When I was still trapped in addiction I would struggle with this question constantly: “Should I attend rehab for my drug and alcohol problems?”
Actually I did my best to ignore the question altogether and try to write it off completely. I attempted to rationalize the idea of treatment away entirely by arguing that I was a lost cause, and that I had tried treatment in the past and that it did not work for me. I was afraid of the 12 step program and in particular the meetings. So I had to come up with a mental excuse that would allow me to keep drinking every day and not feel terrible about myself. This is how we attempt to justify our addiction–it is usually based on our fears. We are trying to cover up our emotions but we tell ourselves that we are drinking for other reasons. We try to preserve our ego so that we feel better about ourselves, even in our addiction.
Of course some people are still at the very beginning of recovery and they have never been to rehab at all. If this is the case then they may not even know what to expect really. And they may have all sorts of assumptions about why going to treatment may be stupid, useless, or a waste of time. I know that I had plenty of excuses for a long time, until I finally got so miserable and desperate for change that none of my excuses really held up any more. So I was forced to confront the idea that treatment might be the best path for me. But I had to go through an awful lot of misery in order to get to that point.
How long have you been trying to stop drinking or drugging on your own? Have you given it a serious effort?
Ask yourself this question:
“How long have you been trying to overcome addiction or alcoholism on your own?”
Have you gave it a serious try yet? Or have you just been sort of fooling around when you say that you should quit?
My advice is that you give it a serious try. After all, maybe you are not really a true addict or alcoholic, right? No one knows for sure and the only way to truly diagnose an addiction is to do it yourself, for yourself. Only then can an alcoholic or addict overcome their problems. Or it may turn out that you don’t really have a problem, right?
So if you find yourself bordering on denial (thinking that maybe you don’t really have full blown addiction or alcoholism) then test it out! Go ahead, I will wait for you right here. Maybe you don’t have a problem at all. If that is the case then you are home free, simply decide that you want to quit drinking and using addictive drugs and then do it. Sober up and quit all the drugs and go on about your life and be happy. And be sure to give it a serious effort this time so that you don’t have any excuses. The idea is that if you fail to remain sober after this effort, then you need to be completely exhausted as to how you could have failed. You have to be bewildered. You have to say “I gave it my best effort, I really tried to stay clean and sober, and I just don’t know what happened.”
If you go through with that experiment then it may be the case that you really don’t have a problem. You could simply sober up and walk away from all of your problems. Good for you! It has happened before. Give it a try.
But if you relapse after giving it your best shot, then you are on the brink of being able to finally break through your denial and diagnose yourself. You should be able to say “wow, I really can’t stop drinking or drugging on my own, I am a true alcoholic (or drug addict).” If you are not at this point of admission then you have two choices:
1) Go back to self medicating all the time and let your addiction continue to get worse and worse.
2) Try the experiment again and try to sober up on your own without any help.
Believe it or not, either one of these options will move you closer to the moment of true surrender. If you go back out and start drinking again then you will encounter more pain and misery in your life due to your addiction. This will move you closer to the point of change. The same thing will happen if you try to quit again on your own and ultimately relapse. This, too, will bring you closer to breaking through the rest of your denial.
I had to try and fail several times in my own journey and I had to go through a whole lot of pain and misery (those two things are really the same thing I believe) in order to get to the point where I was ready to surrender.
So I would say to someone who is wondering: “Should I go to treatment?”–have you tried to sober up on your own and failed at it? Are you completely bewildered as to how you could have relapsed, even though you had committed to making a serious effort at quitting?”
If so, then you are a good candidate for rehab. If you are absolutely beside yourself in bewilderment about how you could have relapsed, then you obviously need help. If you made a serious effort to abstain from alcohol and you have found that you had no control over your own body and you put alcohol into it anyway (against your best intentions) then this should convince you that you need serious help. But this will only work if you really gave abstinence a fair shake. You have to really try to stay clean and sober on your own first, in order to convince yourself that you really do need professional help.
Your ego does not want to admit that it needs to be locked up in a rehab just to keep its hands off of alcohol and drugs. Your ego wants to protect itself and its own selfish pride. Your ego does not want to think that it really needs rehab.
