How should you go about finding alcohol addiction services? What are the steps that you should take in order to get the help that you truly need?
First of all a little disclaimer:
Before you can take any action you are going to have to get completely honest with yourself first. That means that you have to really figure out if you want to quit drinking or not.
Many alcoholics know that they should stop abusing their bodies, but they just don’t want to do it. Just because they know that they should make a change does not mean that they will want to take action. Furthermore, this definitely does not mean that the person automatically will follow through and do everything that it takes in order to overcome their problem.
There are, unfortunately, many different levels of denial. The example outlined above is for someone who is being nudged towards getting help for their problem even though they may really NOT want to stop drinking. This creates a problem because unless they are really serious about wanting to change their life they are not going to get good results. Unfortunately, recovery from alcoholism is a pass/fail proposition. Sobriety is a little bit like pregnancy. You are either pregnant or you or not. There is no such thing as “sort of pregnant.” In the same way, there is no such thing as “sort of drunk” for an alcoholic. Nor is there such a thing as “sort of sober.” You either are, or you are not. There is absolutely no in between.
Alcoholics who claim to be in between the pass/fail thing are lying to themselves and to others. They may even believe their own lie. But they are still lying, I promise you that. They may believe that they are just going to take it easy and drink a few beers each weekend instead of going all out and getting hammered like they used to. But they are fooling themselves and this is denial.
There is more than one level of denial. I personally reached a point one time when I moved past the sort of denial that I just described above. But it did not matter and it was not enough to save me from myself. You see, I got to a point where I could no longer deny that alcohol was, in fact, my main problem. I could no longer avoid that harsh truth. I had to admit it and accept it. I had to stop pointing fingers at others and placing blame and trying to justify all of my outrageous behavior and drinking. The consequences were piling up and I could no longer ignore them. I had to admit that I was a real alcoholic.
Sounds like progress, right? Well, it actually is progress. But I was still stuck in denial. Just because you are willing to admit to the problem does not mean that you are ready to live in a solution. And that was my biggest problem. I was not ready to accept a solution.
I was fighting against any and all solutions tooth and nail. Therapists and counselors were trying to get me to go to AA meetings. They were trying to get me to give the AA program a chance. They were telling me that I had to make new friends in recovery and start interacting with people in the 12 step programs. I was too afraid to do those things. I could not summon the courage to do those things when I was sober. If I was completely drunk then I would have a fighting chance at being able to make new friends in this manner, but if I had to do it sober then I was just too shy and scared to pull it off. I was stuck.
I felt like I was at the wrong age for it all, too. How could I make new friends in recovery when I was in my early twenties? Most of the people at the AA meetings were quite a bit older than I was. It seemed like a poor fit for me. So I had every excuse in the book as to why it would not work.
I told the counselors and the therapists: “Give me a solution that does not involve AA or NA.”
They couldn’t do it. They could not give me an alternative solution that would work for me. They basically said “If you want to change your life then you are going to have to give the 12 step program a chance, and go to the meetings.” But I was scared. I was terrified of the meetings, and I was afraid of being sober, and I was afraid of facing life without the crutch of alcohol.
So I stayed stuck for many more years. I kept drinking and trying to medicate my fear away. Running away from myself.
Eventually this got old. And I got tired. And so at one point I broke through a second level of denial. This was a different breakthrough than the first level of denial.
The first level of denial was: “I now realize that I am a real alcoholic.”
This new breakthrough was me saying to myself: “I now realize that I don’t know how to live a happy life on my own, and I need someone else to tell me how to do it.”
The long version of this second breakthrough was that I became willing to ask for help, I became willing to follow directions, and I became willing to face my fears and go through with recovery anyway. That meant going to AA meetings. That meant going to rehab. That meant opening up to other people, making new friends, and so on.
