What can you do if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, and you don’t know what to do or where to turn?
I have a few suggestions for this exact situation but before I get to that I want to cut right to the chase and tell you what the number one course of action is:
Pick up the phone.
Seriously, this is by far your most powerful tool. Because if you are in this situation then:
1) You already realize and acknowledge that there is a serious problem.
2) You are willing to try to do something about the problem, to the extent that you at least want more information.
Therefore the best solution is to reach out and get more information. The quickest way to do that is to pick up the phone and ask people for help.
Now obviously you do not just want to dial numbers at random. You want to talk to people who specialize in helping addicts and alcoholics.
Treatment centers are places that specialize in helping alcoholics. That is all they do. They try to turn addictions around and rebuild lives. So if you are desperate for help then you could do much worse than calling up a rehab center and asking them for help.
Of course, there are other forms of help available out there as well.
The various types of alcoholism treatments available today
You don’t have to go to rehab in order to recover. But it is probably a good idea for most people.
For example, you could just start going to AA meetings. This assumes that you don’t need any sort of physical detox and that you will not suffer any ill effects from quitting drinking. Some people can do this, others cannot. So if you must error then you might want to error on the side of caution and go the safe route of going to rehab instead.
You could also skip the AA meetings and simply find a therapist or a counselor and start seeing them on a regular basis. I don’t know if this would really be enough “help” for a person to stop drinking or how this would help to motivate them, but I suppose it is possible. I saw a therapist for a while when I was stuck in my addiction but I never quit drinking until I went into treatment.
You might go see a doctor, and the doctor could try to help you with your alcoholism. This is generally not a very good idea though because most doctors do not specialize in treating addiction, plus there is no immediate form of support when you go see a doctor. When you go to inpatient treatment there is all sorts of support: Your peers in recovery, the AA or NA meetings, a sponsor, and so on. If you try to find an alternate solution such as “seeing a doctor” then you are going to need to solve a lot of problems on your own (like how to get social support!).
In addition to this you might be thinking that a doctor can help fix your alcoholism by prescribing you a medication for it. Maybe they have pills to help with the cravings, right? In fact they do have medications along those lines but you will find that it is far from being a real cure at this point, and may be more of a distraction than anything else. In other words, people who seek out a pill to help with addiction are usually missing the bigger picture, and this eventually leads them to relapse. Medications might help but they are not a solution by themselves, and that can become a very dangerous problem for certain people.
Why your state of surrender is more important than treatment methodology
All of these various treatments have worked in the past for some people, and yet many of them fail to keep sober all of the time. So what exactly is going on in the world of alcoholism recovery?
The fact is that your success in early recovery from alcoholism is not based on the treatment method you choose, but instead on your level of surrender.
Some people probably have a false idea in their minds that if we took a struggling alcoholic and found the perfect treatment for that person that we could “cure” them instantly. Or at least put them on the right path to being cured.
The truth is that no perfect path exists, or if it does, then that perfect path is an internal path of surrender. It is about willingness. It is not about finding the perfect cure or treatment for alcoholism.
Recovery is actually pretty simple. You stop drinking, you stop using drugs, and then you rebuild your life piece by piece. You take positive action every day and over time your life gets better and better. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that, but we like to make it more complicated!
In the beginning of our addiction and our journey we all have the idea that there must be this perfect cure for our problem, that there is a simple and quick fix for it. But the truth is that addiction is complicated and messy, and the solution is necessarily complicated as well. Living a life of recovery is not an overnight thing. It takes time to develop the process.
Luckily it is fairly simple at the beginning. Ask for help, go to treatment. Check into a treatment center that has a medical detox. Build a foundation of sobriety and then start rebuilding your life from there.
The importance of making a decision and taking action
Recovery is all about taking action. If nothing changes, nothing changes. A bit simple but it is also a profound truth that many alcoholics fail to grasp.
What exactly does a treatment center program entail and how does it help you?
