One of the most important things that you can do, especially in early sobriety, is to take advice from other people.
Yet no one really wants to do this.
There are a number of reasons that we turn away from this concept. One is simply pride. We like to believe that we are smart. And based on data I have seen, most alcoholics and drug addicts are not stupid people. They are of average or even above average intelligence in most cases. So it is not surprising that they generally do not like to seek out advice from others on a basis of pride.
The struggling alcoholic has a trust issue when it comes to listening to others. We don’t always believe that they have our best interest at heart. OK, we may admit that they care about us, but we still wonder if they could possibly know what is actually going to make us happy in the long run.
This was the selfish angle that I was coming at the problem from. I believed that others wanted to help me recover, but I did not necessarily believe that they knew the path that would lead me to happiness. And that was what I wanted. I was measuring my success in life by how happy I was all the time. This was the mindset that led me to get trapped in alcoholism in the first place. I wanted happiness and getting drunk seemed to work well at this, at least at first. Of course in the long run it stopped working so well, but my denial kept me stuck for a very long time.
So when I finally got to the point of surrender I had to start listening to other people. I had to start taking advice. This was not an easy thing for me to do. Because I had been living for so long in addiction with a very different mindset–that of ignoring other people’s ideas and only using my own.
When your own ideas start to lead you astray in late addiction or alcoholism
When you are trapped in addiction it is just you against the world.
Sure, you might try to get others to do things for you, or to help you in certain ways. This is normally just manipulation though. The alcoholic or drug addict is just looking for ways to keep the madness going. How can they maintain their life and continue to self medicate? Sometimes we need help in order to do this. Those that “help” us during our addiction are really enabling us to continue the madness.
This mindset and this attitude leads to a certain kind of selfishness. The alcoholic isolates themselves further and further from “normal” people who are not addicted. Because essentially the normal people do not understand him, they cannot relate to him. And so the alcoholic clings to the idea that they are the only one who knows how to produce happiness in their own life, everyone else just wants to take away their drug of choice and force them to be miserable. It is them against the world.
Unfortunately your own ideas when you are stuck in addiction are just going to keep leading you in the same circle. This only ends up with more chaos and misery and pain in the end. Of course denial is the veil through which the alcoholic cannot see clearly; they can’t see that their drug of choice has betrayed them and that it only makes them miserable now instead of leading them to happiness like it did in the past.
Timing is important when you look at your addiction and your denial. The alcoholic or drug addict is stuck in the past. Their drug of choice used to work great. It used to make them happy at the drop of a hat. It used to give them pleasure without too many negative consequences. In the past, their drug of choice and their experience with it was nearly perfect.
And they want to go back to that. They cling to that perfect memory. So they design their life around this fantasy, on just getting back to that point where everything was perfect.
This is how they give themselves advice in addiction. They are taking orders from their new higher power, which is their drug of choice. Their decisions are based on the fantasy of what getting drunk or high used to be like in the past. Back when it was perfect. That is what dictates their behavior.
So their brain tells them what to do. They take their own advice. Of course anyone who is truly stuck in denial cannot really see the denial for what it is.
Let me clarify that for you:
I was in denial once. I was drinking every day and I was an alcoholic and I needed to go get help. But I refused to do so and I wasn’t at the point of surrender yet.
But I thought I was smart. I told people “Yes, I know I am an alcoholic. I can’t stop on my own. How can I still be in denial? I don’t deny it! I’m a drunk, I admit it!”
First of all, what difference does it make if you label yourself as an alcoholic if it doesn’t prompt you to do anything about it?
Second of all, I was still in denial. I can see that now. However, there is more than one layer of denial.
I was admitting that I was a drunk–that part was fine. I knew I was alcoholic. Big deal.
But I was still in denial about the misery that I was living in. I was still telling myself that I would be happier in addiction then I would be in sobriety. I was still lying to myself about how happy I was every day. I was in denial about the pain and misery that my addiction was causing me.
THAT is what my denial was all about. I could not see that I was living in fear and pain and misery every day due to my drinking and drug use.
So this is the denial that I had to break through eventually. I had to fully accept this pain and misery in my life and realize that I wanted something different. I had to face the fear of recovery rather than to keep enduring the pain of addiction.
