At what point should you seek out alcohol addiction treatment for yourself?
Would that be the first time that you suffer a major consequence, such as a drunk driving charge? Or the first time that your friends or family members suggest that you might have a problem?
When should you seek help for your problem?
The answer to that question, unfortunately, is actually pretty meaningless. This is because it doesn’t really matter when anyone “should” get help for themselves, because it all boils down to willingness anyway: If a person is stuck in denial and refuses to get the help that they need, what good does it really do to know that they are in need of help?
Therefore this becomes a personal journey in which you must break through your own denial.
Most alcoholics and drug addicts know that there is a serious problem going on. This dawning realization happens long before they finally agree to get the help that they need. But denial keeps them trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse. It is easier to keep doing the familiar, rather than to dive into the fear of unexplored territory. This is true even if the familiar is actually pretty darn miserable.
Which is why at some point, every alcoholic and drug addict has to ask themselves the following question:
When have you had enough misery?
When is it enough?
How much do you have to lose to your addiction? How miserable do you have to be before you realize that there has to be a better way in life? How desperate do you have to get before you are willing to ask for help?
Pride is a major issue when you are trying to work through your denial. One of the problems is that the alcoholic or drug addict has built their entire life around their drug of choice. So they are going to feel rather foolish to admit that it no longer works for them, and instead of making them happy as it had once promised, that they are now completely miserable. It takes real guts to admit that, in spite of your best efforts at this thing called life, that you are actually really unhappy and you have no one to blame for it but yourself.
This is the admission that gains you entry into recovery, and entry to a better life–you have to admit that it is all your fault. No one wants to do this. Of course we all want to act like big babies, behave like three year olds, and throw tantrums when we don’t get our way. While slightly tongue in cheek, that isn’t all that far from the truth when it comes to alcoholics and drug addicts. We are tend to be egomaniacs with an inferiority complex. We dream big, we want it all, and yet we are constantly screwing things up. We want the big rewards in life without having to pay our dues. We want a free ticket to paradise, and we thought that we had found it when we first stumbled on to our drug of choice.
Turns out we were wrong. What started out as the never ending party has turned sour. Our drug of choice did not lead us to eternal happiness, as we thought it would. At this point, if we continue to self medicate with our drug of choice, we are in denial. This is true even if we fully admit to ourselves and to others that we are addicted. It is not enough to admit that you have a problem, not if you continue to medicate yourself. At that point you are still in denial of the solution. You are in denial of recovery. You are denying yourself a new life in recovery where you would not be so miserable.
I know what was holding me back–I did not believe that I could be happy in recovery. Take away my drugs and alcohol? No way. I would become even more miserable, if that were even possible. That is what I believed anyway. The fear of sobriety was enough to keep me stuck in denial for a long, long time. I did not want to face my fears and anxieties without the bottle. I wanted to stay safe, comfortable, and fully medicated. I wanted to float away on a blissful cloud and not have to worry about all of these potential headaches in sobriety. Why couldn’t life be easier?
So I continued to run and hide from myself, from the truth, from the person that I had become. I wished for a different life, but I did not want to do the work to create sobriety. I did not want to face my greatest fears and confront the person that I had become in my addiction. I much preferred to avoid sobriety. I wanted to stay hidden forever, hiding from myself and from the truth.
And so I became more and more miserable. I tried to medicate my way to happiness, and the alcohol and other drugs only worked some of the time. In the end they did not really work at all. Let me explain that more fully.
When I first discovered drugs and alcohol they worked perfectly. Meaning that I could drink some booze and use some other drugs and I would feel really great for a long time. It lasted for hours and hours, mostly for the remainder of the night. It was one big long party. It did not take a whole lot to get me going and keep me going. I fell in love with my drug of choice because it worked very well for me. And it fixed the parts of my personality that held me back–for example, I was normally shy and alcohol gave me a bit of courage.
