Should you consider rehab treatment for your alcoholism?
If you are even asking yourself this question then I would argue that the answer is a resounding “yes.”
The reason that we know this is because denial is so pervasive when it comes to addiction. It takes a lot of pain, misery, and suffering for any addict or alcoholic to even consider the possibility of going to treatment. So if you are in a position where you are actually considering it, this probably means that you really could benefit from it. The overwhelming tendency is to believe that you are “fine” and that you don’t really need professional help. We have a strong internal drive to keep telling ourselves that “it is OK” and that we can handle things, even if our whole world is falling apart around us.
For someone to truly consider the possibility of inpatient rehab they have to be really in desperate need of help. Most people are extremely adverse to “locking themselves up in rehab,” even though it may only be for a matter of weeks.
How long have you tried to stop drinking on your own?
If you are still on the fence as to whether or not you should go to treatment, ask yourself this simple question:
“How long have you struggled with drinking?”
Has it been a week? A year? Several years? Over a decade?
The longer it has been, the more I would say that you need to surrender to the chaos and go get professional help immediately.
When I finally gave up I had been struggling with alcoholism for almost a decade. It felt like a lifetime of chaos and misery. But I also know that in the big picture many alcoholics drink for far longer than that and still some of them refuse to seek help.
What have you done to try to combat your alcoholism?
I can tell you right off the bat that most every alcoholic has tried to control their drinking. They want to retain the positive side effects of getting loaded with booze while also minimizing the negative consequences. So this is pretty much an automatic given that the alcoholic has tried to accomplish this on their own. Sometimes they do this almost subconsciously so they may not even realize it when you ask them about it. “Have you tried to quit or control your drinking before?” They may have to really think about it. Or they may be in denial so deeply that they will not admit it to you. So in reality they have tried to devise a method to control themselves but because it has failed for them so consistently they will not admit to it out loud. I know this is possible because my own denial worked like this.
I held on to the stubborn belief that I had not really tried to quit drinking yet. You see, I wanted to keep drinking! I did not want to stop. So why would I really try? I had not done so yet.
But this was a lie. In reality I had experienced some negative consequences from my drinking and I had tried all sorts of things to try to control it. I had tried to switch drugs. I had tried to limit how much I drank. I had switched from one kind of booze to another. And so on. Yet I did not want to admit that any of this was actually me, making an effort to stop drinking. I later decided that none of those efforts really counted, because I had never truly wanted to stop drinking yet. I told myself (and others) that if I really wanted to stop drinking that I probably could do so quite easily. I just never wanted to.
But this was a lie. It was part of my denial. This was just something that I told myself because I was trapped in my addiction and I had to have an excuse as to why I had not stopped. Well, my solution was simple: I did not want to stop.
Or so I told myself.
Just a mental trick to try to rationalize away my miserable situation and total lack of control.
At some point I had to realize that I had been trying to control my addiction for many years, with no success. At some point I had to realize that I really was caught in this epic struggle with alcohol, and that it seemed like I could either control it, or I could enjoy it, but never both. I always had to choose one or the other. I could either have “fun” or I could stay in control. But never both. I had lost the ability to do both.
My great fantasy was that I could do both of these things. In my mind I pictured a perfect world where I could drink as much or as little as I wanted, in various social situations, and not have any negative consequences occur. Life was easy and fun and happy. No problems. No half gallons of vodka. No illegal drugs on the side. I could just medicate myself a tiny bit here and there and things would be OK. This was the fantasy that played in my head. It was a scenario where I could both enjoy alcohol while also controlling it.
Now if you looked at the last 100 days of my drinking, maybe 2 or 3 of them actually resembled the fantasy that I just described. Or they came pretty close to it. Or maybe I experienced a few hours of this bliss, where everything was right in the world and I was comfortable buzzed on alcohol but not completely smashed yet. And things were perfect.
This little “perfect moment” keeps occurring over and over again in the life of the alcoholic. This little “fantasy moment” is what keeps the alcoholic in denial. In the beginning of any addiction these moments are very frequent, perhaps even every day. But as the addiction goes on the alcoholic becomes more and more miserable, and these moments become fewer and fewer.
