Where can you find an alcohol treatment specialist who can help you recover? How much treatment does it really take in order to get someone sober who is desperate to stop drinking?
What can you do if you have seemingly tried everything already (in order to sober up) and nothing has worked for you?
The key is that you need to find your point of surrender. You must break through denial in order to reach this point of surrender, and that is when you will be able to take action and fix your problem.
In fact, it is not really so much that you need just the right method of treatment (although that can help), it is really just about doing something. Anything. Making a decision.
It all starts with surrender.
What does the struggling alcoholic really need in order to get help? Let’s break it down
The first thing that every alcoholic needs in their recovery journey is the moment of surrender. They must finally break through their denial. This is number one and without this critical moment they cannot possibly move forward or get any more help with their addiction (essentially you are just playing games if you have not surrendered yet).
After surrender? You need action. My suggestion is that you need some form of disruption.
Every alcoholic is stuck in a pattern of some sort. They are trapped in a prison of their own design. They drink every day, feel bad about themselves, then they drink some more. They are trapped in a deadly cycle and a downward spiral. Things just keep getting worse and worse.
In order to break free from this pattern I believe that everyone should seek disruption. Now in the old days you might just go to an AA meeting and hope that this was disruptive enough for you to break free. For many people it is not. If you can go to a safe place (that does not have any alcohol or addictive drugs) and stay there for a certain period of time, then this can go a long ways in helping you to get a few weeks of sobriety under your belt.
They have places like this (nowadays). They are known as addiction treatment centers.
Usually they will have a medical detox center inside of them, but not always. If they do not have a detox then you may have to go to a hospital first so that you can get the alcohol safely out of your system first. Or you may not be so physically dependent on alcohol so you might not need detox at all (though most alcoholics need at least some help in order to keep it safe).
So you need disruption and you might even need medical attention. What else does the alcoholic need to recover?
They need direction and support.
In order to get direction you are going to have to listen to other people and learn from them. After all, you cannot take directions unless you are willing to listen, right? Believe it or not, many alcoholics who are trying to sober up are not yet willing to listen just yet. For whatever reason, they may not have had enough pain and misery with their drinking yet, and they want to figure out how to do it all themselves. So they tend to ignore those that would try to help them, and they attempt to go it alone.
Don’t do this, if you can help it. There is a time and a place for independence in recovery, and your first few weeks of sobriety are NOT it. In early recovery, you need to take as much advice and direction as you possibly can.
In order to get support for what you are trying to do (learn how to live a sober life) then you will likely need to connect with other people who are doing the same basic thing. If you are not connecting with others who are also walking a path of sobriety then it is going to be pretty hard to get the support that you need. You can find such people all over, you can find them online, and you can find them in your local community as well. But the easiest way to find them quickly is to simply go to AA. If you need support from alcoholics, that is one of the quickest shortcuts available to you. Simply go to AA. You will find support there that you cannot really get anywhere else (at least not found so easily).
In a nutshell:
The alcoholic must surrender, they must disrupt their pattern of drinking, and then they need to learn how to live sober and find support while doing it.
You can do all of this in AA. You can do all of this in rehab. You can technically do all of it on your own. Or you can mix all of those methods together and just do what works for you. But if you want to forge your own path in sobriety, then you had better be very honest with yourself about what is truly working for you and what is not. Many people who “can handle it by themselves” find out that they really do need help and support.
Why you should pick up the phone and start asking questions
If you are still struggling with alcohol then my number one suggestion to you is this:
* Pick up the phone and start asking questions.
Call up a rehab. Call up a treatment center. Call up that addiction specialist if you like. Call them up and start asking questions. Ask them what you would need to do in order to get the help that you need. Ask them what you need to do in order to qualify for funding. Ask them if your insurance will cover treatment, or if you can get funded for not having insurance, or what your options might be. Keep asking questions until you get treatment or run into a dead end. If you do run into a dead end, then ask them if they can refer you to someone else who might be able to help.
