This is a detailed and thorough guide for anyone who is looking for help with alcoholism.
Making a decision
If you are an alcoholic and you continue to self medicate with alcohol then eventually you might be lucky enough to make it to the jumping-off point where you decide cave in and accept the need for change.
Seemingly there is no way to induce this moment of surrender – instead you must earn your way to this point through misery and desperation. It almost seems like the quickest route to getting there would be to intentionally drink more and screw up your life even worse. It is only through pain and desperation that the alcoholic will finally reach this point of change.
If and when you get there, it is not a great rising up in spirit where you proudly declare that you are going to be sober for now on. Instead, it is a crushing defeat; an admission of failure, and a moment of surrender. You let go of the need to control. You let go of the struggle. The struggle to maintain. For so long you’ve been on this hamster wheel of addiction, trying to juggle all the right things in your life and keep the charade going. This moment of surrender lets all of that stuff slide and you decide to ask for help.
Essentially you are saying: “I give up. Show me how to live. I have lost the way.”
Like I said there is no known way to induce this state of surrender but this is what it takes to get started on the path of recovery. If you get to this point then congratulations, as you are about to start on an awesome new life. If you are not at this point then the only thing I can suggest is to ask yourself: “Is drinking still fun for me? Does it still work for me and make me feel the way I want to feel?” At some point you will realize that alcohol no longer works for you, and you can not really get drunk anymore, but only be sober and miserable or completely blacked out and dangerous. The in-between part where being drunk was fun will be gone because your tolerance will eventually eliminate it.
Without this decision, without this moment of surrender, the monumental effort needed to “make it” in recovery will probably not materialize. This is what they mean by “hitting bottom.” If you haven’t hit bottom, you probably will not have the incentive to really change your life on such a dramatic scale.
Consider a medical detox
When it comes to alcoholism you don’t want to mess around, as quitting drinking can literally kill a person. Alcohol withdrawal is very dangerous and can be deadly so it is best to seek out a medically supervised detox facility. These will usually be found in hospitals or in treatment centers. If you don’t know how to go about locating one then the best bet is to get on the phone and start calling around and asking questions. Find out if there are any local treatment centers that can help you and call them up and get the process started. These places are not necessarily cheap but in many cases there are various ways to get funded for them.
The bottom line is to get on the phone and talk to them. Find out what is available in your area and whether or not you qualify for it.
The other benefit of seeking a medical detox from alcohol is that it will likely come with some level of support. Most will find themselves in a treatment center that also has a residential treatment program. In addition, you’ll probably meet other recovering alcoholics and thereby gain some social support from your decision to go to treatment.
Key concept: overwhelming force
You might be asking yourself: “Is all this really necessary? I just want to quit drinking!” If that is your question then here is my suggestion: try doing it your own way. Those who are asking those types of questions have probably not hit bottom yet. If you are looking for the easier, softer way then you probably have not truly surrendered yet.
What is so critical about true surrender and really hitting bottom is that the person is willing to go to dramatic lengths to recover. For example, when I first tried to get sober I went to a treatment center and they suggested that I go to long term treatment. At the time I was just not ready and had not truly surrendered, so I balked at this and said “no way am I living in a long term facility, that is just nuts!” Of course I proceeded to go back to drinking for another year after this. Finally, when I made the decision to get sober, I knew deep down that I needed a long term treatment center, so I ended up living in one for 20 months. That was over 8 years ago and I have been sober ever since.
This is overwhelming force in action. The idea is simple but powerful: you figure out what it will take to keep you sober, then do twice as much. The reason this is such an important concept is because nearly everyone underestimates how powerful their addiction is.
If you want to achieve the goal of long term sobriety then you are going to have to dedicate your entire life to it. Most people take several tries in getting sober because they underestimate how difficult this will be. They think a modest effort will produce modest results. This is not true. A modest effort will produce relapse. Only by going way above and beyond what you think is necessary to stay sober will you really be able to overcome alcoholism.
Some examples of overwhelming force:
1) Staying in a long term treatment center
2) Going to several 12 step meetings each day
3) Restructuring your whole life to help other addicts and alcoholics
These are just some examples, of course – there are other ways to create massive leverage in recovery. When applying overwhelming force, think big. What changes can you make that will have the greatest long-term impact?
Suggestion: start with AA
My suggestion is that you initially start with AA or NA as a support system for early recovery. There are a number of good reasons for this. Consider that:
1) If you go to treatment, you’ll probably be introduced to AA there anyway.
2) Meetings provide instant support for you which is especially helpful in early recovery
3) There are essentially no alternatives that provide any sort of social support
Some people are against AA as a recovery solution for various reasons, but you would do well to just go with the flow and give the fellowship and program a chance at first. Keep in mind that despite what you will hear in AA meetings, involvement in the program becomes less important as you stay sober (if you are on a path of growth).
