Is there a 100 percent no-fail plan for overcoming alcoholism or drug addiction?
It is easy to have this hope, especially if you are family member or friend of someone who is struggling with their drinking. We just want it to go away, we want to send them somewhere and have them come back cured, a different person, we want the addiction to vanish like it never existed.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. There is still hope, but there definitely is no bulletproof cure.
Why there will never be a 100 percent effective cure for alcoholism
There is a good reason that there will probably never be a 100 percent cure for alcoholism:
If you really stop and think about it, we wouldn’t want a cure.
Not in the sense that we tend to think about a cure for alcoholism, anyway. Because when we think of a real cure for addiction, we think that we can take the struggling addict, put them through a certain treatment, program, or medications, and have them magically want to stop abusing their drug of choice.
In that regard you are really talking about mind control. Brainwashing.
Because, quite honestly, many alcoholics and drug addicts don’t actually want to stop just yet.
Oh sure, every alcoholic who has suffered negative consequences from their drinking wants for those negative aspects of their disease to go away. That part is pretty much universal.
But it takes quite a long time before the struggling alcoholic will get to the point where they wish that they no longer drank at all. Many alcoholics struggle with the idea that they can control it some day, that they might have their cake and eat it too, that they might find a way to drink responsibly and still enjoy it at some point. So they are not ready to give it up entirely just yet. That sort of attitude is very common in addiction, and that is also why people struggle for years or even decades. No one wants to believe that total abstinence is the solution. Getting to the point of accepting total and complete abstinence as your solution is very, very difficult. It takes a lot of pain to reach that point.
Because we do not, as a society, want to be able to brainwash people, there will never be a sure-fire cure for alcoholism and drug addiction. The bottom line is that we value free will too much, and some people do not want to be “cured.” Especially if being cured means that we can somehow change their desires.
That said, the best we can do is to work with the best treatments that we have available to us. Obviously the alcoholic or struggling addict has to want recovery, they have to want abstinence. Even getting to that point is quite difficult, and requires a long road with a lot of pain and suffering.
Make no mistake, it is pain and suffering that motivates the alcoholic to want to stop. Not hope for a better future, but instead, they want to avoid misery and chaos. That is what motivates people to stop drinking. Pain is the motivator. If the alcoholic has not suffered enough consequences yet, then it is not likely that they will be motivated to take action.
Disrupting your alcoholism with a controlled environment
One of the best ways to start out in your recovery is to disrupt your pattern of behavior.
Think of your alcoholism or your drug addiction as a pattern of behavior. Habits.
In order to overcome that addiction you have to break that pattern. You must change your habits. You must disrupt your life.
Going to inpatient treatment is one way to do this. In fact, it may be the best possible way to do it based on all of the available methods you might try.
Treatment is disruption. You are breaking your old habits, disrupting your cycle of drug or alcohol abuse. When you check into rehab for 28 days, you completely disrupt those patterns.
Then you start living new patterns. You start trying a new way to live, different ways to deal with reality, and hopefully a different attitude.
They have a saying in early recovery, that you have to “change everything” in order to succeed. This is actually fairly accurate, you do have to change almost everything. And the reason it feels this way is because you have to change your way of thinking.
The old way of thinking was to use your drug of choice in order to deal with everyday problems: Stress, anxiety, boredom, anger, fears, frustrations, and so on.
Now that you are in recovery you no longer have the option of dealing with things that way. Now you have to find alternative ways to deal with stress and emotions on a day to day basis.
Hypothetically speaking, if there was a “no-fail plan for sobriety” and it did not include a new way to deal with life, a new way to deal with reality and a new way to manage your feelings and emotions, then would that plan work at all?
No it would not. If you get sober and you don’t figure out how to process your feelings and emotions without resorting to your drug of choice, then eventually you will relapse. Simple as that.
Many people do not understand the sort of triggers that lead the alcoholic to relapse. They think that maybe it is because the alcoholic is walking past the liquor store every day on the way to work. That might be a small factor in things, but it is not a driving force behind relapse.
What makes people relapse? Their feelings. Their emotions.
People medicate their emotions. Alcoholics and drug addicts learn to self medicate, and over time they are actually medicating their emotions. I am talking about real feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, resentment, frustration, and self pity. It is that negative stuff that hangs over our hearts every day that we medicate.