As time went on, the party got shorter and shorter each day. I reached a point where I could no longer get to that super happy feeling again at all, unless I took several days off from drinking.
So I did that for a while. I would go for several days without taking any drugs or alcohol, and then I would go get a ten dollar supply and go nuts for one evening. And it worked great. I was happy as could be during those times, even though I had to gut it out for a week of sobriety in order to prepare for that moment.
The problem is that I could not sustain this pattern of only drinking and taking drugs for one day out of the week. Eventually it became two days and then slowly it grew into a daily routine again. And when you do the same thing every day then eventually it loses its luster. It was no longer special. If you are drunk all the time it is no longer fun. This is the curse of addiction and alcoholism. It seems so fun when you first discover it, and then when you try to stay medicated all the time, the trick becomes far less effective. Suddenly the novelty is gone and the magic has worn off. They have a name for this, and that is “tolerance.” If you drink and take drugs every day then it becomes far less exciting. In the end you have to take drugs just to feel normal, just to avoid being sick. They call this “dependence.” It can happen with nearly any drug, including alcohol, and this is how addiction removes all the fun out of getting drunk and high.
So at some point you have to ask yourself if you have had enough misery or not. You might also ask yourself if you can ever get those “good old days” back, when your drug of choice was always fun, always a good time, and nothing bad ever really happened. If you think you can get those days back then you are probably mistaken. I figured out that I could recapture that old feeling of euphoria, but only for one day out of each week or so. Then I had to grind it out for 6 days of white-knuckled abstinence, and I was completely miserable for that entire time. And in the end, I noticed that my feeling of euphoria kept getting shorter and shorter, even when I stuck to just one day per week. What once lasted for an entire evening now only lasted for an hour or two. Tolerance is the thief of addiction, then you want more and more to get that same effect. To extend that buzz that you crave. And eventually you realize that you can never take enough drugs or booze to fully satisfy your cravings.
And that is when you need to make a decision. When you need to realize that it is never going to get any better if you keep medicating yourself. That is when you must realize that there is no escape from misery if you keep drinking and drugging. There has to be another way.
That other way is to go through the (temporary) pain and discomfort of withdrawal. Go to treatment. Go through the painful transition where you learn how to live a normal life again, and your mind and body get used to enjoying a normal life again, without the need to self medicate.
Letting your consequences dictate your decision to get sober
If you let your consequences dictate your journey into recovery then you may never get sober.
Just think about the alcoholic who dies in a car crash before they ever have a chance to sober up and get help. Of course they could go ask for help at any time, just like yourself, but it is a matter of willingness. We all think that we are immune to a fatal car crash, that it would never happen to us. Yet many have died from drunk driving, and that doesn’t have to become your fate.
Some people find AA or religion, but only after they end up in prison. Some people are serving very long sentences in prison when they finally discover the spiritual principles that might save their life and lead them out of the madness. Wouldn’t you like to still have your freedom intact when you discover how to rise above the misery of addiction? Not everyone gets that chance.
If you are relatively healthy and relatively free (i.e., not in jail or prison) then you should consider yourself lucky. Take advantage of this opportunity and use it as a springboard to a new life. There are thousands of people who are trapped in prison right now who wish that they could have a chance to turn back the clock, to do things differently, to face their fears and give sobriety another chance. But their fate is sealed because they did not have the courage to get clean and sober when they were still free. Do you have that courage?
The “yets” in addiction
Everyone has certain “yets” in their life, especially when it comes to addiction.
For example, I had never killed anyone while drunk driving in my car. And the key word here is, “yet.”
In other words, whatever terrible fate you can think of for the typical drug addict or alcoholic, that is a potential future event for you are anyone like you. Maybe you haven’t landed in prison yet, but that is merely a “yet.” It could happen some day. And if you get cocky about it and say that it is impossible, then you might one day regret taking that stance.
