Does it make sense to put your faith into alcohol rehab centers to help you recover? Or does it make more sense to trust your own intuition over that of getting help from others?
When it comes to recovery the choice is clear to anyone who can see their progress in retrospect:
You need all the help that you can get.
There are several reasons for this.
The first reason that you should error on the side of going to rehab is due to safety. Many people do not realize this but alcohol withdrawal can actually be fatal. Not taking a drink can actually kill a person. Not to mention that some people will encounter seizures when they stop drinking. This is even true of some people who are detoxing in a medical facility. So the detox process is very serious and is nothing to mess around with.
Second of all the odds and the statistics are stacked heavily against the newcomer in recovery. If you look at some data you will realize that you need all of the help that you can possibly get. Of course the data is often conflicting depending on the source but the trends are very clear: Most people do not stay sober after leaving rehab. The vast majority have relapsed within a year or less, and only a slim percentage will enjoy lasting recovery. You can imagine what the odds are for alcoholics who don’t even attend treatment at all. Again, you need all of the help that you can get.
If you look at your own personal struggle with alcoholism it should also be clear to yourself that you are going to need outside help. In fact, the need for outside help is really what defines alcoholism to begin with. If a person does not need any outside help then it simply means that they do not have a problem and therefore they are not labeled as an alcoholic. We only apply the label of “alcoholic” when a person cannot stop drinking under their own power. So if you can stop on your own then good for you, “our hats are off to you.” But that is not really what defines alcoholism. The disease is defined by a lack of control. Therefore if you want to change your life and get help then you are going to need to go into some sort of facility that can help to control you for a while.
Why I avoided treatment for so long
I personal did not want to give up this control. I was stubborn when I was stuck in denial. I did not trust anyone else or any program to take control of my life for me. Therefore I equated rehab with prison. In my little mind there was really no difference between the two, because they both represented a huge loss of control for me.
So I avoided treatment. Even after I went to rehab twice and relapsed afterwards (both time), I still avoided the idea of treatment and did not want to give up control of my life to others.
An alcoholic wants to keep self medicating just as they have been all along. They don’t want anyone to try to change that or disrupt their pattern. The guiding principle here is one of fear. Most alcoholics are not comfortable admitting that either, but it is fear that keeps them stuck in their cycle of addiction. Going to rehab represents a huge fear that must be overcome. If the alcoholic truly has no fear about rehab then they would go willingly when it is suggested to them by others. My friends and family continued to suggest that I get help but I avoided this because I was terrified of sobriety. I was afraid of rehab, I was afraid of being controlled, and I was afraid of the meetings. I was also afraid that they would turn me into a sober person who never had any fun and that I would somehow forget myself, lose my identity, and become like some sort of mindless robot. I believed that I was free when I was drinking, and that rehab sought to take this freedom away from me.
Of course I had it all backwards. This is the nature of addiction. I thought that if I could drink every day and as much as I wanted then I would be truly free. I did not realize that real freedom was about being happy without having to drink. I could not see that in my addictive state. I was blinded by the alcohol.
I was ruled by fear. I knew that if I had to face my life without alcohol that I would be miserable. This was absolutely true in the short run, there is no denying that. The first few days of detox are not going to pleasant for most people. Quitting any drug (including alcohol) is going to initially be unpleasant.
My problem was that I was projecting that state of withdrawal on to the entire rest of my life. So I truly believed that if I quit drinking that I would be miserable forever.
Your happiness is regulated internally, and it is very consistent. This holds true whether you are drinking or sober, whether you are screwed up with alcoholism or sober for several years. Your happiness is basically pretty even and static. It goes up and down a bit during your life but it tends to return to a baseline. This is important for two reasons.
First of all, you should realize that if you quit drinking that your happiness will normalize. You will not be miserable forever like you initially suspect you might be. If you maintain a certain happiness when you are drinking then you will be at least that happy in sobriety as well. You will not be miserable without alcohol.
Second of all you should realize that alcohol is a depressant. So your overall happiness and your energy level is going to increase in sobriety. I definitely did not believe this when I was drinking because I gave far too much power away to the drugs and the booze. I thought of them as being powerful and magical when in fact they were just sapping my energy and my strength.
I avoided treatment for a long time because I truly believed that I would be less happy when I was sober than I was when I was drinking.
It was not until I became completely and totally miserable from my drinking that I was even willing to consider the idea that sobriety might be an improvement. This is really insane! But that was how I was, and that was how I was clinging to my drug of choice. I really believed that alcohol was the only way that I could be happy, and that if I were to try sobriety that I would become even more miserable. Little did I realize that sobriety was the true ticket to freedom.
Personal freedom is almost always about “less” rather than “more.” It is not about attaining things. It is about elimination. If you can become happy without the need for alcohol or drugs then that is true freedom. But I could not see this perspective when I was stuck in my alcoholism. All I could see was that people were threatening to lock me away and take away my alcohol from me and thus make me miserable.
When nothing that you do works, why not take advice from others?
I would challenge you to put your faith in whatever is working well for you.
This only makes sense, right? If something works out well for you and seems to really help you, then that is where you should put your faith.
Now take a look at your own track record. If you are anything like me (as a struggling alcoholic) then it means that you have made serious efforts to try to control and curtail your drinking. If this is not the case already then you can expect that you will do this eventually as the consequences of your drinking start to pile up. Bad things happen, you lose control due to your drinking, so you try to cut down and get things under control. This may work in the short term but eventually you lose control again. This is alcoholism. It is a cycle where you fool yourself for a while that you are actually in control of your drinking again, and then eventually you lose control again. Then you crash and the cycle starts over again. You pull back and regain control for a brief while.