But they never disappear completely. This is what trips people up. Even if you are drinking every single moment of your life and you are completely miserable and out of control you will still experience one of these “perfect moments” every once in a great while. They become very infrequent but they will still happen.
And this is how denial works. The mind grabs a hold of these perfect little fantasy moments, and it refuses to let go of them. So then you have this image in your mind that gets played over and over again of the perfect drunk, the perfect situation, the perfect day. Why can’t every day be like that one? Why can’t every time you drink feel like it did on that day? And so your mind starts to place blame on things.
Your mind will decide (if you are an alcoholic) that it is something (or someone’s) fault that you do not feel that same happiness every time that you drink. Surely the alcohol itself is consistent and should produce the same results every time, right? So the alcoholic mind starts to make excuses. What is different? Well today maybe you are fighting with your boyfriend and so you blame your misery on that. The alcohol should be able to make you super happy, to return you to that moment of perfect bliss, just like the one that plays over and over again in your mind-fantasy, but your fighting with your boyfriend is screwing it all up. If only he would not be such an idiot then you could drink your alcohol and be happy.
So your brain makes excuses. If you drink alcohol and you don’t get the desired effect (desired effect = the happiest you have been while drinking in the past), then you start to make excuses by casting blame at the world around you.
This is how denial works. The alcoholic has made a decision in their mind, that alcohol is their ultimate solution and it is the one thing that can truly make them happy. Therefore if they are unhappy then there must be a reason for their unhappiness in the outside world. But no way could it be their alcoholism itself. No way could they be miserable based on their drinking. Because alcohol is their miracle drug and it makes them happy no matter what is going on in the world, right?
If you are stuck in this level of denial then you would most definitely benefit from going to rehab. One of the reasons that this is the case is because you might be able to break through your denial, at least for a bit. The longer you stay in rehab the most likely it is that you will see that your happiness is not truly linked to your drinking. Unfortunately it took me longer than 28 days to realize that I could be happy without getting blasted drunk all the time. Somewhere around the 60 to 90 day point in rehab I had this revelation for myself. It was also around that same time that I realized that I had made it through an entire day without thinking about alcohol at all. This was a miracle for me at the time. I suppose it still is.
Are you willing to listen to someone else tell you how to live?
“Am I willing to listen to someone else tell me how to live?”
Most alcoholics will answer “no,” at least at first. In fact, most people will answer “no” to this in general.
No one wants to be told how to live. We don’t like being told what to do.
But this is important if you are going to get good results in alcoholism treatment.
The reason for this is because of self-sabotage.
Nearly every alcoholic is vulnerable to this phenomenon in early recovery.
What happens is this:
You start out by trying to quit drinking or by trying to get some help for your alcoholism.
Then you realize that you really want to drink. You don’t want to stop as badly as you thought you did. Or you just really get a strong craving for alcohol.
So your mind will make it happen. Because your mind wants to take a drink it will figure out a way to make it happen. For example, say that you are in rehab and you decide that you just don’t want to be there at all and you really want to go get drunk. If this happens it is like a little switch gets thrown in your mind and then your life will become a train wreck in order to for this objective to get carried out. For example, you may realize that if you break the rules in treatment that they will be forced to kick you out. And you may also realize that if you get kicked out and it seems unfair to you then you will have the perfect excuse to go get wasted on alcohol. So you start bending the rules and causing trouble, possibly even a bit subconsciously. Some alcoholics will not even realize that they are doing this, or what their plan or purpose is behind the acting out.
This is self sabotage. It is very difficult to diagnose this in yourself because it can happen on a subconscious level. People in AA have a lot of sayings about how alcohol is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” How it can be extremely tricky. This is what they are referring to. The fact that people can trip themselves up in recovery without even realizing it.
If you go into recovery with the idea that “I don’t need anyone’s help, I can figure this all out on my own” then guess what? You are doomed to relapse. For the true alcoholic this is never going to work, at least not in early recovery.
