When I was struggling to get clean and sober, I couldn’t find the right inspiration to do it.
I almost did at one point. I was in treatment at the time but I had not yet surrendered. I was at an AA meeting that had been brought into the facility from the outside. This man was talking about life in recovery and how much better it was now that he was sober.
And for some reason I connected with that person. For some reason what this man was saying really hit me hard. It made sense. I got hope from it. I really believed that he had transformed his life, that things were much better for him now in recovery.
But I was still sad. I thought to myself “That’s nice for him, but I am different. I am unique. AA is not for me, it can’t help me.”
This is classic alcoholic thinking, I would come to learn later on. We tend to do that. We believe that we are the only one who has ever truly loved alcohol. We believe that no one could possibly understand what we are going through. We believe that we are the first true alcoholic on the earth, and that no one before us has ever gone through such an intense struggle.
Of course that is ridiculous. Many alcoholics came before me, some of them were even worse than I was, and some of those folks managed to sober up. So I can do it too, if I am willing to surrender and commit to serious change.
At that point in my life when I heard that man speak, I was inspired, but not enough to get past my denial. I was still stuck in my own little world. I could not, for some reason, manage to let go, to break free. I could not get past my own hang ups. I could not embrace the idea of sobriety and just have faith that things would get better in recovery. I couldn’t quite let go yet because I had not yet surrendered. I was still stuck. Inspired, but not enough to take action.
I was inspired and it gave me hope, but not enough to overcome my fear.
It was fear that kept me stuck in addiction. After that point in my life, I would continue to drink and take drugs for a few more years of misery. I just wasn’t ready yet.
What to do if you are stuck in your addiction with no light at the end of the tunnel
If you are stuck in addiction and you don’t see any possible hope for yourself, here is what I suggest that you do.
It is a bit counter-intuitive, because normally people would suggest that we “focus on the positive” in our life, right?
But I want you to do the opposite.
If you are stuck in addiction and you are miserable, then I want you to focus on the misery. That’s right. I want you to embrace the misery and the chaos in your life. Accept it, embrace it, and acknowledge it.
Mostly what we do in our addiction is that we try to convince ourselves that “it’s not so bad.” We self medicate every day and then we try to minimize our addiction, we try to minimize our drug or alcohol intake, we try to paint a better picture of reality and convince ourselves that we are not so messed up.
If you can convince yourself even half of the time that you are “not so bad” in your addiction then this allows you to justify further drug and alcohol use.
The truth is, if you are actually addicted to drugs or alcohol, that your disease is progressive. That means that it really is pretty bad, and it’s certain to get worse over time. It doesn’t get worse overnight, but it does get worse in the long run. We can’t always see the progression on a day to day basis, which is one way that the disease can be so tricky. We can fool ourselves quite easily when we have a bad drinking episode and then we straighten out for a while and lay off the sauce for a bit. Because we were able to do that and control it for a while we fool ourselves into believing that “it’s not that bad.” In truth, in the long run, we always end up losing control again and the disease always gets progressive worse.
Think of the worst consequences that you have ever experienced from your drinking or drug use. Now understand that if you continue to abuse chemicals that it is 100 percent certain that you will eventually experience even worse consequences in the future. Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not next week, but it is certain to get worse at some point. This is a certainty based on the progressive nature of addiction. It’s not like there is a slim chance that it will actually get better–that’s not even a remote possibility. It always gets worse in the long run, period. That is how addiction works. If it doesn’t get worse in the long run then you can pat yourself on the back because you were never addicted to begin with! Congratulations, consider yourself blessed and lucky. For the rest of us, addiction is progressive and it gets worse over time unless we arrest the disease by maintaining abstinence.
So if you are stuck in your addiction and you don’t know what to do or how to surrender, what you need to do is to focus on your misery.
The goal is to break through your denial.
Your denial is telling you that it’s not so bad, that you can back off a bit and control your drinking, that you can manage your drinking just fine. That is your denial.
The truth is that your addiction will get worse and worse until it kills you. So stop denying and saying “it’s not so bad” and get honest with yourself about how miserable you are.
You have a choice.