Of course none of that stuff is super easy. But on the other hand, don’t kid yourself either. Dying from alcoholism is not easy either. It is a tough road to travel even for those who never seek any help. You pay a price either way: If you stay drunk (and miserable), or if you go through the hard work and transformation of recovery (and thus find happiness). The choice is always up to you, whether you realize it or not. Whether you believe it is possible for you or not. Any alcoholic can recover, it just takes hard work. And it is not always very comfortable. But of course it is worth it.
So let’s see now about how to go about finding alcoholism treatment services:
Step number one: Ask for help
We sort of covered the idea of surrender and breaking through denial already.
This has to happen before anything good can come of your recovery. Without the critical element of surrender, recovery won’t even get going.
So what happens next?
The alcoholic must ask for help.
This probably sounds too easy, right? Too simple? Like perhaps it needs to involve more instruction, or be more complicated in some way?
Recovery does get complicated later on, I promise you that. But early recovery can (and perhaps has to be) simple. You ask for help and then you take the advice you are given.
This ain’t rocket science.
Now you may be getting hung up on the idea that someone out there might give you bad advice. That maybe you will ask for help from a friend or a family member and they will steer you wrong. They will send you to the wrong rehab. They will take you to the wrong AA meeting.
These ideas are ridiculous. In fact they are completely laughable in the face of true alcoholism. If you are a real alcoholic and you are in desperate need of help then it almost does not even matter who you ask or what exactly they recommend. If you are serious in your plea for help and you are honest in describing your problem then just about any outcome is going to be better than what you are experiencing now.
Even your worst enemy would probably take one look at you and say “you should go to detox.” Again, this is not rocket science. Or perhaps they will say “Go to an AA meeting.” And then when you get their if you are in truly rough shape then they will be smart enough to drive you over to the local detox and see about getting you set up for medical detox.
But don’t get hung up on the idea that if you ask the wrong person for help then everything will fall apart and somehow get even worse. Things are already worse. You are an alcoholic and you are headed for jail or probably worse (like death) if you do not make a serious change. Just ask for help and have a little trust that people will steer you to where you need to be!
This is also a prerequisite in the same way that surrender is a prerequisite. If you don’t ask for help then you are just going to keep sabotaging your own efforts at getting sober.
If you think that you can figure out recovery all by yourself then stop beating around the bush and do it. For all the real alcoholics out there, that will never work. Try as you may, you will always screw it up at some point and find yourself drinking again. The key is that you need help in order to stop. This is that second level of denial that is even trickier than admitting that you are a real alcoholic!
It is not enough to admit to your problem. You must take it a step further and admit that you need a solution. Any solution so long as it is not your own.
In early recovery you must depend on others. In long term sobriety you can reduce and even eliminate this dependency. But I do not recommend that you start out with your own ideas in recovery. Instead, use someone else’s ideas about how to live your life. Ask for help. It is the only way for a true alcoholic.
Get on the phone!
This is a very powerful step to take in your quest to get help.
Pick up the phone and call a rehab.
Which rehab? Again, stop worrying about the details. Call a rehab and start asking questions. You can’t really go wrong. The only way you can fail is if you give up entirely and go back to drinking every day.
So you get on the phone and you call up a rehab center. Ask them what it would take for you to come in and get the help that you need. Start with that simple and direct question:
“I am an alcoholic and I need help. How can I go about getting it?”
The person you are speaking to will direct you to an admissions person. That person will try to get you cleared to come into rehab. If they cannot get you cleared to come in to their particular rehab, then you have another critical question you should ask:
“Are there any other options for me as far as other rehabs or other funding agencies that might help me?”
If you want to get a complete picture of what your situation is and what your options are then make a list of 20 rehabs with 20 phone numbers to call. Try to make at least half of those rehabs be from the state that you live in (or country if you are outside the U.S.). If you ask those two questions of each of those rehabs then by the end of your research you will have a very good idea of where you stand and what help you can potentially get.