This is how my own ideas and my own advice led me astray. I thought that I was maximizing my happiness by drinking and taking drugs every day. But I was in denial about how miserable this was making me. And so I could not get any help until I became willing to admit just how miserable I had become.
And once I reached that point I had to ask for help, and trust others. Because my own ideas weren’t working for me any more. My own ideas and my own advice was nothing but a disaster.
I needed some new input. I needed a new path in life. And I couldn’t trust my own ideas for this. My own ideas only led to more pain, misery, and fear.
But what if you don’t trust anyone yet? How can you take advice from others that you do not trust?
If you don’t trust anyone then you do have a problem.
But it is not an impossible problem to solve. Really your issue is still one of denial and surrender.
Because you see, when you don’t trust anyone to help you get sober, what you are really doing is trusting yourself over others.
So it is not so much that you don’t trust others, it is simply that you trust in yourself too much.
Stop doing that.
Your trust in yourself has got you what exactly so far?
If you measure your success in any way, you will see that refusing to trust in other people is NOT helping you.
Just look at how miserable you are. Look at the state of your life today. These were things I had to consider when I was at the end of my rope in addiction. My life was a mess and I was living in fear and misery every day. I hated myself and I no longer cared about life in general.
And all of this came as a result of trusting in myself and ignoring the advice of other people.
If you are struggling with addiction or alcoholism, then you are in a position where you have only been trusting yourself for a long time.
So the question is:
How’s that working out for you?
Do you like the results that you are getting in life?
I sure didn’t. I was miserable. I hated myself. I stopped caring about life. I was miserable and wanted to stop existing.
That is where my alcoholism and drug addiction led me. That is what trusting in myself got me in life. I was completely miserable.
So at some point I had to throw caution to the wind.
At some point I had to make a decision about this trust issue.
I had to say to myself:
“OK, trusting myself and ignoring others is not working out for me. I am miserable and I am sick and tired of living in fear. I want a different path in life. Therefore I am going to have to ask others for help and listen to their ideas.”
This is surrender.
You surrender to your disease when you realize that you cannot beat it on your own.
You surrender to your addiction when you realize that you are going to need help in order to overcome the monster.
We can’t do it ourselves. If we could, then we would not be addicts or alcoholics.
Think about that for a moment:
If a person can just stop on their own, then we don’t even diagnose them as being addicted to anything. If there is no problem, then there is no problem. They simply self regulate their drug or alcohol intake, and avoid negative consequences. They are not addicted because they can control it easily on their own.
With a real alcoholic or a real drug addict, this simply can’t happen. They try for years or decades to control it on their own, and they fail. This is what defines addiction! The fact that they cannot stop on their own.
But they can still stop. Anyone can stop if they are willing to ask for help. You can’t do it alone.
You can’t do it alone.
That is what defines addiction. If you could stop on your own then we don’t label that as addiction or alcoholism.
Those are just our definitions. That’s how we label these things.
And so this should hopefully help you to get honest with yourself. Have you tried to stop on your own? Have you failed? If so, then you probably need help in order to stop.
And there is nothing wrong with that. Accept that your own ideas haven’t worked. Accept that you need advice and direction in order to beat the addiction monster.
Taking advice from others gives you the advantage that you need to beat an addiction.
There is a very specific reason for this.
It has to do with processing power. Your brain is a computer, and you can only do so much with it. Therefore you want to focus on the things that count.
Reducing mental overhead and allowing yourself to execute on the things that really matter in early recovery
So what really happens when you take advice from others in recovery?
It is a power boost of sorts. You gain tons of extra power when you take advice from others.
Let me explain.
First let’s assume that you try to do it all on your own. You don’t want any help in recovery and you just want to figure it all out by yourself.
This is technically possible but it is so difficult and cumbersome that it doesn’t make any sense.
When you “figure recovery out on your own” you actually have two major jobs in your life every single moment of the day:
1) You must decide what to do.
2) You must take action and do things.
Think about this carefully for a moment.
If you are going to figure out recovery all by yourself and do it without any help whatsoever, then you really have two jobs. One is figuring out what to do, and the second job is actually doing it.
Now I have news for you:
You can’t do both of these jobs!