Right now, you have a choice in life. You can accept the state of misery that you are in (if you are stuck in addiction), or you can ask for help.
Those are the choices.
You cannot reject the miserable state you are in, avoid asking for help, and somehow wiggle out of the chaos and misery.
No, you are stuck in addiction. You are stuck in a life of misery. You tried to find your way out of this many times. It hasn’t worked. And that is because you don’t have the knowledge to escape from addiction by yourself.
And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up too much. I could not outsmart my addiction either. I had to ask for help.
Surrender. Break through your denial. Ask for help.
It really is that simple. If you don’t know how to surrender, then just focus on being honest with yourself. Are you happy? Are you really happy with yourself and with your life? Are you happy every day? Are you happy when you are drinking or taking drugs? What about when you are sober?
I had to admit to myself near the end of my drinking career that even when I was heavily intoxicated I wasn’t really happy. The party was over, and had been for a long time. It just wasn’t fun any more, but it was very difficult to admit that to myself.
So what you need to do is to admit that you are miserable.
In order to do that you have to focus on the misery. You have to embrace the fact that you are miserable all the time.
There is a certain amount of fear that is holding you back from getting clean and sober. Make no mistake, it is fear that keeps us stuck.
In order to move past that fear you have to be motivated. And the only place that this motivation is going to come from, is from your misery. You have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. That is the only thing that is powerful enough to get you to face your fear and ask for help.
In the end, you simply ask for help. You go to treatment, you go to detox, you call a rehab center, you go to an AA meeting. You ask someone to show you a different way to live. But in order to get to that point, in order to become willing to break down and ask for help, you have to first get past your denial.
And in order to get past denial you have to get honest with yourself. You must wake up to the fact that you no longer enjoy your addiction, that you no longer enjoy drinking every day, that you are now miserable nearly all of the time.
Breaking through denial once and for all
But how do you truly know when you have broken through your denial for good?
It is so easy to fool ourselves. To tell ourselves that “this time it will be different.” Haven’t we said that before though? How many promises have we made to ourselves?
The key in breaking through the last bit of your denial is to let go completely. To let go absolutely.
The feeling is like plunging off of a cliff into the unknown, but trusting that something is there to catch you.
I truly did not believe that anything could make me happy again without alcohol. I was afraid that I would be miserable forever if I sobered up.
But I still made that leap of faith.
Why did I do it?
Mostly because I was so desperate. I was just sick and tired of being miserable. I was also sick and tired of being afraid.
You may notice that most drug addicts and alcoholics will not even admit that they are afraid. They don’t want to admit it out loud. But anyone who is addicted and is self medicating on a regular basis is living in fear. It is part of the condition; part of the addiction. It is fear that drives us to continue to drink or use drugs. We are running away from ourselves. It takes a lot of courage to get clean and sober, to face who we truly are and what we have become.
But you have to give yourself a break when you sober up. I used to hear that phrase all the time at AA meetings: “Give yourself a break.” And for a long time I could not really figure out what people meant when they said it. But one day it hit me right, and I finally understood.
Here is what I think it means.
Every human being is struggling. Every single one of us, even those who are not alcoholics or drug addicts, we all have our own personal struggles in life. Even people who have a seemingly easy life on the surface still have unique challenges that they have to face.
So we all have challenges. And we are all just doing the best that we can.
And when you really understand that on a deep level, that we are all human, that we are all just doing the best we can, you can finally forgive yourself.
And you can forgive others. You gain this new perspective that comes from humility. Because you see that we are all human, that we are all doing the best we can, and that we all struggle in various ways. It is a moment of clarity, if you will.
And in that moment you realize that you should never be hard on yourself. You should not judge yourself harshly, because when you do, you are almost always judging a past version of yourself. A version of yourself that was only doing the best that it knew how at the time.
This is how you “give yourself a break.” So you are an alcoholic. Or maybe you are a drug addict. Whatever. You did not choose that particular life plan. Addiction chose you. And now you have to deal with it, you have to rise to the challenge and try to be responsible. So give yourself a break, you are not a bad person, you are not an immoral person, you are simply sick with this disease and now you are going to try to get the right treatment for that disease. Give yourself a break, it’s not your fault, but it is time to get serious about the treatment for this disease that has afflicted you. You did not choose to get addicted but it happened anyway and now you have to be responsible. Don’t be hard on yourself, but make a vow to start doing the work, to make the important changes. That is how you use genuine humility to forgive yourself and move forward in recovery.