Get on the phone and make the call, ask questions. It really is that simple. This is how you get started in recovery. This is how I got started in my own recovery.
Later on, I worked in a rehab center for several years and I answered the phone thousands of times (literally!). I know what it is like to call up someone and ask for help. And I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of that call, and to try to direct them towards the help that they need. And I know what it is like to start your new journey in recovery with a single phone call.
Trust me, I realize that it takes guts. I know that the phone can weigh a million pounds or more, and that it is so much easier to just let the phone sit there while you continue to drink or self medicate. I know it is easier to stay put and continue to drink than it is to face the fear of sobriety.
I know what it is like to be terrified of getting sober. I know what it is like to imagine that you will be miserable forever if you quit drinking. I know what it is like to really lose hope, to seriously not care about yourself or your life any more. I have been there, I know what it feels like, and I can still remember what it feels like.
It is really dramatic. You have all of this intense drama up in your mind, and you are just so sick of it all. And you don’t necessarily want to make other people deal with it. You feel like you are going crazy. You figure that you would probably be better off dead, because you are just such a mess now. I have been there and I know how you feel.
The good news is that there is hope. Even if you don’t believe there is any hope left, there is. There is a tiny sliver of hope. You are still alive, right? You’re not gone yet. You can climb back up this mountain, one inch at a time, and your life can get better. You may not believe that right now but it is true, it is true for any alcoholic who is willing to start over from scratch. Anyone who is willing to surrender. You can rebuild your life. You can.
The question is, will you do it? It is not so hard, really, if you just take it in tiny steps. The first step is to let the wall of denial come crumbling down. Let go of everything, all at once. Let it all slide away. Let go of the need to be drunk and high. Let go of your fear of sobriety. Let go of the fear that you will be miserable if you get sober. Let go of the fear that you will have crushing anxiety if you are sober. Just let it all go at once, don’t hang on to any of that garbage. Seriously, let it all slide away from you. If you are on the brink of hopelessness anyway, then just let all of those worries slide away. They are not helping you anyway. They are not protecting you from anything. You are better off without them.
You have been fighting and fighting to justify your alcohol use. Let go of it. Make peace with the idea, right now, that you can’t drink successfully. Just give it all up. Let go of the whole thing, the need to medicate all the time, the need to be high or drunk, the desire to be happy. You aren’t happy any more anyway, right? You are miserable, if you are honest about it. Time for a change. Let it all go.
In the back of your mind is a little voice that makes all of your decisions for you. It is the voice that says “screw it, let’s just go get drunk again, who cares about anything.” That is your ego. It is the voice that is normally in charge.
What you need to do is to kill that voice. Ignore it from now on. Make an agreement with yourself: You will ignore your ego for the next year. One full year.
For one full year, starting now, you will not listen to a single thing that your ego suggests. Any ideas that fly into your head, you need to ignore them completely. Just disregard them all. They are no good anyway, right? You are miserable! Admit to yourself right now that your misery is of your own making. If you can’t do this then you are still stuck in denial.
After you make this agreement with yourself, the path becomes simple. Recovery is actually very straightforward now. Just go ask for help. Get on the phone, like I suggested above, and start asking questions. Ask for help and then follow through. Your only idea that you are allowed to have is to GET HELP. Don’t try to figure out exactly what you need. Let others do that for you. You are done making decisions for now, remember? Ignore the voice in your head. Ignore the ego. Ask for help and then let other people tell you what to do.
Keep this up for a full year. You will be amazed at the end of one year. And you will be happy.
This is how recovery really works. It is not about steps, or rehab, or counseling, or therapy, or even spirituality and higher powers. It is about surrender. You must surrender in order to rebuild your life. Sure, all of that other stuff is important too. It becomes important as you move through the journey. But really there is only one thing that matters in the beginning, and that is total and complete surrender.
Kill your ego.
Ignore the voice in your head. If you can do that, you can recover.