In the beginning, you may have drank or took drugs for many different reasons. Maybe you were alleviating physical pain, or maybe you were just partying with friends. But in the end of your addiction, the reason you are taking that chemical is because it medicates your emotions. We get to this point in our addiction where it becomes uncomfortable to be sober and to feel our raw emotions. So our addiction trains us to keep taking our drug of choice so that we do not have to feel anything, we don’t have to feel uncomfortable emotions, we don’t have to feel angry or scared or frustrated any more. We teach ourselves to medicate those unwanted feelings away.
Then we get sober, and we have to learn to deal with those feelings. We have to learn how to deal with the discomfort.
Of course, not every day in recovery will involve those unwanted feelings. You won’t always be uncomfortable. However, it is just a matter of time. Due to the random nature of life, we know for sure that you will experience this sort of discomfort eventually. It is certain to happen. And when it does, you need to have a plan in place, you need to be prepared to deal with reality, you need to have a foundation of recovery and resources in place so that you do not relapse.
So you can see that anyone who is even slightly unprepared for this could easily relapse. There is no foolproof plan for sobriety because it all comes down to personal responsibility. Ultimately we all have to put in the work, stay vigilant, and keep pushing ourselves to make positive changes in our lives over a long period of time. In fact, that timeline lasts until you die. Recovery is an ongoing process, a never ending work in process, and if you let off the gas then you open the door to relapse. This is really why there is no sure fire cure for recovery. If there was such a cure, you would have to work on that “cure” every single day of your life. And that is not really how we define a “cure.” That is really more of an ongoing solution, not a one-time cure.
A bullet proof plan for early recovery?
Let’s get a little more specific. There is no such thing as insuring a lifetime of sobriety with no possible chance of relapse, but maybe we can zero in on what would make for a more bulletproof early recovery.
In early recovery, there are certainly good choices you can make, and poor choices you can make.
Let’s take a look at the most successful path that you can take in early recovery.
We obviously want to maximize our chances of success, of not relapsing.
1) First of all, there are really two measures of success in early recovery, and the first one is by far more important. That would be total and complete abstinence. If you drink or take drugs then you go back to zero, you reset all of your hard work and essentially wipe all of it out. In fact, things will likely be worse than they were before you sobered up. So the first measure of success is abstinence itself. You succeed by not putting drugs and alcohol into your body.
The second measure of success is really how happy you are in sobriety. If you are miserable while being sober than that is not much better than being stuck in addiction, right? Which is precisely why people may relapse–they are so unhappy in sobriety that they no longer care about abstinence. They reach a certain point of misery and they say “screw it” and they go drink. So obviously we need to avoid this point of misery so that we don’t trigger a relapse. We must never reach that point of misery where we say “screw it.” And so in order to do that we have to take action and put in a lot of hard work.
It is not just sobriety that we want, but we want to be comfortable and relatively happy too. We want it all. Because if you are miserable in sobriety then eventually you will just drink. And no one can really blame you for that, because you were miserable. But you don’t have to be miserable. The point of recovery is to do the work that allows you live a better life in sobriety, a life where you can find happiness. And for that, you need to be responsible.
If there is a “bulletproof plan for recovery” then it is this: Go through detox, get sober, and then start doing the work so that you build a life where you are no longer tempted to drink.
2) Disruption – If you struggle with drug or alcohol addiction then you should make a plan to disrupt those habits as severely as possible. The easy way to do this is to check into an inpatient rehab center. 28 days in a facility will disrupt your addiction.
Of course your job after you leave rehab is to rebuild your life in such a way that you do not go back to your drug of choice. Maintaining your new sobriety is the real challenge. Truth be told, it is easy to go to rehab, it is easy to check into treatment (once you have the courage). The real challenge is in rebuilding your life after you leave.
3) Support – In early recovery, my suggestion to you is that you find as much support as possible. For most people, the easy way to do that is to go to AA meetings every single day. There are alternatives to this but they are usually much harder to find and implement. Easiest is just to go to AA every day. Get a sponsor. Start working the steps. Go to coffee with the people in AA after the meetings. Go every single day. Make a commitment to do 90 meetings in 90 days. Hit it hard, even if you hate AA. Quite honestly, this is what I did. And I hated at AA! But I went anyway because I would have died without the support.