Making the decision to take massive action
Every person who achieves meaningful sobriety has to make a decision to take massive action.
Of course, making the decision to do so implies that the person also follows through on that decision. Without the follow through you didn’t really make a decision at all. Maybe you had certain intentions, or you may have wished that things were different in your life, but without a hard decision nothing really happened.
It is important to note that we need “massive” action in order to turn our lives around in recovery.
A lot of people pay lip service to the idea of “taking action” or of making big changes. But when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, the idea of taking massive action is really a requirement of success. You cannot even attempt to maintain long term sobriety unless you go truly big in your efforts.
Why is this? What is it about addiction that demands such a serious effort? Why do we need “massive” action? Why can’t we just make a modest effort and succeed?
The reason has to do with the nature of addiction itself, and the extremes to which we go as addicts and alcoholics.
We are not generally wired to hug the middle of the road. Alcoholics like to go to the extreme. And unfortunately for us, recovery is a pass/fail proposition.
Let’s put alcoholism and recovery in terms of a percentage.
Let’s say, for example, that you decide to stop drinking alcohol today. Maybe you are at 10 percent.
Then you call a rehab center and make an appointment to check in. Let’s bring you up to 20 percent. This is just hypothetical, of course, but it helps to illustrate a point, so bear with me.
Then you go to treatment, you check in, you follow the rules. 30 percent.
You complete the treatment program. You cooperate and listen to the counselors and therapists. You set up aftercare. 40 percent.
You actually attend your aftercare program. You show up. You listen. You participate. 50 percent.
You start attending AA meetings every day. You do 90 meetings in 90 days. You get a home group. You make coffee for the meetings. 60 percent.
Then you get a sponsor. You work through the steps with this person. 70 percent.
You chair an AA meeting yourself. Or perhaps you become a sponsor in AA one day. 80 percent.
You start to exercise, meditate, take care of yourself in new ways outside of AA, outside of recovery, but from a standpoint of holistic health. 90 percent.
The last 10 percent? That is the journey that never ends, you never quite reach 100 percent, and you have to keep learning and growing until you die.
Now here is the kicker. If you stop doing these things, your percentage starts to dip again. And there is a line, a point, at which you will relapse.
I don’t know if that point is at the 50 percent mark, or if it is down around 30 percent, or if it is about 72 percent. I have no idea.
We all have to keep making an effort in our recovery. If we make zero effort, we are sure to relapse.
But even slacking off and lowering our hypothetical percentage is enough to make us relapse at some point.
And so this is how you have to work your recovery. You have to keep that percentage up. How do you do that?
And that is why we emphasize taking massive action. If you just do a few things here and there and hover around 20 to 40 percent in your recovery efforts then you will probably relapse.
Instead, you want to push hard and make sure you stay up around that 90 percent range. Where you are taking care of yourself every day in multiple ways. Where you continue to learn and to grow every day a bit more.
Following through where so many others have failed and relapsed
If you listen to the statistics, you might be so discouraged that you never even try to get clean and sober.
The odds, it would seem, are stacked against us. Not many people enjoy decades and decades of continuous sobriety. It’s tough to achieve.
This is no excuse though. You owe it to yourself to try, to get sober, to discover this new life for yourself.
You owe it to yourself because you have important work to do. You must heal yourself first, then go on to heal others. This is where the real inspiration comes from in recovery.
Healed people heal people, or why you need to pay it forward
One of the most amazing things that you can experience in sobriety is in helping someone else to get clean and sober.
And then, after you have done that, to watch that person that you helped go on and help others. That is really impressive.
Because you cannot help but feel good about that. A message of hope is spreading, and you had a hand in it. You made a difference. You made a positive impact.
Who wouldn’t want to feel that good?
So what are you waiting for? Are you ready to make a leap of faith into sobriety? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!