The perfect alcoholism specialist is not essential for success. Taking action and being committed to change is more important
Don’t get hung up on the idea of a specialist.
It’s not essential.
What is essential is taking action. What is essential is that you surrender and ask for help.
If you ask for help and then you follow through with suggestions, then it is likely that you will end up in rehab, at AA meetings, talking to therapists and counselors, talking to peers in AA, talking with sponsors, etc.
If you take suggestions and do what you are told to do, then you will encounter plenty of people who can help you.
The fact is that there are teachers everywhere. You just have to ignore the voice in your head for long enough so that you can learn from them. You just need to ask for help and then start following through and taking direction. If you can do that then you can learn all about rebuilding your life in recovery, with or without a specialist.
Your commitment to change is what will make or break your recovery. And the only way to have a deep level of commitment is if you surrender completely to your disease. Without that full and total surrender, your commitment to change will only be skin deep.
Break through your denial.
Ask for help.
Follow through and take action. This is what is truly important. If you can do these things as laid out here in front of you then you can rebuild your life.
If at first you don’t succeed…..
One of the dirty little secrets of recovery from alcoholism is this:
* Most people don’t get it right on the first try.
I have no idea if the general public realizes that or not. Probably by now they do, with the level of exposure that recovery gets in the media these days (movies, television shows, etc.).
My subjective experience and observation is that most people who are clean and sober today went to at about three treatment centers over their course of their addiction.
This is an average based on my own observations. Not very scientific, mind you. For the record, I also went to rehab three times.
But I also went to see a few therapists before I went to rehab. And I went to an AA meeting or two before I tried rehab. But finally after going to rehab for a third time (over maybe 3 or 4 years total) I managed to finally get it right. Something clicked. Of course what “clicked” is that I finally surrendered. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I finally found the right treatment, or the right rehab, or the right AA meetings. Those are just trivial details compared to the fact that I had finally surrendered.
I know many friends in recovery who are sober today that also went to treatment three times.
Of course there are exceptions to this. I also know a guy who has been to treatment 23 times. He has since died from an overdose.
And I am sure there are some examples of people who just went to rehab once, and have been clean and sober ever since. Nice and tidy.
I am not saying this to scare you of course, but only to be realistic and to give you a helpful tip, which is simply:
* If at first you don’t succeed in recovery, then try again.
A bit cliche, I admit. But still really important advice, considering what the typical path to long term sobriety is (lots of ups and downs in the beginning).
Willingness to simply attend treatment is far more important than finding the perfect solution
There are a few key pillars that make recovery work.
One of those pillars is simply “willingness.”
If you are willing to go to rehab then you are at least part of the way “healed.”
Statistically speaking, something like 75 or greater percent of alcoholics will never seek out any sort of professional help for their disease. Ever. (Government data).
So for those who do, you have a huge advantage over the lost souls who never even had a chance, who will not even give themselves the opportunity to try to get sober.
Don’t get hung up on finding just the right treatment for alcoholism.
The perfect treatment does not exist. I can assure you of this. If it did, then it would be perfect for everyone, and the fact is that everyone who is successful in recovery seems to do things just a little bit different. My own journey has been quite a bit different from ALL of my peers in recovery. None of them do exactly what I do in order to maintain sobriety. And I obviously don’t follow their methods exactly either. Recovery is just far too unique and personal for there to be one perfect solution out there.
Programs such as AA can be a guideline, but they are not the solution itself (see “The finger pointing at the moon” parable in Zen philosophy). Recovery programs might point us in the right direction, but they are just that–pointers. They are not recovery itself. Do not mistake the guidelines and the suggestions for being the solution.
Willingness is the key that will get your foot in the door.
Surrender is the prerequisite that you cannot get sober without.
Personal growth is the strategy that will prevent relapse in the long run. But of course, that takes real work.
How you work it is up to you, and will vary from person to person.
If you are on the fence and worried about even getting started, my advice is this:
Just start. Take the plunge. Make the call. Ask for help.
The ride is well worth it.