A struggling alcoholic does not know the opportunity that they are missing out on.
If you are struggling with addiction then you cannot afford to miss out on going to rehab.
That probably sounds a bit funny, doesn’t it? After all, going to addiction treatment usually has several costs associated with it.
For starters, treatment is not free–someone has to pay for it. Even if you have outstanding insurance (does anyone any more?), you are somehow paying for that insurance, and so there is a cost associated with that. Health care costs in general have spiraled upwards a great deal in the last ten years and so treatment is fairly expensive.
There are other costs as well. If you are in treatment for 28 days then you cannot be somewhere else. Many people work at a regular job so they would have to forgo that regular paycheck that they receive. And they may be a parent so they will argue that their kids who depend on them would miss out while they are in treatment. So there are more costs to rehab than just the upfront dollar amount needed to get in.
The question, therefore, is: “Are all of these costs worth it?”
In order to answer that question we would have to compare the outcomes of your potential choices: Staying the course and continuing to self medicate, versus going to treatment and incurring these costs and then living a life of sobriety.
The opportunity cost of drinking is infinitely large
What is opportunity cost? If you choose to do one thing then you give up the ability to do something else.
In terms of addiction and alcoholism the concept applies like this:
* If you choose to keep drinking and self medicating then you give up the opportunity to enjoy a new life in recovery.
And that is what I mean when I say that you “cannot afford to miss out on alcohol treatment.”
Most alcoholics do not realize the full extent of what they are missing out on. If they did then it would spur them into action much quicker in terms of doing something about their problem.
I can remember very clearly what it was like to be in denial. I did not realize the truth about recovery or how it would set me free. Instead I thought of sobriety as a trap. I believed that people wanted me to be sober so that they could control me and so I would be miserable. I equated being drunk with being happy. People just wanted me sober so that I would not be happy, apparently. This is really what my denial tried to tell me.
People talked about how great it was to be sober and to be free, and I looked at them like they were crazy. In fact I pitied them! I actually pitied the recovering alcoholic who had discovered sobriety, because I believed that they were enslaved while I was free to drink and imbibe. I had it exactly backwards.
I was in rehab at one point and I was nowhere near being done with my drinking career. I met this guy who came in to put on an AA meeting. He was obviously doing well in sobriety and he had a great message. And I can remember being fired up for recovery in a way, but at the same time I would not allow myself to truly believe. This guy was still an alien from another planet, even though I sort of wanted the freedom and happiness that he was describing. None of it applied to me because my denial would not allow it to. I denied that any of this hope or joy could possibly rub off on me. He was describing this great new life in recovery, and my denial was shooting it down and saying “Well, that might be nice for HIM, but it would never work for ME…..because I am different, I am unique, I am a special alcoholic and apparently I am the only person who has ever walked the planet who truly loves alcohol!”
Of course that was all just more denial. It was all my alcoholic mind just trying to keep me trapped and drinking more. And at that time it worked quite well. I was at my first rehab center and it would take a few more years and 3 rehabs total before I would finally see the light. I had to go through what I had to go through in order to get to where I got. And the place that I finally got to was a place of total and complete surrender. I had to suffer a certain amount first at the hands of my own ideas. I had to try to unravel alcoholism for myself before I realized that it was not working, and that I needed help in order to do it.
If you continue to drink alcohol then you are missing out on this amazing new life in recovery. The problem is that no true alcoholic will necessarily believe this if you try to convince them of it. Certainly you could not have convinced me of it when I was stuck in the misery of alcoholism. I really believed that I was different and unique. So if you told me that this life of joy awaited me if only I would surrender and go to AA, I did not believe you because I thought that I was different than other alcoholics. My brain just reasoned the truth away, just like that.
What had to happen was that I had to get miserable. And I mean seriously miserable. I had to get so miserable in my addiction that I no longer really cared about myself or my life. I was totally sick and tired of existence itself and I was sick and tired of chasing that next drunk or high. This is the point of true surrender. I had to get to this point before treatment would work for me. I actually went to rehab three times total, but the first two times I was NOT at this critical point of surrender. And therefore the treatment did not work for me. I was not willing to listen. Actually I listened just fine, but I failed to act. I failed to implement. You can’t just politely sit in rehab and nod your head and expect to have this awesome new life. Instead you have to dig in your heels and really work for it. It takes guts to recover. It takes guts to actually do the work that will keep you sober and build this new life I am talking about. It doesn’t happen just by osmosis. You have to actually take action.
