It all starts with a phone call to rehab.
I believe that this is true for most people, though obviously it is not true for everyone (some people get clean and sober simply by attending AA meetings, for example).
But I also believe that this is the best choice for nearly anyone who is struggling with addiction or alcoholism.
There are a number of reasons for this and my experience through drug addiction all back those reasons up.
My personal story of sobriety starts with a single phone call to a rehab over 12 years ago. Without that phone call I doubt that I would be where I am at today, or have the incredible life that I have now. I wasn’t even the one making the phone call! Someone else made it for me. Of course, I had to have the willingness to follow through at that point, which I just barely did. But it was enough. And so my life tipped into something much more positive, and everything changed.
Nothing happens if nothing happens
The basic principle that can get someone out of the trap of denial is simply this:
They need to take action.
If you are stuck in drug addiction or alcoholism then you have a simple choice:
You can either stay the course (and keep getting the same results in life that you have been getting all along), OR you can take action and do something different.
If you choose to take action then you need to keep this very important principle in mind:
Taking action against your addiction requires massive action. Don’t bring your “B” game to the problem of addiction or alcoholism. It’s not worth the time. You will just get squashed if you put forth a mediocre effort.
Addiction recovery demands massive action. This is because drug addiction and alcoholism are massive problems that affect your life in such a deep and profound way.
Some people try to compartmentalize their addiction. They try to put it in this little box, off to the side, and say “Oh, yeah, I guess I have a drug or alcohol problem, but that’s not really who I am, it is just some little side thing, it is over here in this box, and I can just sort of sweep it away if I want.”
No, that is not how it works at all. You cannot compartmentalize your addiction, nor can you do the same with your recovery. This is because addiction and alcoholism affect your whole entire being and your whole entire life.
This is why you start out in an AA meeting with a defining label, saying “My name is X, and I AM an alcoholic.” Do you realize why you are doing that, why you are declaring that you ARE an alcoholic, that this is what you are? It is so you can break through denial! And it also helps point to the extreme nature of the solution: if you want to overcome your addiction or alcoholism, then the solution is to become something new. That is a very tall order and it involves your whole entire life. That is why we say that you cannot “compartmentalize” your addiction, nor can you do that with your recovery either. The addiction is part of who you are and it dominates your entire life. It is not just some little side thing that is over in this box off to the side. No, addiction consumes the whole individual and therefore your solution in recovery must be total and complete as well.
And this is why I say that recovery begins with a life changing phone call. If nothing happens then nothing happens. If you don’t try to initiate massive changes then you can be sure that nothing special is going to come from your wishes.
Your wishes don’t change a thing. I used to be stuck in my addiction and I wished that things were different all the time. I wished that I had never discovered drugs or alcohol. You know what this did for me, all of these wishes? NOT A DARN THING. All of my wishes and hopes about being sober were not getting me anywhere. To be honest it was just more fuel for self pity so that I had an excuse to drink. What is the point of that? Sitting around and wishing that things were different was not the solution.
Instead I had to take action. That action started when I went to rehab and got detoxed from drugs and alcohol. Inpatient treatment was the start of my journey. I couldn’t do it any other way because I was physically addicted to alcohol. I couldn’t just stop drinking on my own or I would go crazy and get really sick. I had to have help. They can help at a drug treatment center that has a detox unit.
It is possible that you may have a different solution in your future. Drug rehab or addiction treatment may not be the perfect answer for everyone. But in my opinion it is definitely the best starting point for everyone. And therefore I believe that the phone call is the most important action that you can possibly take. It was for me anyway, as it started my new life in recovery.
Call them up and ask questions. What is the worst that could happen?
If you are hesitant to pick up the phone and call a rehab then let me talk to you about that for a moment.
First of all, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen? Someone will answer the phone on the other end and that person actually works in a drug rehab center. That person is going to be doing their best to get you the help that you need and they are NOT going to be judgmental about it. Think about it, they are just doing their job, and they talk to people like this all day long. They may even be in recovery themselves and therefore they may have gone through the process of getting clean and sober themselves. Many people who work in treatment centers are former addicts and alcoholics.
So do not feel like you are afraid to call up a rehab center out of shame. That is not a good enough reason to stay stuck in denial. Most of the people who work in the rehab center have gone through your exact situation before, and they only want to help you.
Second of all, my hope for you is that you call up a rehab center and start asking questions. Again, what is the worst that can happen? They will do their best to give you information and help you to understand what the options are.
I know that before I had ever gone to rehab, I had a ton of questions and I wanted to know how it would all work and what was to be expected. There is one easy way to find out–get on the phone and call up a rehab and start asking questions!
Years later I worked in a rehab center and I was a nurse aid in the detox area. But there were times when the person who worked the admission office was on vacation, and I had to cover for her. This was an amazing experience for me because it took me right back to when I was taking those first steps towards treatment. People who were coming into treatment for the first time wanted to know all sorts of things about the treatment center, how detox worked, and so on. I was happy to tell them and I did everything that I could to convince them that rehab was a safe place for them and that they would not feel scared or threatened while they were there.
So I sort of know what it is like to be on both ends of that phone. If you are struggling to find the courage to go to treatment, then I would urge you to just give them a call and see what they have to say. Ask them questions. Ask them to describe what it will be like for you if you attend there. What is the worst that could happen from this? Just call them and talk, nothing to it!
Picking up the phone when it weighs a thousand pounds
I know that when you are trapped in addiction the phone can weigh a thousand pounds.
