What is the easiest way to stop drinking alcohol or using addictive drugs?
You may talk to someone who has gone through the recovery process before. This person may tell you what they did in order to get clean and sober.
The will probably be really specific. For example, they might tell you what treatment center they went to, which recovery program they learned about, and even what AA meetings they attended. They might describe it all as if nothing else would work, or no other path could have possibly got them clean and sober.
There is a reason for this sort of bias in recovery. The reason is because the typical alcoholic struggles for many years (decades even) before they finally get sober. During that time they experience many, many failures in terms of getting sober. In other words, they try different things. They may go to counseling, they may go to outpatient therapy, they may try AA meetings, and they may try inpatient rehab (several times even). But nothing seems to work. They continue to relapse and to struggle.
Then one day they surrender. Then they ask for help, and they follow directions. Maybe their family or friends take them to a different treatment center this time. Or maybe they take them down to a local AA meeting. But this time it is different, because they truly surrendered first.
And so, they remain sober.
Then they go on to tell the whole world how it worked for them. “This is what actually works, this is what worked for me, don’t bother with all of that other stuff, because none of it really helps much, but if you do exactly what I did, then you will get clean and sober!”
That is part of the problem when it comes to recovery. Because as you can imagine, no two people have exactly the same experience when it comes to getting sober. And it is not that one person is wrong while the other one is right, it is just that there are different paths to success in recovery.
And if you are trying to describe “the easiest way to quit drinking” then you have to account for the fact that no two people will have the exact same experience in recovery.
That said, I believe that everyone who gets sober goes through some of the same basic concepts. So there are always going to be similarities in the journey, in the pattern. If we look at various recovering alcoholics and find things in common, then we might point to those commonalities and call them “the fundamentals of recovery.” Those are the things that we all share, regardless of how we got sober, what program we follow, whether we go to AA meetings or not, etc.
The easiest way to quit drinking alcohol is to disrupt your pattern of living
The first fundamental concept in recovery is always the same:
You can’t become sober unless you surrender first. This is universal. It doesn’t matter if you go to rehab, go to meetings, believe in 12 step programs, or have a higher power or not. None of that matters. It is all about surrendering to your disease, surrendering to the fact that you can’t drink like a normal human. If you don’t surrender then you don’t get sober, period.
Surrender is the first gate through which every alcoholic must pass. If you fail to surrender then you fail to get sober.
Now after you surrender to your disease then you need to take action. A decision that is not followed up with any action is not a very helpful decision.
And if we could summarize the action that you need to take in very early recovery, that summary would be:
You need to disrupt your life of drinking and drugging. You need to throw a major wrench into your pattern of alcohol abuse. Because right now you are trapped in a cycle. You drink and use drugs every single day. There is no way that you can break out of this cycle by yourself, because you have tried to do so over and over again. This is what defines addiction and alcoholism. You are stuck and you cannot break free by yourself. You are trapped in a pattern of your own making. Much as you would like to be free, you keep returning to your drug of choice over and over again, against your will. You are trapped in a prison of your own making.
The concept of disruption is universal. Everyone who gets clean and sober will go through some sort of disruptive phase. It is impossible not to if you really want to change your life. Otherwise, how are you going to change? Recovery is nothing if not change. What are you going to do instead, change very slowly over time, instead of all at once? Most alcoholics tried that and it never works (for example, drinking 11 beers today instead of the whole 12 pack, with the idea that you can then drink 10 beers tomorrow, and so on). Alcoholics and drug addicts have found that they cannot just ease into recovery–they have to jump into it all at once, or it will never work. You can’t just slowly transition to sobriety. The fact that you are still drinking or using drugs will pull you back into “full chaos” every time.
So disruption is fundamental. It has to happen if you want to get clean and sober in the long run. Every struggling alcoholic and addict must find a way to disrupt their pattern of abuse and find a new life.
So the question is, how can you find this disruption?