So the solution is to “get out of your own way.” The solution is to purposely and deliberately let other people tell you how to live.
Let other people tell you what to do.
First of all, you may have to indulge this idea as a mere experiment at first. In the back of your mind you can make a deal with yourself. Here is how that deal can go:
“OK self, I am checking you into rehab. I am going to take other people’s advice for a while because my life is so screwed up right now. I reserve the right to take back control at any moment and go back to making my own decisions for myself, but for now I am going to completely relinquish control to other people’s opinions.”
Who will you listen to? Ask for help and go to rehab. Then listen and take advice from the professionals there. They will make suggestions that will lead you to other people who can help you as well (such as AA meetings, sponsorship, etc.). So you follow through and you take advice and you do what people tell you to do. You go to meetings and you seek out a sponsor and you take advice from them as well.
And here is the breakthrough:
Your life gets better.
This is why you do the experiment. This is why you relinquish all control. Your life will get better and better if you do what I have outlined here.
It is so simple to do but that does not mean that it is easy. You have to make a mental agreement with yourself first. You have to make a pact with yourself that you are going to relinquish all control and listen to other people instead of your own ideas for a while.
This is not permanent. It is temporary. But you have to do it 100 percent for a while. Really surrender. Really give up all control to other people. Let them help you. Let them direct you.
This is the entire point of going to rehab. To get help. To get new direction.
I have watched so many people who come into treatment and they are fighting like crazy to hang on. Don’t hang on! Let go. Let go of everything. Let go of your pride. Let go of your good ideas. You have no good ideas. Your best ideas are about how to stay happy by using drugs and alcohol. Those ideas don’t work. They have failed you. But you can get other ideas from people if you are willing to let go. But you have to surrender. You actually have to let go, totally and completely.
Rehab works great for people who really want it to work
Rehab doesn’t work if you don’t want it to.
This is normally a red flag for something that is a scam. I hate to say it, but this is normally a huge warning sign.
But with addiction treatment it is the absolute truth. If you don’t want it to work then obviously it is not going to work.
It is just like dieting or eating healthy to lose weight. If you don’t really want it then it is going to fail miserably. You will sabotage your efforts and eat the wrong things, or too much, or whatever. Because it is such a difficult lifestyle change, you will never be able to pull it off unless you are 100 percent dedicated to making it happen. It takes real commitment. This is going to be the case with any lifestyle change that you may want to make.
Unfortunately the inverse of this is true as well: If you don’t want it badly enough then it is not going to work.
If someone can invent a workaround for this simple truth then they can make a killing in the treatment industry. But the fact is that most people who show up to treatment are only about 50 to 90 percent “surrendered.” Very few of them are 100 percent surrendered. And this makes all of the difference. If you are in a state of complete surrender then it does not even matter which rehab you go to. You will do well. But if you lack total surrender then there is nothing that can really help you. You are headed for relapse.
So you simply have to want it to work. Without that, everything falls apart.
The key to success after leaving treatment – how to follow through
Rehab is one part disruption, one part learning, and one part follow through.
The disruption happens when you check into rehab and commit to being there for 28 days.
The learning part happens when you pay attention to the groups and lectures and meetings that you are exposed to while there in rehab. They try to teach you what you will need to do in order to remain clean and sober on the outside.
The follow through part happens on the day that you walk out of rehab. This part never ends.
Of course, this is where the real challenge in recovery is at. Can you apply what you have learned in the real world? Can you build a new life for yourself without drugs and alcohol?
Can you improve your life and your life situation? To the point where you are more excited about your new life than you are about self medicating?
That is the challenge that will last for the rest of your life. How to get excited about creating your own future.
If you want to be successful at this then you need to take action.
Recovery is all about action. If you just sit there and nothing changes then you are not going to remain sober for long. You have to do things. You have to make changes. You have to strive to improve yourself and your life.
In rehab they will give you all sorts of suggestions as to how to go about doing this. They will tell you what to do and how to go about doing it.
But it is all up to you to actually do it.
You are the one who has to actually follow through.
No one can do it for you.
“Am I ready to surrender?”
“Am I ready to take action?”