You go to rehab and they help you to get physically detoxed. After that you start learning things in groups and possibly attending meetings for support.
Recovery is a learning process. So you must be willing to learn new things and a new way of life. If you do not have this willingness then it does not matter how good a program you find, it will not work out well for you. You must have willingness to change and to learn from others.
In early recovery you will probably need a certain amount of support. Most people cannot recover on their own completely without any outside help or support. Part of the early recovery process has to do with identification. We have to identify with others so that we know that we are not crazy. We have to talk to other alcoholics so that we know that we are not alone in this journey. Having this identification can really help a lot.
If you don’t get this sort of identification from AA, where are you going to get it? That is an important question to ask because if you do not find a way to identify with other alcoholics in early recovery then you are probably setting yourself up for failure. You must reach out to other alcoholics and make a connection. It is possible to do it without AA, but going to AA meetings makes it pretty easy.
Above all you need to take action. Pick up the phone and call a rehab. Ask questions. Get the ball rolling. This is how you change your life. It doesn’t happen just by thinking about it. You either take action, or you do not. If you just think about getting sober some day and put off the decision then you have decided not to act. On the other hand, picking up the phone can change everything. If you call up a rehab center and start asking questions then you could be well on the way to a new life in recovery.
What kind of questions? Things like:
* What do I have to do to get into treatment?
* Will my insurance pay for me to come to treatment there? What are the costs for me?
* How can you help me to get checked into rehab somewhere? If I cannot come there, can you refer me somewhere else that can help me?
If those are the only questions you ask when calling rehab centers, that should lead you to a solution just fine. The key is to take action, actually pick up the phone, and start making calls. Call up treatment centers and try to make something happen. Get an appointment. Get scheduled. Get the funding secured and in place. Get going on changing your whole life. Checking into treatment is the biggest thing that you can do to move forward on this goal.
What will determine your success in alcohol treatment
Your success in recovery will be determined by your level of willingness.
Your level of willingness is determined by your level of surrender.
Your level of surrender is determined by how much pain and misery and chaos you have lived through, combined with your own personal threshold for misery.
Some people go through a few years of alcoholic turmoil and then they surrender to the disease and seek help.
Others will go through several decades of chaos and they will still not surrender yet. Their tolerance level is much higher to the chaos.
So if you are stuck in a cycle of addiction and you cannot seek to break free then one thing that you might do is to focus on the pain and the chaos and the misery.
Normally what the alcoholic does is that they deny that these negative things exist in their life. They focus on the positive and therefore they minimize all of that bad stuff.
This can actually be a detriment in terms of changing their life. You don’t want to keep sweeping the negative stuff under the rug if you want to change your life some day. Instead, you need to confront the fact that you are miserable.
Normally the way that an alcoholic operates is in denial. They deny that they are miserable. They deny that the chaos and the misery exists and they continue to drink their frustrations away.
The path to success is to realize that the pain and the misery is still there, and that it is getting worse over time. The alcoholic must make a realization. They must achieve that moment of clarity, where they see that their drinking can never really make them happy again. It used to make them happy, but now it doesn’t work any more. And they must realize that it will never work again in the future, not for any length of time.
There are really 3 stages of any alcoholic who goes to treatment in order to get help:
1) Getting through denial and agreeing to go to treatment.
2) Actually being in rehab, paying attention, learning, being willing to learn.
3) Leaving treatment and following through. Taking massive action in your life.
If you do not have the willingness at any of these 3 stages (before, during, after) then your recovery could potentially fail.
How to remain sober after leaving a treatment program
The secret to beating addiction in the long run is all about follow through. What do you do after you leave rehab? What actions do you take?
Recovery is about building a new life. It might start in treatment but it certainly does not end in treatment. I left treatment over 12 years ago and have not been back since. Yet my recovery continues to change and evolve over time. Recovery is about living!