There are many types of disruption that you will probably want to avoid, if at all possible:
* Jail – this is disruption. You land in jail. Not usually part of the plan. But it forces you to stop drinking or using drugs, at least temporarily.
* Hospital – again, most people have not planned to end up in intensive care. Another forced disruption. Not an ideal way to stop drinking for most people.
* Institution – perhaps a mental hospital. They force you to stop drinking, but again, probably not part of your plan in life to end up here.
* Death – game over. Ends all discussion….
So those are the alternative ways to disrupt your addiction. They all involved being in a controlled environment in some way, such that you cannot get access to drugs or alcohol.
But there is one way that you can disrupt your addiction by which things could work out much better, and it may even be part of your deliberate plan.
The only shortcut to sobriety is to temporarily force sobriety through a controlled environment. This means going to rehab
If there is a “shortcut” to sobriety then this is it: Simply going to rehab.
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, that going to rehab gives you some sort of huge advantage over all of these other forms of disruption. It does give a slight advantage, yes. It does help you more than the other options to help you stay sober in the long run. But this is definitely a slight advantage, not a huge slam dunk. The concept of disruption is fundamental, but some people believe that addiction treatment is fundamental. It’s not, really. The rehab is just one form of disruption. But if you go back a few hundred years you can find alcoholics who sobered up through a process of disruption before treatment centers ever existed. For example, they land in the hospital one day and they end up going to AA meetings after leaving the hospital. Or perhaps the same thing plays out but with “jail” in place of the hospital. This all happened in various forms before detox centers or drug rehabs ever existed at all. It is therefore the disruption that is fundamental, not the concept of rehab.
That said, rehab is definitely your first choice, and it should be a no brainer really. It is the best way to disrupt your addiction out of all the possible options. And it is also the most focused on actually teaching the alcoholic or drug addict on how to build a new life for themselves outside of addiction. In other words, it is the most focused form of disruption.
Ultimately rehab is not a shortcut, not really. It is just the best way to get started on the process of recovery (in most cases). But it doesn’t really propel you any closer to the solution, not in the sense that you are “cheating” the process or getting the rewards without doing any work for them. Rehab is not a magic wand. Therefore it may be a mistake to label it as a “shortcut.” But it is still the best choice for most people who are struggling to get clean and sober.
When you go to rehab, you enter into a controlled environment. There are no drugs or alcohol available. So you are forced into sobriety once you are there. Pretty simple concept, right? Of course they also try to teach you some things about how you might remain sober after you leave rehab. It is all about staying sober in the long run.
After all, rehab is just a drop in the bucket. You have the rest of your life to live, right? How are you going to maintain sobriety for the rest of your days? This is the real question in recovery. How do you prevent relapse on a continuous basis? How do you build a new life for yourself without alcohol and drugs?
In the long run there is no shortcut at all. This is why relapse rates are quite high after virtually all forms of treatment
There are definitely no easy tricks when it comes to long term recovery.
Just look at the success rates and how they are plotted based on time.
If you look at 30 day success rates you might find some hope. If you look then at 90 days, six months, and the one year point your hope will start to diminish. More and more people relapse the further away you get from the point of surrender.
A lot depends on the survey and what exactly is being measured. For example, you might be measuring how many people make it to 30 days sober, and you might be following up with people who attended a 28 day program. So you might have a really high success rate based on the fact that they were in a controlled environment for most the duration.
Or maybe a group of people leave a 28 day program, and you send out a survey in the mail six months later, asking if they are still clean and sober. Maybe a quarter of them respond and some of them say that they are still sober. What do you assume about the 75% who did not bother to answer you? What percentage of that group do you think is still sober? Now think about any numbers or percentages that you have heard quoted in the past. Those numbers have to deal with the fact that many people never respond, assumptions must be made, and to top all of that off–many people will lie on a survey simply based on guilt! They know deep down that they should have stayed sober, and that they would have if they would have followed through on their aftercare, but they slacked off and they relapsed and they are ashamed to admit it. So they lie on the survey and say they are still sober. Do you think that happens? You can bet it does!
