Overcoming drug addiction or alcoholism requires a leap of faith.
The problem is that you have no assurance that you will ever be happy again if you walk away from alcohol.
This was my problem anyway. I was afraid to face life sober. I had no assurance that I would not be miserable forever if I walked away from alcohol.
Of course, it never really occurred to me that I could “test drive” sobriety. For example, why not go to rehab and give sobriety a one year trial? If you are still miserable after one year then you can always just go back to drinking, right?
Several people actually suggested this to me. On more than one instance. But I was too stubborn to listen and learn from the idea. I was too afraid that I would be miserable in sobriety. I was afraid that I would “miss out” on too much fun when it came to drinking. How foolish was that? I was stuck in denial at the time and could not see that I was completely miserable anyway.
I mean you really have to be stuck in denial not to give sobriety a fair chance. You are already miserable in addiction, right? So what do you have to lose? And yet I could not see this logic. I thought that I was actually happy in my addiction even though I was miserable 99 percent of the time. I thought that if I quit drinking that I would be even more unhappy somehow. Of course this was ridiculous but I was stuck in denial. I could not see the truth even though it was staring me right in the face.
So at some point you have to make this leap of faith. You have to say to yourself: “I know I might not be comfortable or happy in early recovery, but it has to get better at some point.”
You will never be 100 percent ready to surrender and turn your back completely on alcohol
It is very difficult to be trapped in addiction and know when to throw in the towel.
There will never be a point in your addiction when you are 100 percent ready to abandon your drug of choice. This will never happen 100 percent.
You may get pretty sick of your drug of choice. You may become quit sick of the chaos and the misery and the negative consequences.
But understand that there will ALWAYS be a part of every alcoholic that wants to drink. Always.
I have been sober now for 13 years. There is still a part of me that would just love to go get a half gallon of liquor and get totally smashed. That tiny little voice is always going to be there. Always. It is like the little devil that sits on your shoulder and whispers into your ear.
Now let’s balance this out and be realistic. I have 13 years sober and I have taken a lot of action to try to combat my addiction. I have the little angel on the other shoulder who is also whispering into my ear. I have a lot to live for today and a lot to be grateful for. I don’t want to throw away my life and my progress on a relapse. I don’t want to sacrifice everything that I have worked so hard for in order to go back to that misery.
And today I know that the “fun” that I get from drinking or drugs is very, very short lived. It would last for a week, maybe a few days, and then I would be miserable again. It would be THAT quick. The fun would be gone in an instant, and then I would be miserable again and chasing happiness that I could never quite reach.
And I know this today. I don’t let myself forget that. A relapse might be fun for a short while, but then it turns back into chaos and misery. It just isn’t worth it.
So let’s say that you are struggling with alcoholism. You know you are an alcoholic and you can admit it to yourself and even to other people. But you haven’t quite surrendered fully yet. You have to taken that plunge into total abstinence, where you finally turn your back on alcohol forever and walk away. Where you ask for help and go to rehab. Where you seek professional help and you follow through doing the things you are told to do.
You haven’t quite made it there yet.
What is holding you back? For me it was fear that I would be miserable in recovery. I did not want to get sober and then be miserable forever.
I had a problem, in that during my years of drinking I had a few episodes where I stopped temporarily. For example, one time I ended up in jail. I also ended up in rehab a few times. And during those times I went through detox and I was not very comfortable. In fact, I was miserable because the alcohol was suddenly yanked away from me.
And so what I was doing was that I was projecting that misery from detox onto the rest of my entire life in recovery.
So when people told me that I could get sober and be happy forever, I did not believe them. Because I was projecting my experience of short term detox and misery onto the rest of my life. I thought that I would stay miserable forever if I got sober.
And I was afraid. I was because people in treatment centers intimidated me.
I went to 3 rehabs. Obviously I did not stay sober until the third rehab.
And when I was at those first two, I heard many people say things like:
“You have to want to get sober more than anything in the whole world.”