Social support is important in early recovery but less so in long term sobriety. That is why it makes sense to start out with involvement in the fellowship and then transition to more independent recovery. If you are still dependent on daily meetings after 10 years sober then you are doing something wrong (some might want to go to daily meetings in long term sobriety and that is fine, but if they are dependent on them, then something is wrong).
Transitioning to long term sobriety
This is where you will make or break your efforts at achieving long term sobriety. Yes it is just a “day at a time” program but if deep down you want to enjoy a life of sobriety then achieving this in the long term is part of your goal. Therefore the transition becomes very important.
Early sobriety is much different from long term sobriety. What you are doing at 2 weeks sober and what you are doing at 10 years sober are very different things. At 2 weeks sober you are probably devoting almost your entire waking day to your new efforts at learning about recovery and how to live a sober life. The effort should consume your every waking hour.
At 10 years sober the effort is no longer so acute and focused. Now you are living in long term recovery without having to make a deliberate effort to not drink each and every day (like you did in the beginning). You might still do some similar things, such as reach out and connect with other recovering alcoholics, but the emphasis is completely different. Of course you still make the same decision not to drink every day but you are definitely a different person now that you have gone through so many years of holistic growth.
So what is the transition and how can we define it and approach it? The transition into long term recovery is simply part of the learning process. Early recovery is all about learning. This is because you don’t know how to live when you first get sober. So you must learn. You have to learn how to be a sane and productive member of society again. You have to learn how to have real relationships again. You have to learn how to feel your feelings without medicating them. And you have to learn how to have fun again.
Of course this all takes time and it is essentially one big learning process.
And of course we never stop learning. There is always another layer of truth to be uncovered in recovery. But at some point our holistic growth becomes more automatic for us, and we will naturally push ourselves to excel in new areas of our life.
So all you can really do in early recovery is to soak it all up and learn as much as you can about how to live a sober life and push yourself to grow. The key is not in spiritual growth (as many will claim) but instead in holistic growth. Alcoholism affected our entire self, so it makes sense to treat our entire self. We do this by growing holistically in recovery and when you are doing that on a consistent basis then you are living the creative theory.
Living the creative theory
The real measure of success in overcoming alcoholism is in the way you live the rest of your life. Of course it is a day-at-a-time thing but what is your vision for your life? What do you want to create? This is what the creative theory of recovery seeks to answer and if you follow it then you can design a life that you really want.
When I first got sober I did not have a vision for a new life in recovery. In fact I was quite miserable at first and did not really see much of an exciting future for myself at all. I heard some people speak at an AA meeting and they were trying to get us fired up about how exciting and fun life could be in recovery, but I just did not see it for myself.
Well it turns out that those people were right, it just took some time. I would say before my first year of sobriety had passed I was already starting to get a sense of passion and excitement about my life again, and this was a miracle (to me) because I was clean and sober. Life was becoming exciting again and this was remarkable in itself.
Now of course the creative theory of recovery goes beyond this and seeks to ask the question: “What do you want to do? What do you want to create? How are you going to change the world?” I have a close friend in recovery who is heavily involved in AA and he sponsors many people and this has become his passion and purpose in life. Now this is great that he has found a purpose in life and it just so happens to involve helping others in recovery. Personally, I found a different path, and I do what I can to help others in my own way.
There is no right or wrong here but the creative theory of recovery is about action. You find a vision, a purpose, a goal – and you pursue it. You create it.
It is my belief that this is necessary in recovery. Why? Because we were passionate about drinking. If we get sober, but then find nothing to replace that passion, then what are we left with? A hollow existence and a meaningless life.
Embrace the creative theory and use it to push yourself to grow in recovery. This is the true path to long term sobriety and anything less is really just tactics and relapse prevention gimmicks. Actively create a new life for yourself and thus you can empower your own recovery.
Reaching out and helping others in recovery
One of the surest ways to maintain your own sobriety is to reach out and help others to recover. This can be done in many different ways, although involvement in a 12 step program will probably make it much easier to spot opportunities for this. If you can help others in early recovery then it strengthens your own sobriety immeasurably. How can we reach out to others? Consider the following ideas:
1) Sponsor others in the fellowship
2) Become a recovery coach
3) Spend time with other recovering alcoholics
Helping someone to get sober
If you are in a close relationship with a struggling alcoholic then your best bet is to get some help for yourself first. What I mean by that is that you should go to Al-Anon meetings so that you can learn about how your behavior affects the alcoholic. You can also get a lot of support from the people there. Keep in mind that they have been through what you are experiencing.
Of course some people will prefer not to go to Al-Anon meetings, but they should still learn about how to behave around an alcoholic so as not to enable them further. I’ve already written extensively about how to help an alcoholic if that is your goal.
So that is the alcoholism help guide. If anyone has any specific problems and wants some feedback, please leave a comment below and I will answer you within 24 hours.