The fact is that relapse rates seem to remain pretty high no matter what. This probably has less to do with the quality of the treatment though, and much more to do with the fact that many people who come to rehab are not yet in a state of total and complete surrender. We tend to look at the situation and blame the first thing that we see, but we don’t always see the real truth that lies underneath. So someone leaves rehab and they relapse, and then we blame the treatment and say that it must not be any good. In truth, no treatment would have kept the person sober, and the real problem was that they were not really ready to be clean and sober yet. They had not yet surrendered fully to their disease, so nothing would have worked. But it is much easier for us to gloss over this truth and simply say “well, that rehab must not be very good, because they were there for 28 days but then when they got out they relapsed immediately.”
There are no shortcuts in long term sobriety. Going to a certain rehab center does not absolve you of having to do the hard work in recovery.
In long term sobriety it comes down to action, personal growth, and positive habits. In other words, hard work
The easy way to stay sober in long term sobriety is to never stop growing.
Personal growth fuels your success in recovery. Nothing else will keep you sober in the long run. Constant progress is the key to long term success.
They have a saying in traditional recovery that illustrates this concept:
“You are either working on recovery, or you are working on a relapse.”
This is said over and over again because people have found it to be true over and over again. You cannot stand still in recovery. You are either moving forward or you are sliding backwards. If you slide backwards for long enough then eventually you relapse. Simple as that.
Therefore the solution is to keep moving forward. But how is that possible in your recovery journey? How can you always be moving forward and making positive progress?
It’s simple. It comes down to a daily practice. You must take positive action each and every day.
In particular, your forward progress in recovery should involve your personal health from a holistic perspective. In other words, you want to take care of yourself each and every day on several different levels, such as:
* Physical health and well being.
* Emotional balance.
* Mental health, education, etc.
If you are neglecting one of these areas for too long then it will cause you to relapse in the end.
Therefore the solution is to focus on each of these areas in your life. When? Every single day! This is why we call it “a daily practice.” You have to keep working at it. You have to keep pushing yourself to make healthy changes.
Many recovery programs ultimately miss this “bigger picture” and they zero in on the final item on that list–the spirituality. It is important to develop your spiritual health in recovery but it is not the entire solution. It is just one part of the solution, one sliver of the total solution. Most people never realize that or acknowledge it.
How do you achieve personal growth? You work on improving your life and your health, in each of these areas listed above. And you do it on a daily basis. Always seeking to take positive action. Constant improvement. This is a broad based strategy to relapse prevention.
Ultimately there is no short cut in long term sobriety
There may be no short cuts to success in sobriety, but the field is also wide open to many different paths in recovery.
In other words, you don’t have to follow the same exact path that I took in recovery. You may find a different way to take positive action and build a new life in recovery.
But the fundamentals are the same. You will still need to surrender to your disease. You will still need to find a way to disrupt your pattern of abuse. You will still need to find a way to pursue personal growth and positive action in long term sobriety.
If you try to avoid any of these fundamental concepts (or shortcut them) then you will probably end up relapsing. You may have to try and try again until you realize that you have to put in the hard work in order to reap the rewards of recovery.
In order to overcome any addiction you have to do a lot more than to simply stop putting the drink or the drug into your body. In fact, you have to build a whole new life for yourself, one that is exciting and worth living. If it is not worth living in sobriety then guess what? You will quickly return to drinking or using drugs. No one sits around for too long being bored out of their minds in recovery. I don’t blame them either. If it is not fun and exciting then you need to change things up, try something different. This is what your recovery should be like in the long run. It should be an adventure. You should become excited about the fact that you are probably going to learn something new while going forward. At first this might not be that exciting (because your mind just went through detox and it just wants a drink again) but in the long run you can find a lot of joy in personal growth.