this process.
If there are any secrets to recovery it is just this. That you cannot stagnate in your recovery efforts and stay sober. You must keep moving forward and keep reinventing yourself. And this is hard work, which is not really the answer that most people want to hear. But of course with hard work comes great rewards. And that is what sobriety is all about.
Avoiding temptation in early recovery
Anyone who has tried to sober up without going to treatment knows what it means to be tempted.
Unfortunately there are drugs and alcohol nearly everywhere. If you are not in a facility of some sort then you might be mere minutes or seconds away from being potentially drunk or high. Temptation is everywhere.
The amazing thing about being in rehab is that the temptation is completely removed. You don’t even think about getting drunk or high because it simply is not available. And it is a bit like that part of your brain that obsesses and worries about getting drunk or high can get shut off for a while. There is no temptation to relapse because the option is simply not available in a controlled environment.
There are only a few places that you can get this sort of “temptation removal.” Inpatient treatment is one of them. There are other places that have removed this temptation to relapse but you would not necessarily want to go to such places if you can avoid it. They are places such as jails, prisons, hospitals, psych wards, and so on. Out of all of these places, inpatient rehab is by far the most comfortable to be in.
If you don’t go to inpatient rehab, how are you going to overcome the urge to go back to your drug of choice? How will you overcome temptation unless you get help to do so? If you want to avoid rehab then you will need a strong answer to this question.
Where are you going to get support from?
The next question you want to ask yourself is: “Where are you going to get support from if you quit drinking or using drugs?”
There are at least two different forms of support that everyone needs in early recovery from addiction.
The first form of support is known as identification.
The typical alcoholic or drug addict feels quite isolated. They believe that their problem is unique. They feel like no one has ever gone through the struggle that they are going through right now. They feel like they love their drug of choice more than anything in the world, and that no one else has ever felt this way before. Like they are the first REAL drug addict or alcoholic who has ever existed.
In order to recover you need to identify with others who share your struggle. So maybe you go to rehab and you are sitting in an AA meeting and someone tells your story. They start talking and they tell their story of how they became addicted and what struggles they have gone through. And maybe it finally smacks you in the face and you realize that your story is pretty much exactly the same as theirs. And maybe this person is the one who came in to the rehab to chair the AA meeting, and they have ten years sober. And they are offering you this hand of hope, and their story proves to you that you could get sober too, if you put in the effort.
This is the power of identification. Without this, the struggling alcoholic is lost because they have no real hope in life. They believe that they are unique and that they can never get sober and be happy like other people. This is because they don’t relate to others, they think that others in recovery must be different than they are, that they are not real alcoholics, or they rationalize the recovery process away somehow. It is only after they sit in an AA meeting and hear someone else tell their story that they realize that there is hope. This is why the identification process is so powerful.
The other form of support in recovery is the traditional idea of using our peers to help us recover. This is the sort of support where you are struggling with the idea that you might relapse and so you call your sponsor, you call your peers, you go to a meeting. You reach out and get the support that you need to stay sober.
There is a third form of “support” that is really more like learning. In order to become sober yourself you need to learn new things. You can learn some of this information from books (such as the Big Book of AA), but you need to learn much of it from real people as well. For example, maybe you need specific advice about recovery that is not covered in the recovery literature. Or maybe you just need to identify with others in recovery to know that you are not crazy. In cases like this it helps to be able to reach out and connect with another human being in recovery on a personal level. This is how we learn from one another in recovery.
You can’t do it on your own
If you could do it on your own then you would have done it by now.
Think about that for a moment.
No one wants to keep enduring pain and misery in their life.
So if you could have recovered by yourself then you surely would have just stopped drinking and using drugs a long time ago.
The very definition of alcoholism and drug addiction is based on whether or not you can quit on your own. If you can stop on your own then we do not label that person as an alcoholic or drug addict. But if someone needs help in order to stop then we place that label on them. This is the only thing that separates the alcoholic from the “normal person.” Whether or not they need help in order to stop.
Think about it. If someone quits on their own without any sort of help or support, do we label them as alcoholic? Do they self identify as an alcoholic? Of course not. They simply decided to leave alcohol alone. If it’s not a big deal then it is not a big deal.
For alcoholics and drug addicts, trying to get clean and sober is a big deal. Because it happens to be the hardest thing that they have ever attempted in their lives. So they need help in order to do it.
You can’t quit on your own or you would have done so by now. You need help in order to recover and turn your life around.
Do not believe that this means you need permanent help. It is possible to turn your life around and grow stronger in recovery. I have done this myself and I no longer rely on meetings, groups, or programs. I work my recovery based on positive action. But when I first got clean and sober I needed a lot of help and a lot of direction. I got this help by attending inpatient rehab.
Are you ready to make a decision and turn your life around for real this time?
Every alcoholic and drug addict knows what it is like to swear off their addiction forever. “Never again” they will declare. Then later that same week or even that same day they will be right back at it again, self medicating and destroying their life.
There is one way to make this decision and really make it stick, and that is to follow up the decision with real action.
The amount of change that you need to make in your life is measured with the amount of action that you take. In order to turn your life around from addiction you need to take massive action. Just making a minor change here or there is not going to cut it.
So how do you take massive action?
Remember the list of things I mentioned earlier that you might try to do: Go to a meeting, see a therapist, go to detox, do some group therapy, and so on?
How about doing ALL of those things, just by making one tiny little decision?
That tiny little decision is simple. You just have to convince yourself to go to rehab. Inpatient treatment.
Give yourself a break. If you go check into rehab for 28 days, the world will not stop turning without you. Really it is no big deal to take a month off of your life. The mountains will not crumble while you are tucked away at rehab. Life will go on. The world keeps turning. You may believe that the world depends on you, but the world can afford to let you go to treatment for a month.
But you have to give yourself that break. Isn’t it time that you were happy again? Isn’t it time that you stopped being so miserable? Don’t you deserve to be happy again in life?
Your drug of choice made you a promise once. When you first discovered your drug of choice, it promised you that it would make you happy any time you wanted.
It has broken that promise. It broke the promise a long time ago, and you have just been being too kind to your drug of choice, remembering the good times, and pretending that it might be like that again some day.
But the good times are over. Your drug of choice lied to you, and now it will deliver only misery to your life.
But the good times can still be had. You can rebuild your life in sobriety and be happier while you are sober than you ever were during your addiction.
But you have to believe that and make a leap of faith. You have trust that you will be happy again in recovery. And it takes time. You will not find this happiness after one day of sobriety, nor will you find it after one week.
But right now you have nothing to lose, because you are miserable. And there is no hope for future happiness if you continue to use drugs and alcohol. It only gets worse over time, never better. So you must make this leap of faith and realize that you can be happy again some day if you put in the effort right now.
Make a decision right now that you are going to be happy again, without your drug of choice. It is a simple decision to make and all you have to do is take this leap of faith. Kill your ego for the moment and realize that you need help in order to achieve this happiness in sobriety. Push your ego out of the way and make an agreement with yourself that you will listen to others and take their advice.
It all starts with a simple decision. You can turn your life around, whether you believe it or not. You can be happy without drugs and alcohol, whether you believe it or not. And all it takes is one little decision. A decision to pick up the phone. A decision to call a treatment center and tell them that you need help.
This takes guts. It takes a leap of faith. But look at the alternative: A lifetime of misery and destruction. You can rebuild your life and be happy again, but you have to take the initiative. Pick up the phone right now and make the call to change your life. Call 888-724-3186 and tell them that you need help.
If nothing changes then nothing will change. Only massive action can turn an addiction around. You can build a new life of happiness out of one simple decision. The decision to get help.
Make the call now.