There comes a certain point for every alcoholic and drug addict in which they realize that their life has become totally dark and miserable. Of course this is due almost entirely to their addiction but many of us stay in denial and instead we blame it on other things. “If things would just go my way for once….” But in reality, bad things happen sometimes even to the best of people, and life will inevitably have some ups and downs for nearly everyone. As alcoholics and drug addicts we tend to play the victim in such cases so that we can justify more drinking and self medicating. But the reality is that we tend to bring our problems on to ourselves and then attempt to blame others, blame society, blame anyone except for ourselves and our addiction.
The never ending spiral of despair and negativity in addiction
Addiction is progressive. It just keeps getting worse.
There is a tendency to have a “case of the yets” in your addiction. So an alcoholic might say “well, at least I haven’t gone to jail yet.” Or they might say “well, at least I haven’t progressed to shooting drugs with needles yet.” In every case, there is an implied “yet” at the end of their statement, even if they don’t say the word “yet” out loud.
No, things aren’t as bad as they possibly could be…..yet.
But it gets worse. It always gets worse if you continue to self medicate with alcohol or other drugs.
And you don’t necessarily have to branch out and try other drugs in order for addiction to destroy your life. In fact, you can stick to one single drug of choice, such as plain old beer, and still manage to ruin your entire life, lose your family, lose everything that was even important to you, and even get yourself outright killed due to your addiction. It doesn’t have to go any further than boring old beer necessarily. For many alcoholics and drug addicts it certainly WILL go further than that, but the point is that it doesn’t have to. Addiction can kill you with a very singular focus using just one simple drug of choice. That’s all it takes.
We start out by drinking to have a good time. It makes us happy. Drinking is truly joyful at first. This is how we get hooked, of course. It is actually fun in the beginning.
But it ceases to be fun at some point. The problem is that we cling to denial and tell ourselves that it is still fun, or that taking a drink at just the right time or in the right amounts can still bring us instant happiness.
When I first started drinking alcohol I was amazed at the stuff. I was amazed at the buzz. This was happiness in a jar. I could create instant happiness in my life, even if I was having a bad day. Even if I was stressed out over something. Even if I had something negative that was haunting me at the time. I could forget all of my worries. I could erase my problems for a while. It was magical.
And then it stopped working. That’s what alcoholism does–it gets worse. It progresses. So eventually it stopped being fun, it stopped being magical. It no longer alleviated my fears and my anxieties. It stopped doing its job. Alcohol stopped doing what I wanted it to do, which was to make me instantly happy and make me forget all of my worries. Later in my disease I could get drunk and I was still living in fear.
Ultimately this is what drugs and alcohol are used for–to assuage your fear.
Every alcoholic and drug addict is, to some extent, living in fear. Most of them will not admit to this. Or they cover up their fear with so much anger or other negative emotions that they will not even acknowledge the fear that is underneath of it all. But the fear is there all the same, and that is what they try to cover up with their drinking.
Eventually the negative consequences of drinking and drug use create its own problems. The fear is then compounded by the fact that your life is slowly spinning out of control due to addiction. The addiction itself becomes the main driver of fear and despair. I can remember being down on myself as an alcoholic and feeling sorry for myself and feeling bad, and then drinking as a response to that feeling. I was actually drinking alcohol because I felt so bad about being an alcoholic! I am not making that up. This is a very common cycle in addiction. Every alcoholic eventually reaches a point where they are medicating themselves and their feelings because of their addiction, as a result of their addiction.
The fear is driven by their addiction and its consequences, and they try to cover up this fear and medicate by drinking or using more drugs. Talk about a vicious cycle.
So this negative spiral just gets worse and worse. You feel bad that your life is falling apart due to addiction, so you drink or use more drugs. That is the basic problem right there once the fear starts to compound on itself. And there is seemingly no way out for the alcoholic because they are, of course, terrified of sobriety as well. More fear.
So how do you break out of this cycle? How do you escape from fear, despair, and desperation?
How to say goodbye to the negative side of addiction forever
The moment of true surrender is how you say goodbye to this negative side of addiction.