4) Growth – Personal growth is the key to recovery. Even in early recovery you need to start focusing on how you can improve your life. If you get a sponsor in AA then that person will probably advise you in certain ways. Take their advice, follow through, take action. Make positive changes. Take suggestions from people that you trust in recovery and put their ideas into action. This takes humility. It is hard to do and no one really wants to do it. No one wants to listen to other people and follow orders. But if you do this then your life will get better very quickly. You will amaze yourself if you take directions from others. Life will get better in a hurry.
That is a quick guide to early recovery. Is it bulletproof? Yes and no. It is not a sure plan because it all comes back to willingness and personal responsibility. You can tell anyone to do these things and if they follow through or not is entirely up them. Some people are just not done drinking yet, they want more pain, they want more misery, and there is nothing that you can do to stop them. Just look at how many people come to a rehab center, but then decide that they would rather not do all of this work, and it would be far easier to just go back out there and drink some more. This happens all the time, in fact, it happens more often than not. Most people who show up to treatment decide that they are not done with their addiction yet. That is just how it goes. Apparently when you reach a point of willingness when you are ready to go to rehab, you are not necessarily at the point of willingness where you become willing to do anything and everything to recover.
So take note: It is not about being willing to attend rehab. That is not enough. Most people who attend rehab end up struggling again.
Instead, the key is that you have to be willing to do anything and everything to recover. Your willingness must go far beyond being willing to attend rehab. It takes more than that.
That is a crash course in early recovery. Make a decision, disrupt your habits by going to rehab, and be willing to put in the hard work.
Follow through is the key when leaving treatment
As I mentioned it is actually pretty easy to go to rehab. It takes courage to get there, yes. But once you make the decision to go it is actually very easy. You just show up and do what they tell you to do, and it all works out fairly nicely. It is easy to be in treatment.
The key, of course, is what happens after you leave rehab.
They try to prepare you for this moment. The whole point of treatment is to prepare you for when you are no longer in treatment.
Therefore you have to learn something while you are there. You have to take action, you have to be willing to listen and learn, you have to be willing to apply the concepts.
When I first went to treatment I had not yet surrendered to my disease. Actually this happened twice, I found myself in rehab two times when I had not fully surrendered.
But quite honestly, I did not know this at the time. I thought maybe I was ready. Could the rehab center make me want to not drink? Could they take away my desire to get drunk every day? I was willing to play along and find out. The answer, it turned out, was no. They could not “cure” my addiction, because I did not want to be cured at that time. But I did not know that, so I did not realize that it was pointless to be there at that time. So I stuck it out, played along, went through the motions. And later I drank again.
What was wrong? I hadn’t surrendered fully. I was still hanging on to the fact that I wanted to drink medicate myself. And perhaps most importantly, I was not willing to do the follow through. One treatment center was telling me that I had to go live in a long term facility for up to 90 days after I left the short term rehab.
I thought this was crazy at the time. Ninety whole days of my life they wanted! I was outraged. I said to myself: “I may as well be in prison if I am in rehab for 90 days!” It’s like a death sentence!
I was being ridiculous, of course. It turns out that 90 days in rehab is actually no great sacrifice, especially if that leads you to a lifetime of sobriety. Later on, after I surrendered fully, I would eventually stay in long term rehab for 20 months! And I was perfectly OK with it at that point, because I had truly surrendered then.
So what changed? Why was I outraged at the idea of being in rehab for 90 days at one time, and then later on I was just fine with staying for 20 months in a facility? What changed between those two points of time?
Pain. Misery. Suffering. Between those two points of time, I went through so much pain and misery in my addiction that I became willing to accept any solution in order to get help. In fact, I became so miserable and desperate in my alcoholism that they could have told me that they were going to fix me by sending me to prison for 5 years, and I think I would have agreed to that. I just didn’t care any more. I had been utterly defeated by my addiction. I was miserable and I had no fight left in me. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. And that is why I was willing to go to long term rehab for 20 months, when a year previous to that I had been totally outraged and offended by the concept.
It’s all about surrender. The difference is that I finally surrendered, and became open to a new solution in my life.
If there is a no-fail plan, then it is contingent on this concept of surrender.
Surrender fully, and you have a chance at sobriety.
Partial surrender = no chance at all for lasting recovery.
What about you, have you surrendered fully to a new solution in your life? What is your current plan for recovery? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!