When I was stuck in my alcoholism I was very much against the idea of going to a treatment center. I just did not want to do it. For some reason I believed the experience to be beneath me. I suppose this is part of the denial. I figured that if I really wanted to quit drinking then I would not need to “lock myself up” in order to do it. My rationale was that I just did not want to stop drinking at the time. Of course this was denial. My life was falling apart and I was completely miserable and I was afraid to change. So I used the excuse that I did not want to stop drinking, even though I was desperate for change and I was completely miserable.
If you are stuck in a cycle of addiction or alcoholism then I strongly suggest that you give treatment a chance. It may not be perfect but it is better than nothing. And it just might be the starting point that you need in order to create a new life in recovery.
There is only upside when it comes to going to treatment. This is because you have to consider the state that you are coming from when you are trapped in drug addiction or alcoholism. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Right now (if you are stuck in addiction) then your life is at zero. You are miserable, right? If you are not miserable then by all means, party on. But most alcoholics and drug addicts quickly reach a point in their life where they become miserable, and they cannot seem to shake it. No matter how much they self medicate they cannot get themselves to become happy on a regular basis again. They may be happy for a moment or two each day, if that even. Their lives are dominated by misery.
Nothing can justify that existence. Why would you walk around in misery, and keep doing the same thing in order to perpetuate the misery? If you can see the logic in that then you will break through your denial. At that point you will become willing to change. But not until you have forged through this level of misery and realized that it will never get any better if you continue to self medicate.
What you need in early recovery is disruption. You need a way to flip yourself off track. A way to disrupt your pattern. A way to break out of the cycle.
What is “disruption” and why is it a part of the recovery process?
Disruption is an important part of alcoholism recovery. If you never disrupt your pattern of drinking then it will simply continue on until you die. So you need a way to disrupt your cycle and shake things up.
The primary use of going to treatment is this disruption idea. Why stay in a controlled facility for 28 days? What is the point of that? Well the first point is that you will not be drinking for 28 days straight. That is a significant chunk of time for most alcoholics. How long has it been since the typical alcoholic had a month of continuous sobriety?
This sober time under your belt is, in itself, a big part of why you go to rehab. You have disrupted your pattern.
Now the second reason that you would get some disruption from the process is by being exposed to AA meetings. The typical advice at rehab is to get you to start attending AA meetings on a regular basis. Again, this is another form of disruption. They almost always suggest that you go to “90 meetings in 90 days.” So aside from the fact that they are going to try to help you during these meetings and that you might learn something from them, it is really just another form of disruption. If you are going to meetings every day then you are also NOT going to the bar. This doesn’t have to be super complicated. The idea of disruption is pretty basic. Go to treatment for a month and don’t drink anything. Go to meetings every day for 90 days and you disrupt your old pattern of drinking.
This is the starting point of a new life in recovery. If you want to build a new life then your first task is to disrupt your old patterns of living. If those old patterns are still in place then there is no way that you can build a new life. So the key is to embrace the disruption. You can do that easily by going to rehab and then following through on the advice that they give you. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Get involved in recovery. This is more than just a learning experience. It is a diversion from your old routines. You must disrupt the alcoholism in order to find a new path in life.
Treatment may not be a cure for alcoholism but it is still the best starting point
I think a lot of people are upset by the fact that treatment is not really a cure. Our world has sort of prepared us to believe that going to a treatment center should result in an instant cure for alcoholism.
When we have other problems in life we simply pay our way out of them. If we have medical issues then we can simply pay enough money and doctors or surgeons can correct the problem. Our world causes us to assume that we can pay our way out of nearly any problem.
The reality is that sending someone to treatment is often just a starting point in a very long journey. Nearly every alcoholic has to try and fail to quit drinking before they finally find success with it. If you talk to people who are successful in recovery and ask them if they had to try more than once to get sober, you will find that nearly everyone struggled a lot at first. No one just instantly figures out sobriety and makes it work on a permanent basis right off the bat. It takes time before the alcoholic will surrender fully and really commit to change.