Or if you can, you won’t have any mental energy or time left in your life for any kind of fun, any kind of social life, etc.
Because both of those jobs are enormous. They both take a great deal of mental energy.
So when you are struggling in your addiction and you decide that you really should stop drinking, and you try to figure it all out on your own, this is what you are doing. You are trying to do both of these jobs all by yourself. One job is to figure out what you need to do. And the second job is to execute and actually do stuff.
But then of course as you do things, even if you convince yourself to take positive action, you are still going to be second guessing yourself constantly. And this is mentally exhausting.
Because think about it: Have you ever recovered successfully on your own before? Of course not! So are you going to be confident that you are doing the right things? No, you won’t be.
And that will be mentally exhausting.
Furthermore, they have done some studies recently that show that this mental exhaustion will take away from your ability to execute and actually take positive action. In other words, researchers have proven that if you have to agonize over figuring out what to do that you will have less mental energy with which to follow through and actually do it.
Every person only has a limited and finite amount of willpower, of mental energy, with which to use.
And when you try to figure out recovery all on your own, you are splitting your mental resources far too thin. It doesn’t work.
But there is another way.
There is a better way, a way that allows you to use ALL of your mental energy on execution, on taking positive action.
The shortcut to wisdom
The shortcut is to take the two jobs in recovery (figuring out what to do, and doing it) and outsourcing one of them entirely to someone else.
Now you can’t very well outsource the second job. That is the job of actually taking positive action and making real changes in your life.
Unfortunately you have to do that job yourself. No one can stand in and do that job for you. The execution in recovery is all up to you.
But the other job is “figuring out what to do.” The other job is essentially “what actions to take.”
This you can outsource.
And I am telling you that this is a huge secret to success in recovery.
Put your pride up on the shelf for a moment and realize that you are fighting for your life here.
Make a decision, right now, that you are only going to listen to advice from others that you trust in recovery for the next year.
For one full year, ignore your own ideas. Ignore your own advice to yourself. And commit to only taking advice from people that you trust in recovery.
People like therapists, counselors, sponsors, or peers at an AA meeting (who you trust and look up to).
This is the shortcut to wisdom.
Because if you make this decision and commit to it fully then you are essentially “getting out of your own way” in recovery.
Now you free yourself up to execute. Now you free yourself up to stop wasting mental energy on wondering if you are doing the right things in recovery.
You don’t have to guess any more. You can just follow directions. Follow advice.
Now if you would have suggested this to me when I was still stuck in my addiction I would have been horrified.
I would have said “But then I will be like a robot! I won’t have a will or a mind of my own! How terrible!”
And that was my fear talking. That was the fear that kept me trapped in denial and stuck in misery for so long.
Because here is the truth:
I finally became miserable enough in my addiction that I no longer cared. I stopped caring about myself entirely. And so I reached that breaking point of surrender where I became willing to face my fears and ask for help. So I went to rehab and I started to follow directions. I got out of my own way and I started to listen to the advice of others.
And I made an agreement with myself to ignore my own advice for one full year. I would become the robot. I would only listen to others and never to my own ideas.
So I start doing this and I start living this way and within a few months I have this realization.
Suddenly I have power.
I felt so powerless when I was struggling with addiction. I felt so powerless when I first got to recovery and started taking advice from others. I felt powerless and nearly hopeless.
But here I was, still in my first year of sobriety, and I suddenly realized that I had power again.
I had a lot of power. And I wasn’t even miserable! And this was a miracle.
And I realized that by listening to the advice of others that I had gained a whole lot of power in my life.
I thought that it would make me weak to listen to others, I thought that I would become spineless, like a robot who could never think for himself again.
But in reality, taking advice from others had opened up a whole new world of possibility for me. I had options now. I had power. I could do things, make decisions, create whatever I wanted in my life. And it was all because I got out of my own way and started taking some basic advice from other people: Go to rehab, go to meetings, live healthy, get good sleep, exercise, work through the steps, write in a journal, meditate, help others in recovery, and so on and so forth. People had given me advice and I had acted on it. And my life changed fairly rapidly as a result.
What about you, have you taken advice from others in your recovery journey? How has that worked out for you? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!