The best way to follow up after rehab is to dive in and take massive action. Whatever suggestions you are given at treatment you should follow through on all of them if possible. They might suggest that you go to 90 meetings in 90 days after leaving treatment. If so then that is a powerful suggestion and it might help set you up for success. They might suggest that you follow through with counseling or outpatient treatment. You should do that as well.
Most people who relapse after leaving treatment do so because they fail to take action. They don’t follow through. You don’t want to become one of those statistics. So the solution is to follow through, to take the suggestions and run with them, to take action. Every day you should wake up and say: “What do I need to do for my sobriety today?” Then you need to do it. You need to follow through. Dedicate your entire life to sobriety. Put your recovery in front of everything else in your life.
They have a saying in traditional recovery: “Anything you put in front of your recovery, you are going to lose.” This is a question of priorities. I have found this to be consistently true during my recovery journey, mostly through watching my peers. This happens most frequently in terms of relationships. People in their first year of recovery who find themselves in a new romantic relationship are almost always putting that relationship in front of their sobriety. It is more important to them then recovery and therefore they eventually lose the relationship. They did not prioritize correctly. And nine times out of ten those people lose their recovery as well.
Anything you put in front of your sobriety, you will lose.
Remember this bit of wisdom and see if it doesn’t turn out to be consistent.
Put your sobriety first and continue to take positive action every day. Take suggestions from other people and follow through every day with positive action.
The way to remain sober after leaving treatment is:
1) Follow directions. Get out of your own way and listen to what other people are telling you to do. Don’t worry so much about trust issues. These people at rehab are trying to help you, they are not going to steer you wrong. The important thing is that you are NOT trusting yourself. Your own decisions tend to screw you up, remember? That is how your addiction got you to rehab in the first place, by creating a problem! Your decisions are not to be trusted at this early stage of the game. So listen to other people rather than to your own ideas.
2) Aftercare. The therapists and the counselors at rehab will have instructions for you as to what you should be doing post-treatment in your recovery. Whatever the suggest, you do it. It is really that simple. If they tell you to go to meetings every day then do it. If they tell you to see a counselor then go see the counselor. Take suggestions and keep taking action. Keep asking “what do I need to do for my recovery that I am not already doing?” Keep in mind that the scale of this recovery effort needs to be truly massive. It is not a little thing. You need to dedicate your whole life to the effort.
3) Support. When you leave treatment you need support. Find it at AA meetings or even through a religious organization (if that is a better fit for you). You need to be around positive people who are not self medicating with drugs and alcohol.
4) Personal growth. This is a big one. It is possible for someone to leave treatment, follow up with lots of AA meetings, and still relapse. How does that happen? It happens because the person is not really pursuing personal growth. They are not pushing themselves to make positive changes every day.
Even in long term sobriety, some alcoholics get lazy and they end up relapsing. They call this complacency. In order to avoid this outcome you need to be on a track of personal growth. Rather this is a strategy that you must adopt for your lifelong recovery.
They have a saying in recovery: “You are either working on recovery, or you are working on a relapse.” In other words, you can’t stand still in recovery. If you are standing still then you are actually moving closer to relapse. Unfortunately that is the default–a slow slide towards relapse and complacency.
Overcome this with action. Overcome this with personal growth. Overcome this by pushing yourself to improve your life, and your life situation.
Every day that you wake up you must ask yourself: “What am I doing for my recovery today? How can I move forward in my recovery today? How can I become a better person today?”
If you are not pushing yourself to ask these questions and to move forward with positive action then you are sliding slowly back towards relapse.
Alcohol treatment programs move you closer to this ideal. They set you up for success by getting you detoxed physically, then they teach you about support (usually AA meetings), and they also teach you how to take action and move forward in life. This is not an easy thing to teach, nor is it an easy thing to implement. But there is help available and there are people who will help you through the process.
It all comes down to willingness. If you are sick and tired of addiction then you might be ready to step up to the plate. Remember the phone, picking up the phone is probably the biggest step you can take towards recovery. In fact, that is how my new life began–my family picked up the phone for me and called up a rehab center. That is the moment that everything changed for me.