So even though rehab is not the cure that everyone wants it to be, it is still the best thing we have going right now. The alternatives to rehab are usually just lessor forms of treatment. For example, they may suggest that you simply start going to AA meetings on a regular basis. This may work for a select few but rehab will ultimately lead you to the same solution (of going to AA meetings). The difference is that going to rehab also gets you other forms of help and support as well.
Or someone might suggest that they simply go to counseling in order to overcome their alcoholism. OK fine. Go to counseling and quit drinking. If that works for you, great. But it never worked for me and ultimately I went to an inpatient rehab facility, which also included counseling. In other words, going to inpatient treatment is a more comprehensive solution. If you go to rehab then you will also talk with counselors and therapists. If you go to inpatient treatment then you will also go to AA meetings. So rehab is sort of the like the ultimate solution because it combines everything that might be helpful to you. Sure, you could try a different solution such as just going to counseling or AA meetings or something. But those other solutions are always “less than.” They do not measure up to inpatient rehab, which tends to include most all forms of treatment (such as counseling, meetings, detox, etc.).
Typical excuses as to why you don’t want to go to rehab, and why they are wrong
There are many excuses as to why people do not want to go to treatment:
1) “I can’t go to rehab or I will lose my job.”
I used to use this excuse myself. At the time I was delivering pizzas for a living. Silly to think that I could never get another job in the future if I were clean and sober. Or that I might not even get a better job some day if I sobered up? Those thoughts never occurred to me, apparently. Or I simply did not believe the idea.
At any rate I was paranoid about losing my job. This was because I used my job to pay for my alcohol and drugs. So it was simply a fear based response to the threat of taking away the drugs and alcohol. If you are not ready to quit drinking then fear will guide your decisions. I was not ready for a long time and so therefore I was afraid to be without a job or income.
Of course if you go to rehab and sober up then you will be in a much better position to find gainful employment. This is ultimately what happened to me in the long run and after I got sober I definitely went far beyond pizza delivery when it came to my employment.
2) “I can’t go to rehab because person X depends on me to be here.”
This is another popular excuse. Parent’s think that they have to be there every second for their kids, or that no other person could possibly stand in for them for a few weeks. Or spouses cannot imagine being apart from their spouse.
The reality is that if you are stuck in a cycle of addiction then you have really only been “half there” to begin with. Once you get sober and come back they will finally have “the real you” back in their life.
For some reason we tend to think that we are the center of the universe, and that life could not possibly go on without us. Please. The people in your life will do just fine without you. And if they don’t, then they are also going to learn a thing or two that will ultimately be healthy for them as well. A little independence never hurt anyone, and will make them stronger. You need to do this for you, and they need to be strong enough to let you do it. Don’t sell them short and believe that they cannot survive without you. That is just silly.
3) “I can’t go to rehab because I cannot afford it or don’t have insurance.”
This is total BS. Get on the phone and start calling up treatment centers. Be nice and let them know you are desperate. Ask questions. Find out what it takes to get into treatment. Ask for alternatives. Ask about grants and alternative funding sources. Ask which programs might qualify to pay for treatment. Ask if there are other rehabs in the state/country that might take you instead. Ask for phone numbers. Ask for funding agencies that might help you. Ask about what sort of assistance you should apply for.
If you are nice and persistent then you will find a way. You may not get to choose which rehab you go to, but you will definitely find help in some form. If this all fails then get yourself down to a local AA meeting and ask for help there. Ask them how you are going to get through withdrawal. Ask them if anyone can help you to stop drinking. There is always a way if you are willing.
I worked in a rehab center for over 5 years and so I know a bit about how it works. If you are nice, persistent, and desperate you can get the help that you need. You must do all three of those things though and be willing to be flexible. Nice, persistent, and desperate. Make sure you hit all three of them or you run the risk of striking out. If you do all three things then you will definitely get the help that you need, regardless of how bad your financial (or health insurance) situation is.
4) “I can’t go to rehab because I don’t do well in those sort of places or have anxiety.”
I had anxiety as well. At some point I got to the point where I was so miserable that I no longer cared about my anxiety. That probably sounds funny but it is absolutely true. I was so miserable from my drinking that I agreed to go to rehab anyway. I just wanted the pain to stop, at any cost.