“You really have to want this. If you don’t want to get sober then it will never work.”
And so on. These things intimidated me and scared me off a bit, because quite honestly, I was worried about that little voice whispering in my ear. That voice that was telling me to just say “screw it” and go get drunk.
Because there is always this tiny part of every alcoholic that is going to want to drink.
That little voice never goes away completely.
So I was waiting for this moment that was never going to come. I was hoping that one day I would wake up and 100 percent of me would want to quit alcohol forever.
Well, that’s not realistic. If you are a “REAL” alcoholic then there is always going to be at least a tiny part of you that wants to drink alcohol.
So at some point, you have to make a leap of faith even though you still have that little devil on your shoulder, whispering to you and trying to tempt you to drink. That little voice will always be there to some extent.
What if you are never happy again in sobriety?
My biggest fear as I stated above is that I might never be happy again if I give up alcohol.
I am not sure that you can combat this fear with logic.
The logic to do so is simple. Simply give yourself a time frame, such as one year, and if you are still miserable in recovery then go get drunk again. Simple.
But of course, that kind of logic was not enough to convince me to quit drinking. I did not want to miss out on a whole year of “fun” by being sober.
Ultimately, though, I got miserable enough in my addiction that it no longer mattered. I was so desperate for change that I was willing to risk it anyway. I was willing to give sobriety a chance even though I thought that it might make me miserable.
So I dove head first into recovery. I asked for help. I went to rehab. I signed up for long term treatment. I moved into a recovery home. I did all of this because I was so sick and tired of being miserable. I was sick of being afraid.
A second leap of faith in early recovery
So up until this point I have been talking about surrender.
I’ve been talking about the person who is stuck in active addiction, and then they make this leap of faith and they ask for help and they go to rehab.
But there is another leap of faith that I want to talk about.
I encountered this during my early recovery. I might have had about 3 months sober at the time.
And I was miserable. I can remember throwing myself down on my bed one day and just crying like a baby. Because I was not happy. Nothing was working out fast enough for me. I wasn’t happy. And I did not know if I would ever be happy.
I was trying to make positive changes in my life. I was going to meetings every day. I was going through the motions and trying to take positive action. I was on a spiritual journey.
If you go to enough AA meetings you will hear someone talk about the concept that I want to tell you about here. The concept is called “Just hold on” or “Just hang on.”
They will say something like: “When it gets tough in recovery and you feel like drinking, or you feel like you will never be happy again, just hang on. Call someone, talk to someone, go to a meeting, force yourself to reach out and get help, but just hang on. Don’t go drink. Just hang on.”
This is an important concept. And to some extent it is another leap of faith. You are basically saying to yourself: “I know that things suck right now, and a drink would fix that instantly, but it would also make things worse in the long run. So I have to just hold on.”
I believe that every alcoholic and drug addict will have this sort of moment in their recovery journey. Most of us will experience this in early recovery.
Shoot, I was living in rehab for the first 20 months and going to meetings and therapy every day and I still had this experience. I still had massive temptation and cravings. I still felt overwhelmed in my recovery and I was afraid that I would never be happy again.
But I just held on. I went to a meeting that day. I talked to others in recovery. I reached out for help. It sucked, and I would not admit that it even helped me at the time, but of course it did help. And I was able to hang on and not drink for one more day.
It gets better
No one wants to hear this. I know that because I used to hear it myself during early recovery: “It gets greater, later.”
But of course it gets better.
Of course it does. How in the world would people get five, ten, twenty years sober unless it got better?
Of course it gets better.
And there is no variation among people in recovery who are making an effort. It’s not like some people are going to be happy and others will be miserable if they are all doing the work in sobriety. It gets better for everyone if you put in a genuine effort.
Of course, anyone can relapse. Anyone can coast along and screw it all up and go downhill quickly. But it’s always their own fault, their own doing, their own lack of action. Every person who relapses in recovery can look back and say “yup, this was all my fault. I knew what I was doing when I started screwing up, and I did not stop myself. It was all my fault and I accept that now.”