If this is the case for you then you have to break through your fear and “just do it.” Remember our law about action and how it works for recovery: “Nothing happens if nothing happens.” The only real key to recovery is based on the idea of taking action. If you don’t do something different then you can not expect to get different results.
The only way to overcome a fear like this (of picking up the phone) is to simply do it. Just pick it up and make the call and see what they have to say–you have nothing to lose by trying. The worst that can happen is that you don’t get the information that you are looking for. So what? Just move on and call another rehab center if that is the case.
Another strategy you might employ here is to get a close friend or a family member to call for you. Quite honestly this is what finally worked for me in the end. Someone else made the call on my behalf, though I still had to be willing to follow through and actually check in to rehab.
So if you cannot do it yourself, ask someone else to call for you. This is definitely not a sign of weakness if you are truly willing to take action based on what they learn.
How your new life will take shape if you make the call
Hopefully the end result of such a phone call is an arrangement to attend treatment.
What happened in my own life is that this phone call resulted in an appointment to check into rehab. So I had a few more days to spend and then I was off to go into inpatient rehab. I packed a bag (they told me what all to bring with me, mostly just clothes) and off I went.
This was the start of my new life. This was over 12 years ago and I have not had a drink or a drug since that moment. Can you imagine for a moment how much better my life has become now that I have not used any drugs or alcohol for over 12 years straight? I can assure you that things are a LOT better for me now, the difference is like night and day.
And things just keep getting better and better. I can look back a year or two and see how I have made progress, how my life situation has improved, how I have learned new things about myself since then. Because I keep taking positive action in my recovery, my life just keeps improving. This all started and was made possible by a single phone call that set me up to go to treatment over 12 years ago.
What you have to be afraid of in early recovery
There is nothing to be afraid of in early recovery.
Now I know that this will not necessarily assure anyone of anything, because when I was in the process of surrender, you could not just take my fear away with a simple statement like this. I was really scared of sobriety and I was terrified to go to rehab and sit in AA meetings and so on. I had a ton of anxiety about going through life without drugs and alcohol. I was afraid that I would be forever unhappy if I could not use my drug of choice.
My solution was not to overcome the fear, per se, because that was not really possible. There was nothing that I could do to change my thoughts or to assuage my own fears before going to treatment. Instead, the solution was that I had to get fed up enough with my addiction and become so miserable that I no longer cared what happened. Really, this was my solution in early recovery. I had to reach that breaking point of surrender and it was based on an extreme amount of misery. Once I got miserable enough in my addiction, I reached a point in which I no longer cared about what fears I might face in a rehab center, or if they might force me to attend AA meetings and speak in front of other people. I suddenly stopped caring about all of those anxieties. All of it just melted away because I was so sick and tired of dealing with my addiction. And so this is what my point of surrender was like that allowed me to become willing to attend rehab.
I had been to rehab before (twice) but obviously on those visits I was not yet ready to change my life. Does that mean that those were wasted trips to rehab, or is that evidence that rehab does not work in general? No, and no. I did not waste any trips to rehab, as those “failures” were part of what I had to go through in order to be able to one day take treatment more seriously. I had to learn what did NOT work for me in terms of recovery before I could embrace what would work.
Second of all, just because someone relapses after treatment does not mean that rehab is a scam. The treatment centers do the best that they can to help you but ultimately when you walk out of the doors and go back into the real world it is totally up to you as to what you will do with your life. Anyone can just ignore the concepts and principles they learned in rehab and return to their addiction if they so choose. No one is immune completely immune to relapse and this is why recovery is a lifelong process.
Ultimately there is nothing to be afraid of in early recovery that you cannot handle with ease, so long as you are willing to take action, put one foot in front of the other, and reach out to try to get help. This is what makes that first phone call so powerful. You reach out for help and then if you are willing to follow through, your whole life will change. One phone call can set off a long series of positive events that will change your life forever. Start taking positive action in recovery and things will just keep getting better and better over time.
Any fear can be overcome by taking action, because in doing so you will prove to yourself that your original fear was unfounded. It was all in your mind and when you confronted it in reality you found that reality was not so bad after all. This is exactly what happened with me when I finally went to rehab. The things that I was so afraid of turned out to be baseless fears, and it was the best decision that I ever made. My life got better very quickly and it continues to get better to this day.
Remember, if nothing changes then nothing changes. If you don’t make the call then you know for sure what to expect: more chaos and misery piled on top of more chaos and misery. Drug addiction and alcoholism are progressive diseases so you know for a fact that things will always be in a negative spiral if you continue to self medicate.
Ready to make a change?
If you are not ready to take action and make a change then I completely understand your position, and I do not hold it against you one bit. I will not judge you or criticize you if you are not ready to surrender, ask for help, and take action.
I have been in your exact shoes before and I realize what it means to be afraid of change. At least with your addiction you know what to expect, right? I have been there and I know how you feel. Going to rehab and becoming sober is a big change, you don’t know exactly what to expect, and there is no way to know if you will ever be happy again.
All I can really do is to try to assure you that you WILL be happy again if you take action. That your life will get better and better in recovery if you ask for help and then give it a chance.
This never was enough to convince me when I was stuck in addiction–I did not believe them when they told me that I could be happy again in sobriety. But I got miserable enough at one point that I was willing to give treatment another chance. And that was when my life finally changed for the better–I became willing to give it another try.
For the last 12 years my life has just got better and better each day. And it all started with a simple phone call.
What have you got to lose?