We’ve all heard the saying by now: “Rehab is for quitters.” It’s cute, it’s funny, and it gives life to the idea that we should all party on forever and just enjoy ourselves in spite of the consequences.
But what is the real truth here? Are you really a quitter for going to rehab? How does the struggling addict resolve this issue in their mind?
I can tell you exactly how it should work in your mind. When you go to rehab, you are actually starting, not quitting. You are starting to live a real life again. You are starting to care about yourself and other people again, rather than just obsessing over your drug of choice all the time. When you go to rehab and attempt to get your life straightened out, you are actually beginning a journey that is positive, rather than just ending something that was negative.
The truth is that anyone who has gone through the treatment process and then looked back on their life in addiction can see how they were actually like the walking dead when they were drinking or using drugs. They existed only to self medicate and had no real purpose or meaning in their lives. Getting clean and sober was the one thing that finally gave their life some sort of meaning and positive value.
When I was still struggling in my own alcoholism and drug addiction, I hung out with a group of other drunks and addicts who made me feel good about the way that I abused substances. These people were my “friends” and I “partied with them” on a daily basis. That was my whole life and my whole existence, and I lived for nothing else. And because I had been doing that for so long that was how I defined myself and that was how I defined my social existence. If I were to suddenly quit using drugs and alcohol, what would become of that life? I would be completely alone and I would be miserable, right? That was what my mind projected, which is partly why I stayed stuck in denial for so long.
Now the therapists and the counselors and my family members who were all pushing for me to get sober at the time, they all tried to assure me that I would make new friends in AA and NA meetings, and that I would meet new peers if I went to rehab. And at the time, this was exactly what I did NOT want to hear. But why not?
The reason that I did not want to hear that I would meet new positive friends in recovery is because I was afraid. I lived in fear and I was afraid of my own shadow and I was especially afraid of having to meet new people without being drunk or high. If we were going to get smashed on alcohol and drugs and go meet new people at a party then I might be able to handle that in my addiction, but being completely clean and sober and going to rehab and having to meet new friends was absolutely terrifying. Without the social lubricant I would have no shield, I would have no way to deal with the anxiety, with the tension. So I was afraid of the idea of having to meet new people and I wanted to stay safe and secure in my own little bubble that I was in, self medicating with drugs and alcohol and being around a familiar circle of “friends” that I would get drunk and high with.
So what changed for me? I finally got to the point in which I was so sick and tired of myself and of my own behavior in addiction that I was finally willing to face my fears about rehab.
The truth is that I had already been to treatment twice before. I had gone to rehab and given it a try and it had not worked out for me. I believe that this is somewhat typical–a lot of struggling alcoholics and drug addicts have, at one time or another, dabbled in trying to get clean and sober in their past. And maybe they have even gone to AA meetings, or maybe they have gone to a rehab center, and therefore they sort of know what to expect from the process. And so there comes a point in which the struggling addict will surrender completely, knowing full well what rehab and meetings and recovery has to offer them, and even though they believe in their heart that these solutions cannot possibly save them, they will get so miserable that they become open to the process again.
In other words, you can hit bottom and reach a point of misery in which you agree to try anything, to do anything, to go to any rehab center, to go to any AA meeting, to face any fear that you might have about recovery–just to get away from the misery and chaos that you have experienced in addiction.
This is how you become a “successful quitter” of drugs and alcohol–you decide that you are finally done with all of the misery and the chaos that comes from active addiction, and that you want something different for your life. Not that you want to be happy and joyous and free, because most addicts and alcoholics do not even believe that this freedom and joy is possible for themselves yet. But they decide that they want something different. That they want real change.
The reality is that when you quit drugs and alcohol, you are really just saying “yes” to a different reality. And that reality, at first, looks like going to rehab, going to AA meetings, and doing what other people tell you to do. That is a lot of humility to swallow all at once. It takes a lot of guts to admit that you have no real idea about how to live a successful life. But this is the humble admission that you have to make if you want a different reality for yourself.
I can remember thinking, at the height of my denial, that I just wanted everything to be different. I just wanted all my addiction to go away. And yet I was not willing to do the work, I was not willing to face the fears and the anxiety of going to rehab, of going to AA, of having to meet new friends and to build a new life.
Saying “yes” to recovery means that you are saying “yes” to the idea of building a new life for yourself from the ground up. It is a massive undertaking and it requires complete surrender if you are going to be able to pull it off with any degree of success. If you have any reservation about the fact that you might want to go back and party again and figure out how to maybe control your drinking or drug use then you are just leaving the door open for relapse in the future. In order to say “yes” to a new life you have to completely shut the door on that old life, and really be done.
I felt like I was really done when I asked for my family to send me back to rehab, to figure out a place that I could go, and this time it was that I wanted to go. It was no longer my friends and family pushing me to go. And so I wasn’t trying to quit, I was trying to say “yes” to a new life in recovery. This made all the difference for me because now I was able to have just a tiny bit of hope. Hope that I could build a life that was different than what I had experienced in my addiction.
And it worked. I was able to say yes to recovery, and to find a new way to live. And today I do not feel like a quitter any more, because now I have freedom and I have joy and I can say “yes” to so many new things in my life. Recovery has given so much back to me.
So call a treatment center today, and see if you can become a “starter” on a new life in recovery.