And I was not willing to take this (massive) action until I was good and ready. And by being good and ready I mean that I had to be completely fed up with my old life in addiction.
If you continue to drink (because it is comfortable and familiar) then you are missing out on happiness, joy, and peace that can be found in recovery. That is the opportunity cost of addiction. You miss out on peace and happiness. The price that you pay to receive this transformation is a whole lot of hard work. Yes, it takes work. But the message here today is that it is worth it!
Oh yes, it is definitely worth it.
Recovery is the greatest gift that you can receive
My life today in recovery is amazing. In fact it is way better than anything I really deserve.
I say that because my attitude in addiction was so lousy. I just wanted to self medicate and to die, really. I did not care to be happy or to try to help other people or anything like that. I just wanted to go off in my own little corner and medicate myself into oblivion.
Today I enjoy the rewards of recovery. For whatever reason I was blessed with the gift of desperation. I became desperate for change when I was at the height of my misery and so I went to treatment. This transformed my life and the transformation has continued to extend out to 12 plus years now. I am still receiving new gifts in sobriety that I did not receive in the early years. The benefits of recovery continue to unfold all around me. The journey continues. Every day is a new opportunity. Recovery remains exciting for me.
There is a critical difference from the way that you live your life in addiction to the way that you live your life in recovery. I think it is important to illustrate this difference because it makes a strong case for pursuing this transformation.
When you are in addiction you are caught in a negative spiral. Things keep getting worse and worse over time. This is well documented and if you look back at your own path in addiction you will see that this is certainly true. If you doubt the truth of this then simply go to AA and talk to the people there, ask them if their addiction got worse and worse over time. Every person that you walk with will tell you that this was the case. It always gets worse, never better. The negative consequences of addiction are cumulative. They build and they build over time and they get worse and worse. That’s addiction.
In recovery, the opposite of this happens. But it is very difficult to explain this to the newcomer in recovery and illustrate it as being one of the gifts of sobriety. But I think it is important to do so because that is what the real “carrot on the end of the stick” should be. When we talk about this “great new life in recovery” what we are really talking about is a life where things just keep getting better and better.
There is a reason that this happens. In addiction you are experiencing negativity and thinks are slowly (sometimes quickly) being destroyed. Even if you make progress in one area while you are addicted, that progress is later wiped out as your addiction takes over. Or you take two steps back in a different area of your life. You cannot really make any sort of progress while addicted because your drinking or drug use is constantly pulling you down, complicating things, destroying things in your life.
In recovery the opposite occurs. You start with a baseline of abstinence and then you begin to build. You build new and healthy relationships. You build new healthy habits of nutrition and exercise. You start to do the internal work to release guilt, shame, fear, anger, resentment and self pity. You seek to help others, to be productive, to do good work in some way. You seek emotional health and balance. And so on.
Then all of these things you are building in recovery start to work together. The positive stuff in your life starts to mate with each other! That probably sounds a bit funny but this is a very important and advanced concept in recovery. Some people refer to it as “synergy.” This is when you really feel like your life is on the right track because everything is going well and falling into place suddenly. It will seem sudden to you when it happens but this is sort of a trick. The truth is that you have been working towards this “sudden” transformation for a long time, but it is difficult to see the progress that you are making. You are too close to yourself to see your own progress.
So this is one of the things that you should know about how recovery works. It is holistic, even if you don’t believe that it is. It is holistic in the sense that when you are living the right kind of life, everything seems to fall into place and things just go right. This is by design. You are either experiencing this sort of synergy in your life, or you are not. If you are not experiencing this feeling where everything works well and just falls into place, then it means that you don’t have the right design yet in your life and in your recovery.
Luckily you can change your design. You can shift your recovery strategy. Achieving holistic health in recovery is not some great mystery. It is the simple application of these ideas:
1) Striving to improve your physical health and well being. Getting good sleep, exercising, eliminating addictions, eating healthy, etc.