I know this is true because I went to treatment 3 times in my life during the course of my drug and alcohol addiction. And at my first treatment center I heard someone talking about the yets. And I thought to myself “that person is stupid, of course I haven’t done this or that, and I’m not going to, ever.” They were only trying to scare me off and intimidate me into getting clean and sober, and it wasn’t going to work on me!
Well, the joke was on me. I went back out into the world, I relapsed, and then I actually did a few of those things that I said that I would never do. So the phenomenon of the “yets” came true for me. I thought I was immune to it, but I was wrong. My addiction caused me to do some things that I said that I would never do. I said, for example, that I would never try hard drugs. I said that I would never drink and drive. I ended up doing both of those things, and quite frequently I might add.
So if you find yourself saying “well, at least I have never ________” fill in the blank, then you should realize that this is just another case of the yets. And it should serve to be a warning sign for you, because you are essentially trying to rationalize and justify your addiction by saying “it’s not that bad yet.”
Well, the bottom line is–it gets worse. A whole lot worse. And the only solution is to abstinence, and recovery.
What to do in order to get the help that you need
So let’s assume that you have made a decision to seek help for yourself. What do you do?
The first suggestion that I would make to you is that you pick up the phone and call for help. Call up a treatment center and start asking questions. The first of which might be something like “What do I have to do in order to get in there?”
Most treatment centers will do whatever they can in order to help you gain admission to their facility. They are there to help people, period. That’s the whole point of rehab. And you may have to jump through a few hoops in order to get into treatment, but those hoops are well worth it.
To be honest, you may even go to treatment and then fail completely. I did this twice. The third time, I finally got it. I finally cracked the sobriety code. The solution was willingness. I had to be desperate enough for change to be able to really listen to people. In the past I had clung to my own ideas and tried to do everything my own way. That never worked. So I had to ask for help, I had to ask for advice, and I had to let other people show me how to live instead. This worked for me.
You may not be ready for all that. Some people wish for a better life, but they are not yet ready to do the work that is required. This is quite common. It is fairly typical for an alcoholic or a drug addict to accept that they have a serious problem, but not to accept a new solution into their life. That is normal. The solution, in this case, is to keep going until you become desperate enough that you are willing to take direction.
Are you willing to let someone else tell you how to live your own life?
Then chances are you are not quite ready for recovery yet. Don’t feel bad about this, don’t get upset with yourself. We all have to surrender in our own perfect time. I do not necessarily believe that surrender is a choice. I think it happens when you have finally had enough pain and misery in your life. You will reach a point where you just are sick and tired of everything and everyone. You will wish for it all to go away. You will wish for a reset button on your entire life. This is the kind of desperation that can produce real recovery. If you are not there yet then you still have some work to do. You may need to experience more pain and misery. It is only after going through all that pain and chaos of addiction that we become willing to face our fears in recovery.
What your approach to addiction treatment should be like
You should be eager and willing to learn. You should soak up new information in recovery like a sponge. You should take advice, take suggestions from other people, and test new ideas in your recovery.
Your life becomes an experiment. Some of the stuff that you try in early recovery will help you out a great deal, and some of it will not. But you need to give yourself a chance to discover the answers.
You cannot do this by guesswork. You cannot just give your opinion about what you think will help you. That ship has sailed. You thought drugs and booze would make you happy, and you were dead wrong about that. Time to try something different.
So you take suggestions. You talk with a sponsor, a therapist, a counselor. You get ideas, you test them out. You give these ideas a chance to work. 90 meetings in 90 days. Writing in the steps, in a journal. And so on. You try new things out and you discover what works for you and what does not. And then in the end you look back and realize that you are living a new life in recovery, thanks to the willingness that you had to take these new suggestions.
There is never a wrong time to seek treatment. Even if you “fail,” it may just be a stepping stone on the long road to recovery, a necessary lesson that will set you up for success later on. If you are willing to get professional help for your problem, by all means, go do it.
Does anyone have the willingness to reach out for help today? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!