It is the moment that you case fear aside and decide to face your deepest fears head on. This is the turning point. It is the point at which you abandon the self and decide to take a chance on sobriety, on asking for help. It feels like jumping off a bridge or out of an airplane. It is a true leap of faith.
This is because the alcoholic has no assurance that it will work, that they will ever be happy again, that they could ever become sober and not be totally miserable. They have no assurance of this. Therefore it is a leap of faith.
On the one hand they are living in total fear and misery, and things just keep getting progressively worse. They drink to cover up their fear and their negative emotions, and even that has ceased to work so well any more. The alcohol stops working and it is harder and harder to deny that they are living in fear and misery. Something has to change.
So the alcoholic will hopefully, at this point, make a leap of faith.
The way to do that is fairly simple, though that does not make it easy by any means.
The alcoholic must ask for help, then follow through and take direction.
No one wants it to come to this. The alcoholic has typically fought for years to prevent this from being the solution. But this is how you overcome all of that fear and negativity in your addiction. This is how you take a shortcut to wisdom. You ask for help.
It is as simple as that: The alcoholic asks for help. Of course in doing this, it is implied that the alcoholic has reached that point of total and complete surrender. They are done fighting with their addiction. Without that total surrender, asking for help is merely more manipulation. It is playing games. The only way it is not playing games is if the alcoholic has hit bottom and is truly ready to change.
How do you know when an alcoholic is done playing games?
When they take suggestions without protest. When they are willing to do things your way, rather than their way. When they are willing to go to rehab and follow directions. When they are able to abandon the self, get out of their own way, and actually listen to other people. Those are the indicators that show they have finally surrendered internally.
Nothing less than 100 percent full surrender will save them. Nothing less than that will allow them to overcome their addiction.
This is how you make the leap of faith. You have to get out of your own way, ignore your own decisions and impulses, and listen to someone else 100 percent. That is why they call it “faith.” When you make this leap of faith you are not following your own ideas–those are no good anyway. Your own ideas only lead to more drinking and drug use at this point. No, you must listen to someone else if you want to recover. You must put your faith somewhere else, other than in your own self and your own ideas. This is why I say you have to “abandon the self.” You have to stop listening to your own brain for a while and your own impulses that get you into trouble. Put your faith elsewhere. Anywhere. It doesn’t actually matter that much, so long as you are asking for help and taking positive action and direction in your life. Go to rehab. Seek professional help. Seek treatment. These are simple directives that work, but only if you have hit bottom and surrendered to your disease 100 percent.
Following through on your commitment to a positive life
After treatment you start to rebuild your life, one bit at a time.
You do this by taking direction. By following advice. By taking positive action.
Recovery is all about change. If you take a few dozen of the negative things in your life and turn them all into positive things, over time this will have a cumulative effect on your progress and your outcomes.
Alcoholism recovery is about changing your habits. You used to have a habit of drinking in order to deal with life and to deal with problems. You need to change that habit in particular, as well as many others. First of all you have to stop using alcohol as a solution, because it no longer works for you. It stopped doing its job so well.
So maybe you go to rehab and you sober up. You stop putting drugs and alcohol into your body. In the short run, this is enough to start the positive changes.
In the long run, however, this is not enough. More is required to remain sober in the long run. If you want to overcome the darkness of addiction, you need to start building new light into your life. Positive changes are protection against relapse. Your life will shine the brightest if you are actively pursuing personal growth and positive change.
I have a theory about relapse prevention. That theory works very well for me in my own life and it helps me to explain why some people relapse while others remain sober. That theory is that if you are pushing yourself to engage in personal growth on a daily basis then you are well protected against relapse. If you stop pushing yourself towards personal growth for too long then eventually it leads you to problems.
Recovery is personal growth. Think about the changes that are made when you first get clean and sober. Everything is a decision towards better health. What is the decision to stop drinking anyway, other than a decision for better health in your life? Why quit drinking at all? We do it because we want to live, to be happy, to become a better person. We quit drinking for our health. For life.
So we need to extend that idea in long term sobriety. You quit drinking alcohol and putting chemicals into your body, OK great. Now what next? How do you extend that idea? You do it by seeking new ways to be healthier in your life, new ways to become a better version of yourself, new ways to reach out and help others and make a difference.