The alcoholic mind is thus constantly fooling itself. During the periods where you pull back and cool off for a bit, you convince yourself that you are actually in control now. In spite of the past and the pattern that you have lived through with your drinking, you determine that suddenly things must be different. Like suddenly you have gained the ability to control your drinking without any issues. “Things will be different this time….”
Or perhaps you think back to when you first started drinking. Maybe back then you were much better at controlling your alcohol intake. So every time that you crash and burn you start over from that mindset, believing that you will just take it easy for a while and go back to the way that you were when you first started drinking. The only problem is that those days are long gone. Your tolerance has changed over time and you can never go back to the way it used to be. Your disease of addiction has changed your body and your mind, permanently. It can never go back to the way it used to be.
So if you have relied on your own devices to try to overcome alcoholism, where has that got you? What are your results? I can already tell you the answer to this, because this (again) is what defines alcoholism. If you can control it without any issues at all then you don’t have a disease. You are not addicted. But if you have struggled to control your drinking then obviously there is a problem there that needs to be fixed, and it is a problem that you have never been able to overcome on your own.
At some point you have to realize that you have a serious problem, and that your own efforts are not enough to overcome it. If you can realize this on a very deep level then they call this “the turning point.” It is a moment of surrender because you have to give up. You have to give up the need for control. You have to give up the fight that you have been waging against your addiction. Because the way you have been fighting against addiction is all wrong, and it is a battle that you can never win. Most alcoholics are fighting to try to control their drinking. They are struggling to keep drinking but to keep their life under control. It is the wrong battle and the wrong question. What they need to be asking instead is: “How can I live without alcohol?” This is a much scarier question for the alcoholic to ask and they will not get to this point until they have exhausted all other options.
How to be OK with it when someone else tells you what to do and how to live
If you want to overcome alcoholism then the quickest way to do this is to simply take direction and advice from other people. Ask for help and then do what people tell you to do. It really is that simple.
In order to be OK with this in your mind you have to reach the point of true surrender. You have to give up that struggle and realize that you do not have all of the answers. You have to realize and admit to yourself that your own ideas about how to live have just made you miserable. It is only then that you will be willing to trust others.
You have to be willing to sacrifice your own ego. You must squash your ego and push it out of the way and say “I am going to ignore my own ideas for a while and listen to other people’s advice instead.”
This is what I did when I finally went to rehab to change my life. I said to myself “this is it, I am getting out of my own way, and I am not going to do anything that is my own idea. Instead I am going to live by the guidance and advice of others. I will not do anything unless someone tells me to do it. Things can’t get any worse. I am miserable enough as it is, it is time to follow a different path.”
So I had to push my own ego aside. I had to become willing to follow someone else’s ideas instead of my own.
I was not willing to do this until I had become so miserable that I was nearly suicidal. It was only when I become totally hopeless that I was able to give up control and let others improve my life.
Treatment is not a magic cure but it is certainly better than doing nothing and just hoping the problem will go away on its own
Addiction is a pattern. Alcoholism is a pattern.
If you want to see your life change then you need to disrupt that pattern.
If you make a small effort at disrupting things then you will quickly learn that your effort was not good enough. You will relapse and things will be right back at where they were to begin with.
If you make a massive effort and make positive changes every day and find tons of support and really push hard to change your life, then you might see decent results.
These are two extremes and it is important to realize that there is actually no middle ground here. If you try to find a middle ground then you will default into the “relapse category.”
In other words, the only way to remain clean and sober is to make a seriously massive effort where you dedicate your entire life to sobriety. Anything short of that is going to doom you to failure. That is just how it works based on the nature of addiction.
Going to alcohol rehab is not a magic cure by any means. Many people leave treatment and then relapse later on. That said, it is certainly better than nothing.
Many alcoholics try to comfort themselves while they do nothing to address their problem. They want to be comfortable and stay stuck in their pattern of self medicating. And while they do this they have a false hope that things will magically improve on their own.
Things will not improve magically. Addiction takes on its own momentum. You can’t stop it just by wishing it away. Instead, you have to take massive action.
There are several different things that you might do in order to overcome an addiction. For example, you might go to AA meetings, or you might go see a therapist.
But going to rehab is a concentrated form of help. It is not perfect and it is not a cure, but it is still the most powerful option that we have at this time to combat alcoholism.
There are worse things you could do.
One of them is to do nothing, and secretly hope that your alcoholism improves on its own. This never works!
The solution is to take action. Massive action. Make something happen. If nothing changes, then nothing changes.
If your life is miserable then you have no excuse not to give treatment a chance
Take a moment now to make an honest self assessment.
Are you happy?
If so, are you happy most days? Are you happy for the whole day, or just when you are blasted drunk?
And if you are happy while drinking, how long does that happiness really last for?
An hour? For two hours?
And can you achieve that happiness every single day?
What if you could be happy every single day without needing to drink at all?
I never believed that this was true, or that it could apply to me.
But now I know that it can work for any alcoholic if they are willing to take action.
Willingness is the key. If you are not willing to dedicate your life to this change then you need now apply yet. If you are hesitant then simply focus on your misery for a while. Go back to drinking every day and make sure you measure how much happiness you really experience.
It is in doing so that you can eventually break free from your denial. You need to realize slowly that your alcoholism is a dead end path that will never result in true happiness. That if you keep drinking then you will always be chasing your tail, and that you will never achieve true peace in your life.
And you have to become open to the idea that you might possibly be able to find happiness in sobriety. I never used to believe this, and that is why I avoided treatment for so long. I really did not believe that I could be happy again in sobriety. Therefore I saw rehab as a threat rather than as an opportunity.
If you are miserable now then you owe it to yourself to do a huge experiment. Go to rehab and ask for help and then take their advice. Let go of everything and simply go with the flow and see where it takes you.
It has to be better than the misery of addiction.