Treatment is not typically a high pressure situation. Nor is it a threatening situation. The people in rehab are not there to put you on the spot or to force you to participate. Sure there will be groups and lectures and meetings. But none of it will force you too far out of your comfort zone.
In addition to this, the rehab that I worked at would actually give people non-addictive anxiety medication. And they would do this all throughout the day, all day long. I am sure other rehabs are similar. So anxiety can be managed without using addictive drugs, and you can make it through treatment.
5) “I can’t go to rehab because I need these substances in order to function.”
Some people actually believe that they will die without their drug of choice. Or that they just can’t function any more without a particular substance. Or that they will never be able to sleep again if they quit drinking. And so on.
All of this is manufactured in the mind based on fear. Of course your body has a natural state where it functions perfectly, and this natural state does not include alcohol or other drugs. If you can’t sleep then simply stay up until you are tired. You will not perish just from a lack of drugs or alcohol. Your body has a natural state of being and it will not kill you to return to that.
Giving yourself a chance at a new life
In order to build a new life you have to give yourself a chance.
If you continue to self medicate with drugs or alcohol then this erases any chance that you might have at a new life. You cannot build a new foundation if you are still stuck in the misery of addiction. You cannot make forward progress if you continue to self medicate. One step forward, two steps back. That is the result if you continue to drink or use drugs. Any forward progress that you make is instantly erased.
The key is to take positive action. That’s it. That is the whole secret of recovery. You make a positive change. Then you do it again. After a while you are engaged in “the daily practice” and you are living healthy and taking positive actions every day.
The key is consistency, of course. If you do this recovery thing for a few weeks (or months) and then take a drink, all progress is lost. You go back to the old you, instantly. And if you want the new life in recovery back then you have to go about rebuilding it all from scratch. So the first key is to not relapse. You have to be sober in order to give yourself a real chance at sobriety.
The second key is in taking positive action. I call this “the daily practice.” If you establish healthy habits and routines then this can go a long way towards a successful new life in recovery. For example, I exercise every day and I also engage in very therapeutic writing on a daily basis. These are things that I have found to have a major impact on the quality of my recovery, so I have integrated them into my daily routine.
In order to discover your own daily practice you have to be willing. You have to have energy. You have to take suggestions from other people and follow through on those suggestions. If you are not willing to explore and experiment then you will not be able to achieve this higher quality of life (and recovery).
Your life in recovery should get better and better over time. If it is not then you are doing it wrong. Start over and try again. Start taking positive action and then build on that in order to create a better future.
You should improve your life in recovery. You should work on yourself and your shortcomings. But you should also work hard to improve your life situation. This is slightly different than “improving your life.” One is about working on the “inner you.” The other is about working on your life situation and your circumstances. Both are important to address in recovery.
I have watched many recovering alcoholics who go through the motions in early recovery but then fail to take this positive action. They eventually relapse. They relapse because they were not improving their life, or their life situation, or both. They may have been taking suggestions and going to meetings but they were not pushing themselves to take action and make big changes in their lives.
You don’t just sit in meetings for the rest of your life and become sober. You have to build a new life in recovery. If you are not excited about what you are building in life then eventually you will return to the bottle. Relapse may be a disaster but at least it is exciting, right? So you need a way to become excited and passionate outside of your drinking. It is your responsibility to find that. It is your responsibility to create excitement in your own recovery so that you are not tempted to relapse.
Are you happy while drinking? What do you have to lose by trying?
For every alcoholic or struggling drug addict it is the same question you must ask yourself:
“Are you happy?”
Because if you are honest with yourself then you will realize that you are not very happy in your addiction. If you are honest then you will see that you are trapped in a cycle of misery.
There is a way out. But it takes work. It is not as easy as self medicating. It is not as easy as buying a fifth of alcohol or a bag of dope.
If you want to build an awesome new life in recovery then the choice is yours. But you are going to have to work for it.
The alternative is more misery. This is what you must realize if you are to break through your denial. Realize that you will never escape the misery if you continue to drink or self medicate every day.
It is only then that you can ask for help, and take action.