If you want to say goodbye to the darkness then you have to step into the light.
Once you are sober and stable in recovery, how do you keep stepping into the light? How do you continue on your journey away from the darkness?
What it takes to remain clean and sober in the long run
First of all it takes vigilance. You might need peers around you in recovery to help keep you in check. It is easy to drift back into our old behaviors, even after many years of sobriety. As they say in the NA literature: “We are each other’s eyes and ears in recovery.” So maybe your friend in recovery can see you doing something that might eventually lead you to relapse, so they warn you about it. This is one way that we help each other to remain clean and sober.
So the connections that we build in recovery are important. We want to surround ourselves with healthy and positive people. We want to surround ourselves with people who are trying to grow, trying to improve themselves, who will also encourage us to do the same. We want inspiration rather than drama.
Stepping into the light, at first, is about removing the darkness. This is counter-intuitive. This is also why the 12 steps of AA focus on self honesty and cleaning up your character defects. If you want to step away from the darkness then you have to remove the darkness that is within yourself.
How many alcoholics relapse because they have resentments inside of them that they never properly dealt with? Lots!
How many alcoholics relapse because they are consumed with self pity eventually and give themselves every excuse in the book to go take a drink? It happens.
How many alcoholics feel so much shame and guilt and they never learn how to process it or let it go and so it consumes them and drives them back to the bottle? You get the idea.
There are all of these negative emotions in our lives. We all have some of them, maybe not all of them, but each of us has our own personal struggles. So we have issues like fear, hurt, resentment, self pity, shame, guilt, and so on.
Every single alcoholic and drug addict will have at least some of those things going on inside when they first get clean and sober.
So if you want to say “goodbye to the darkness of addiction” then you have to do the work and actively eliminate that stuff from your mind.
How do you do that though?
One way is to work through the 12 steps of AA. Get a sponsor who seems to know what they are doing, who is happy in life, and work through the steps with that person. If you are thorough then this is a very good way to “do the work.”
There are other ways though. I did much of the work myself outside of the 12 steps. I talked with therapists, talked with my peers, wrote in a journal, discussed my issues in online recovery forums, and so on.
The problem is almost always one of willingness, however. You should not worry that you are doing the work wrong; you should only worry as to whether or not you are doing it at all. There is a saying: “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” If you are genuinely willing to do the work that is necessary to stay sober then it is likely that the right doors will open up for you to do so.
It is not so much about walking into the light. Rather, it is about removing the darkness. This takes work. You have to get honest with yourself and be willing to get honest with other people as well. Most people need at least some help from others in order to do this sort of work in their recovery.
Hitting the crossover point in early sobriety
I can remember when I was in the first few months of my recovery and I was still quite miserable. I was still in the darkness.
I can remember burying my face in a pillow on my bed and crying because I thought that I would probably end up relapsing. It all seemed so futile. I was still sober, but I did not have much hope in that moment. Because I was so miserable and frustrated and I did not think that it would get any better.
They have a saying in recovery: “Just hold on.”
They have another saying: “Just hold on to your sobriety even if your butt falls off.”
And there are times when that is definitely applicable, when that is real wisdom. That moment when I was crying on my bed and I had maybe 90 days sober was one of those moments. I had no other solution at that moment other than to just hold on. That was all I could do. Was to hold on and cry for a while.
And it worked. A few weeks later, I have no idea on the exact timing really, things were looking up again for me. I very quickly reached a day that I refer to as “the crossover point” in early recovery. That is the point at which my happiness on a regular day of sobriety exceeded the happiest day of my addiction.
Think about that for a moment. Within the first year of my recovery, I reached a point where every single day was better than my best day during my drinking. Every single day.
How could you say “no” to that? How could you ever abandon that and go back to drinking and misery?
And this was a miracle for me because I really did not believe that happiness was possible. I thought I would be miserable forever in my sobriety. I imagined that at some point I would become sad enough in sobriety that I would just go and drink and be miserable in addiction again.
But it got better. I learned how to step out of the darkness, how to do the work, how to push myself to make positive changes. And eventually this allowed the light to shine into my life. And I was happy again.