So if you just “sort of try” to quit drinking and then you relapse, your ego is still safe. It can say “you see? I was not really trying that hard to quit drinking, because I don’t really want to! If I really wanted to be sober, I could do it easily! Na na!”
So you must take this option away from your ego. And the only way to do that is to really, really try to abstain from drugs and alcohol on your own. Make a serious effort. Try harder than you have ever tried before in your life.
This is how to break through denial.
What you are doing is forcing your ego to admit and realize that it cannot overcome the problem of addiction all by itself. It needs help. But normally it does not want to admit this. So you must force the issue. You must force your ego to realize that it is powerless over alcohol.
Desperation and the moment of true surrender
Once you seriously try to quit drinking on your own and then fail, you will reach a point of desperation. No one knows exactly when an alcoholic will reach this point, and that point will of course be different for various alcoholics. Some of us have a much lower bottom than others. Do you have to lose everything before you can give sobriety a chance? Do you have to lose your job, your car, your family, your friends? Do you have to be locked up in prison before you will see through your denial? Do you have to be locked up in an institution? How low is your bottom? This varies depending on personality type. Some of us simply have a lower bottom than others, and for many people, they will not try to sober up because the alcohol will kill them first. Very unfortunate.
They have a saying in the program of AA: “That you must cling to the program with the desperation of a drowning man who has just been thrown a life preserver ring.” (Or something like that, I am paraphrasing). This is absolutely true of recovery in general. You are not going to succeed unless you have that same level of desperation in approaching recovery. You can’t just be miserable. You must also be desperate for change in your life. Some people have reached a point of total misery, but they are still not desperate for change for some reason.
And perhaps there are also people who have a very high bottom who can reach this point of desperation without being all that miserable. If so, I wouldn’t know about it, because I was fairly miserable by the time that I got desperate for change.
Anyway you must be desperate for change in order to be successful when attending rehab. I used to work in a treatment center and I watched many people come through the program who were not exactly desperate for change in their life. They may have been miserable and some of them may have really needed to make serious changes, but none of that ultimately mattered. The only thing that mattered was if the person was actually desperate for change themselves. It comes down to: “How bad do you want it?” Most people don’t want it bad enough, at least at first.
This is not necessarily a problem, that so many people come to rehab before they are truly ready to change their life. What happens is that they are exposed to the solution of recovery before they are ready, and then they leave treatment and eventually relapse. And they can look back and see that they did not follow the advice or take any of the instructions that they were taught during rehab. So they know that it was all their fault, and that they did not put forth the right sort of effort. And so this becomes part of breaking through their denial. They realize that they had tried to get help but then they rejected that help. They did not follow through.
Such a person may go to rehab several times before they finally “get it.” Because they are miserable in their addiction they want to change and they want something else in life. But are they really desperate for change? In this example the person is not desperate. They just wish that things were different. Their addiction is an inconvenience and they wish that it would go away. But they are not at the point where they are completely miserable and truly desperate for change. They lack willingness. They are not willing to do whatever it takes in order to become sober.
The best time to go to rehab is right after you reach this moment of true surrender. When you are truly desperate for change. When you decide that want out, and that you will do nearly anything to overcome your addiction. This is when you should ask for help and try to go to treatment.
Has anyone ever suggested to you that may need professional help? Or that you have a serious problem?
Most struggling alcoholics and drug addicts have been hearing this for a long time from other people. That they should get help, that they should go to rehab, that they should go to AA or NA, and so on.
This is a clue. If people in your life have been telling you that you should seek professional help, then that is a huge red flag right there.
You may try to reason this away somehow. It does not matter who told you that you need to get professional help. I don’t care if they were stupid or if they don’t really know you or whatever. If enough people say it to you then at some point you have to look at it and realize the truth. Everyone can’t all be wrong while you are stubbornly standing by the idea that you are not really alcoholic, that you don’t really have a problem with alcohol, and that if other people were in your shoes that they would drink too! This is all just a big case of classic denial.