2) Striving to improve your emotional world. Eliminating stressful situations, avoiding toxic relationships, finding time to relax, avoiding stress. Communicating your feelings with others.
3) Striving to achieve gratitude daily. This is the spiritual solution, or a huge part of it. You might do more for spirituality but if you miss out on gratitude then in my opinion you have missed the whole boat.
4) Striving to work your brain (mental). Generating ideas. Coming up with gratitude lists. Using your ideas to test new things in recovery, to move forward, to make progress in life.
5) Striving to help others in recovery and to connect with people who are trying to be sober. Having healthy relationships. Working on them. Putting in a real effort to improve them.
Now if you do 4 of these things but completely ignore one area of your life, guess what will happen?
It is just like in addiction. The negative thing will take over and pull you down. Happiness is not achieving some specific goal (that will be forever elusive as a source of happiness), but instead it is about finding balance among that list of growth that I just outlined. If you can eliminate the negatives by addressing all of those ideas, then you will be content. This is how joy arises. You have to eliminate the negative, get rid of the stuff that holds you back.
Happiness, joy, and contentment through recovery
If you go to rehab and you manage to stay clean and sober then your rewards is peace, joy, and happiness. You will finally know what it is like to be content with living in your own skin.
I never felt right with myself until I discovered alcohol and drugs. They allowed me to escape from my anxiety and to feel content in my own skin. Of course that did not last for long as my tolerance shifted and the alcohol quit working the way I wanted it to work. In the long run alcohol failed me, even though it worked great at first.
In order to realize the benefits of recovery you have to follow through. You have to do the work. It would be nice if you could just check into rehab for a few weeks and then go back out into the world and everything just fall into place.
But here is your news flash: Everything is not just going to fall into place.
Hopefully you can realize that much is true.
Recovery takes work. You are orchestrating a new life in recovery. You are rebuilding a new life from the ground up. It takes serious effort.
This is why I argue that recovery requires massive action. You can’t just change one thing and expect for recovery to work out well. It requires a holistic approach.
People in traditional recovery programs have a saying. They say: “The only thing that you have to change in recovery is EVERYTHING.” This is what I mean by taking massive action. You have to change everything in your life. That takes a whole lot of work!
This is really what I mean by a holistic approach. You have to be making a total effort if you want everything to fall into place one day.
And I am going to give you fair warning:
It won’t happen overnight. This is the hardest part of recovery for some people. This is why I tend to push the idea of long term rehab (which is what finally worked for me). Because the holistic approach requires so much work and so much effort, you cannot do it all in a week or even a month.
What you have to do in recovery is to quit drinking, quit using drugs, and practice total abstinence. This is your baseline. If you screw this up then you have to start all over again. Taking a drink or a drug resets everything. So that is your top priority of course: Don’t drink or use drugs.
Second of all you have to start pushing yourself to grow holistically. This is the five areas that I outlined earlier: Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social. You need to start making growth in each of those five areas. You have to PUSH. You can’t just be lazy and say that you are doing “fine” in any of those areas. Actually push yourself to grow and to change.
This all takes time. You might ask people in recovery for advice. Get specific. Ask them what to do for your physical health. Ask them what to do to improve your relationships. Find a sponsor and tell them that you want to work on these areas of your health. Push yourself to make changes.
And then give it time. Because it isn’t going to happen overnight, no matter how badly you want it to.
You will go through a period of struggle where you feel like you are trying so hard in all of these areas, and yet you are not receiving any benefit for doing so.
You must prepare yourself for this. Know that it is coming. A time period where you feel like your efforts are in vain.
KEEP GOING. This is right before everything magically falls into place, and you experience that synergy stuff that I was talking about.
If you keep pushing to improve your life in all of these various areas, you will flail around for quite a while. But eventually it will all click together.
You have to make it through to where it all clicks.
So give yourself a chance. Have faith that you will receive these benefits of recovery that I speak of. I takes time for it all to kick in, to start working together.
And what about you, have you transformed through treatment? Was it worth it for you to attend rehab? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!