Many times it (unfortunately) comes down to funding. Not everyone has insurance or coverage to be able to get the help that they need. But even if a rehab center denies you there is almost always another avenue that you can take. In the end you may end up down at the local AA hall but this is still better than nothing at all, and it is still a potential path to sobriety for certain people. For example, if you go to a few AA meetings and ask for a show of hands for who got sober without going to rehab you will always get a few hands in the room. Not the safest path to recovery but it can be done.
The key to success on the phone is to have the right attitude. I know it can be difficult to have the right attitude when you are miserable and fighting for your life with an addiction, but there is the old saying that you “catch more flies with honey.” The person on the other end of the phone is just doing their job, remember. So if you are nice and respectful to them then it will go a long way in terms of opening doors and finding options for you. There is almost always another agency or rehab center to refer someone to in order to get them the help that they need.
Most people relapse because they do not follow through
So at this point hopefully you have gone through a process like this:
1) Broken through your denial and realized that you need help for your alcoholism.
2) Broken through a second layer of denial and realized that you need someone else to tell you how to live. You need a solution other than your own.
3) You asked for help.
4) You got on the phone and called rehab centers. You found out what your options were. You asked what it would take to get you into a treatment center. You explored options. You persisted until you found some help.
5) You went to treatment.
So now you are at the point of follow through. This is where recovery is made or broken. Many, many people get to this point and then still end up relapsing.
I know this to be true because I worked in a rehab center for 5+ years. I watched many people go out the doors and then come back in later for more help. They failed and then they failed again. It was shocking to see how many people failed.
There were a few who succeeded. Those who succeeded followed through. They took action. They did what they were told to do. This was not easy by any means and when they came back to show their success they always said that it was hard. It is never easy. It was not easy for me.
Really the whole process is actually pretty much a snap until you get to the follow through.
Really all of recovery is a piece of cake until you get to “….staying sober for the rest of your life.”
That is the tricky part. Although there can be a lot of fear about surrender, breaking through denial, and going to rehab, really that is all the easy part. I know that might sound crazy to you if you have never been sober before but it is true. The surrender part is easy. Asking for help is easy. Going to rehab is easy.
What is hard is living the life of recovery. What is hard is getting out of rehab and then doing the work that it takes to stay sober.
People think that they should walk out of rehab and be cured.
Shoot, I lived in rehab for 20 months. When I walked out of there I was just starting my journey, really. The real work was just beginning. I had a ton of growth that I needed to make yet. I had not even really scratched the surface yet, and I had worked with a therapist for almost two full years while living in rehab!
Treatment is not a cure. It is only the tip of the iceberg. The real work in recovery takes years.
In order to remain clean and sober, you have to keep reinventing yourself over and over again.
In order to stay sober in recovery you have to keep peeling back those layers and finding out what really makes you tick. Over and over again. It’s tough! It is uncomfortable. But if you don’t do it then eventually some of that stuff that is buried under there is going to come out later and push you towards relapse.
Some people have more stuff buried than others. But even if you have very little “garbage” floating around in your subconscious, you still have a huge challenge ahead of you in recovery. We all have a challenge. We all have to improve our lives and our life situation. If you do not continuously reinvent yourself in recovery then eventually you will go back to your drug of choice. It is as simple as that. You either move forward or you move backwards. Recovery is pass/fail.
Establishing your success in long term sobriety….one day at a time
After you find this path of personal growth you are well on your way.
Consider how far you have come:
* Follow through.
* Personal growth.
And now you are nearing the end game. Except that the trick is that there is no end game. If you believe that you have finished then you just become complacent and then you relapse.
So the key is to find a daily practice. A set of positive habits that you commit to in your life. A set of positive actions that keep you healthy on many different levels.
Part of my daily practice has to do with physical exercise. Part of it has to do with spirituality. Part of it has to do with emotional balance (still working the bugs out on that one!). Part of it has to do with relationships. And so on.
There are many facets to your health in recovery.
Most programs just focus on spiritual health. This is a mistake in that it leaves you vulnerable to relapse in other areas. Addiction and recovery is a holistic journey, not a spiritual one. Many people figure that out a bit too late. Don’t be one of those people!