You should consider going to rehab if more than one person in your life has suggested that you might need to seek help, or if they have suggested that you might have a problem.
If one person says this then you can easily pass them off as being crazy, or wrong. But if more than one person has suggested it then you have to pause and consider: “Maybe I really am the crazy one, and the rest of the world is sane?”
Most alcoholics believe that their drinking is justified. And they believe that normal people drink all the time too. But none of this holds up if you can get them to stop and really examine their life. The whole world cannot be wrong, if everyone is telling them that they might need to seek help for their problem.
“Normal” people don’t have consequences due to their drinking. Think about that.
If you are controlled by drinking or drugs then you can take action to get your life back
So if you are at the point where you have broken through your denial, then you must realize that you are being controlled by your drinking or drug use. In the beginning you controlled your intake, but then the drug or the alcohol took over and now it controls you instead. You drink against your will, even when you don’t really want too. Perhaps you took my suggestion earlier and you tried very hard to quit drinking on your own, and you failed.
So you reach this point where you realize that you are no longer in control of yourself. You can no longer choose to avoid your drug of choice. It has control over you.
Interestingly enough, you still have power over alcohol and drugs. You just have to make the decision to exercise that power.
And how do you do this?
It is a bit counter-intuitive.
You must surrender. You must give up.
You must say to yourself “I admit that alcohol has completely defeated me, and it has control over me. I need help.”
You have to realize this at the core of your being. Really grasp it. This is true surrender.
Then you simply ask for help, and follow through on what people tell you to do.
You have lost control over alcohol. So the solution is simple: You let others control you for a while.
Really, it is just that easy. Go to rehab for 28 days and submit yourself to the control of others.
Guess what will happen? You’ll be sober for a month!
Really, it is not so hard. Just submit yourself to the control of others and you will be able to overcome alcoholism.
Remember when I was talking about your ego, and how your ego is fighting hard to maintain its pride? How your ego does not want to admit that it has a problem at all?
So you can see how this comes down to killing your ego and pushing it aside. How you must put your pride on the shelf in order to ask for help and go to rehab.
Staying sober is actually pretty easy once you have pushed your ego out of the way. Because then you can listen to other people and do what they tell you to do.
Inconvenience and cost for treatment are a non-issue compared to the benefits that you receive from sobriety
Rehab has a cost to it. Treatment is not free.
Many alcoholics and addicts use this as a point of contention. They argue that rehab is not worth it, or that the cost does not justify the benefit.
So they remain stuck in addiction, and fail to take action regarding their problem.
This is ridiculous.
The cost of treatment is completely irrelevant when you weigh it against the benefits of sobriety.
Now of course, if you go to rehab and then you relapse, all of these assumptions fly out of the window. The cost becomes a factor because you did not get the result that you wanted (which is why it is important to surrender first before you go to rehab!).
But if you attend treatment and you remain clean and sober for the long run, then practically any cost is justified.
They do an exercise in most treatment centers where you add up all of the money that you have spent due to your addiction. This includes both direct and indirect costs. So direct costs may be all of the money that you spent on the alcohol itself. But indirect costs may be lost wages after getting fired from a job. Or legal fees that you may have incurred due to your addiction.
For nearly every alcoholic and drug addict who has been using for multiple years, this total cost is almost always over six figures. For long time alcoholics it is usually over a million dollars.
So you might do this yourself, and sit down and really try to figure out how much money you have spent on the entire life of your addiction. What it has really cost you over the years financially (keep in mind too that there are other costs, other than just financial ones).
When you compare these sort of figures to the cost of treatment, it is hard to believe that people feel like they are getting ripped off.
You can’t put a price on sobriety. Especially if it lasts a lifetime.
Taking the first step to get help
If you have reached a point of surrender in your life then it is time to ask for help.
Ask your friends or family to help you get into treatment.
This is the simple and direct path to get started on your recovery journey.
Sure, there are other ways to go about it. But none of them are as direct as being in treatment for 28 days.
Ask for help, take advice. Push your ego out of the way. Follow through.
This is the start of your new life.