But that doesn’t have to be how your story ends in sobriety. You can keep living a better life in recovery, and every single year can be better than the last.
Shoot, if my life were steadily getting worse I think I would go ahead and drink. Why not? It doesn’t make much difference if you are already miserable.
But this is not the point of recovery. The point is to live, to enjoy life, to become the person you were supposed to be all along. The point is to improve your life and improve yourself so that you can serve others and build a better future. The point is that your sobriety is a gift and if you keep putting in the hard work then recovery will continue to reward you.
You don’t get to put your feet up and rest for a year in recovery. You don’t get to take your foot off the gas pedal. Well, maybe you can but all of my peers who have tried that have relapsed. The only way to keep enjoying a good life in recovery is to keep pushing yourself to make positive changes. To keep reinventing yourself.
What does it mean to “reinvent yourself?”
It means that you take on a new challenge, one after the other. It means that you keep seeking out new growth experiences. It means that you keep pushing yourself to improve your life and your life situation.
You have to convince yourself that life will get better in the long run. And that at some point your life will actually be better in sobriety than it ever was during your addiction.
This point does not happen at one week sober. Nor will it likely happen at one month sober.
It takes time. It might take a year, it might take six months, it might take 24 months.
But if you put in the hard work and you are consistent about pushing yourself to make positive changes, then eventually those changes will add up.
And that is the real payoff in recovery. Accumulation. The rewards of sobriety accumulate in the long run.
When you drink and use drugs, anything good that happens is always temporary. You are not building anything. You are not creating success and then building on top of that. You can’t do that because your addiction destroys things and tears things down.
But in recovery you have this massive opportunity. Everything good that happens in recovery is much more permanent. Because now you are sober and you are no longer self destructing. So the positive gains that you make can be built further upon. Your success can breed more success. This is amazing once you really start to experience it.
Convincing yourself to make the leap
I had to realize just how miserable I was in order to make the leap of faith.
You might be misled, and think that you have to chase after the positive benefits of recovery instead.
When you are stuck in addiction then you need to focus on the negative. That sounds totally counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? To focus on the negative rather than the positive?
But it’s true. If you try to focus on the positive things during your addiction then you will just justify further drinking and drug use because of it. See….things are good! Why change now?
Instead, you must look at the negative. Start measuring how unhappy you are in addiction. Start measuring how much “fun” you really have with your drug of choice.
Is it an hour each day? An hour each week? How much “fun” are you really having?
Keep a journal and write it down. Start writing it down every day. This is hard to do and so therefore most people will not have the guts to do it. Writing down the truth forces us to acknowledge that truth. Most of us don’t want to see it. We would rather live in denial, which is easier and more comfortable.
So challenge yourself to start looking at the real truth. How happy are you?
And once you realize that you are no longer happy in life, you will start to think about making that change.
The problem with the change is that there is no guarantee that you will be happy if you get sober.
And you will never have that guarantee. No one can promise you happiness. No one can convince you that you will be happy if you abandon drugs or alcohol.
So the leap of faith becomes necessary. You have to throw caution to the wind at some point and ask for help.
Think of it as a massive trip, a huge experiment. You are going to go to rehab, get completely clean and sober, and then face the world without any armor on at all.
How many people really have the guts to do that? Not many, I can promise you that. It takes guts to get sober.
And it will be a massive journey, a huge trip, if you really dive into the process with the right attitude and the right frame of mind.
And that attitude is:
“I am sober and lucky to be alive. What can I learn today? How can I become healthier, happier, and remain sober?”
That is the right attitude for sobriety. Go to rehab with this attitude. See what you can learn. Be open to the ideas.
Not all of it will fit perfectly. But much of it will be helpful.
And anything is better than the chaos and misery that you are finally escaping from.
What about you, have you made a leap of faith yet in recovery? If not, what is holding you back? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!