You know what is kind of awkward?
Going to rehab. There is no doubt in my mind that the first time that any struggling alcoh olic or drug addict agrees to go into an inpatient rehab center, that experience is going to be awkward for them.
Why is it awkward?
It is awkward because it probably does not make much sense to the recovering addict at first. What happens at rehab? How do they help you to….not want to drink or take drugs? How does that even happen?
So part of the awkwardness is because the struggling alcoholic or addict does not really know what to expect. And so they are–whether they admit it or not–a little bit nervous because they are forging into an unknown path. They do not yet know how the rehab process is even going to attempt to help them to recover from their drug or alcohol problem. So it feels weird to go to it.
I think another part of the awkward feeling comes from the fact that the struggling addict is surrendering voluntarily. They are saying “I know that I am out of control, therefore I am going to surrender control of myself to someone or something else so that I can get healthy again.” It doesn’t really make sense, because if you can surrender control of yourself, then you are not really out of control, are you?
That is part of how the addict or alcoholic can talk themselves into continuing with denial even longer. They might drink or take drugs a little too much, but they are not at the point of “needing to be locked up,” right?
Which is another part of the stigma, the idea that going to rehab is akin to “locking yourself up” so that you don’t drink or take drugs. This is not really the case though, as most rehab arrangements are set up so that any person can leave at any time. You’re not technically locked up, you just happen to have placed yourself in a program where there are no drugs, no alcohol, and no temptation.
So how does the alcoholic or addict get past all of this stigma so that they can get healthy again? How do you make it okay, in your own mind, that you are going to check into rehab, and that this is not weird or degrading or humbling? How can you be okay with it all?
I think the first principle here is that you have to reach a point of surrender. If you are still trying to manipulate things and struggling for control of your drinking or drug use, then that is a long way from being at the point of real surrender. When you reach “rock bottom” and you surrender fully, you no longer try to figure out how to make it all work any more. You give that part up. You let go of the need for control, you let go of the idea that taking more drugs or booze can some day make you happy.
When you hit rock bottom and you break through denial, you glimpse the truth, which is a glimpse into your own future, which is the realization that even though you may have a few more “peak moments” while drinking or taking drugs, the fun is pretty much over with, and the party ended a long time ago, and this stuff just isn’t fun any more. That is rock bottom and that is the point at which you break through your denial and you surrender.
And in that crushing moment of defeat, you realize that you have no idea how to live a successful and happy life. In fact, you realize that even if you want to live an unsuccessful life, you don’t know how to make that be happy. At all. You are miserable, and you realize that you have been miserable for a long time, and if you are going to ever live a happy life then someone is going to have to instruct you.
This is surrender, the realization that you need instructions for how to live.
If you are not ready to learn like a third grader, if you are not ready for directions about how to live a simple life, then you are not in a place of true surrender. Yet.
Once you reach this point of surrender, going to rehab becomes slightly less awkward. Because now you don’t really care any more, you are beyond caring, you are so incredibly sick and tired of life and of addiction and of everything in the whole universe that you just don’t care any more. You are beyond caring.
That is the point at which rehab works. If you go to rehab and you are not in that state of “ultimate surrender” then I do not believe that you will make the leap into this awesome new life of sobriety. You are not ready yet.
But when you surrender completely and you reach this point, going to rehab is okay. It’s not great, you are not going to jump for joy and click your heels together just yet, but you can move past the awkward part of rehab, of sitting and sharing in AA meetings, of doing group therapy and talking about yourself. You can get past all that and you can ignore any anxiety that you have because you hit bottom and you just don’t care any more. This is how you really get past the stigma of addiction and recovery–you surrender to it. You surrender to everything, to the whole entire world, because you are so utterly defeated by your addiction and you just don’t care any more.
Believe it or not, as bleak and depressing as that sounds, this is the greatest moment of your life so far.
Seriously, this point of rock bottom where you could care less about the entire universe, this is the turning point. This is where you become willing to go to rehab, to actually listen, and to start turning your life around. This is the foundation on which you can build a real life for yourself.
I do not think that it helps to go to treatment or enter recovery with another struggling friend. I mean, that is better than not trying at all, but it never seems to work out that way. You have to come to recovery and surrender on your own; it is a very personal and individual journey. In other words, one person cannot say “I am ready to surrender now to recovery, join me” and have their addict friend jump in and do just as well at the same exact moment.
Surrender doesn’t work that way.
Either you are in a state of total and complete surrender, and you have experienced rock bottom, or you haven’t. And that moment, that turning point, is a split second of time in which everything shifts, the whole world changes, and you break through your denial and see your addiction for the trap that it really is. And until an individual reaches that point, they cannot really recover–whether they force themselves through AA or rehab or not. Nothing matters expect for that magic moment in which they break through denial and surrender completely.
And the odds of that happening with 2 individuals at the same time is slim to none. We all have to find our own path. I experienced this in my recovery with nicotine addiction–I was trying to convince fellow smokers to quit with me, so we could hold each other accountable.
It never worked. It finally worked for one of us when that individual finally surrendered fully. But to do it together was not possible, because our moments of surrender never matched up.
So if you find the idea of rehab awkward then my suggestion to you is to work through your denial. Get honest with yourself about how much “fun” drinking or drug use really is for you, and keep evaluating that question every single day of your life. Keep a written log of this. Over time, you will see that it just isn’t fun any more. And then you can surrender fully and the idea of getting help in rehab will become far more appealing to you. Good luck!