Marie writes in and asks: “What does it take for someone to turn their life around and beat drugs and alcohol?”
Good question, Marie…I’m glad you emailed me and asked that. I’ve been discussing this very idea with others lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to hit bottom first. Now I could be wrong on this, and it might be the case that some people can draw themselves up out of the misery of addiction without sinking so low, but I really don’t think so. I’ve talked to hundreds, maybe even thousands of addicts over the last few years (I work at a treatment center), and I don’t think I ever met someone who was excited, enthusiastic, and positive about starting a new life in recovery.
No, when they get to detox, when they first check in to treatment, it is not in hopes of pursuing the positive. They have hit bottom, and are desperately seeking to avoid the negative. Addiction is pain. People are sick and tired when they check in, and they are tired of living in fear and running from their emotions and draining themselves of their life energy by abusing drugs and alcohol. I know this to be true because I know what it feels like to “check in.”
For me, hitting bottom meant that I became indifferent about my own life. I was indifferent to my circumstances. Treatment? Sure. It probably beats jail. That was my attitude…and I think that’s what it takes to finally surrender to your addiction and start healing. You really have to run out of steam, to be broken down completely. Otherwise, why would you “give up?”
Surrender is important. What does it mean to surrender? It means that you are broken down and you have hit bottom and you become willing to accept someone else’s solution to your problem.
Surrender means that you stop struggling and fighting and manipulating to stay on the roller coaster of addiction. You let go of the need to constantly medicate yourself and become willing to face the fear of living sober. It takes guts, in my opinion.
Getting to this point is still a mystery to me. I wish I could tell you how to do it, or how to help someone else to get to the point of surrender. Perhaps the best we can do is to try to learn more about how to deal with addicts in our lives and to make sure we’re not enabling them in any way. This might help to nudge them towards the point of surrender a bit quicker. Sometimes we have to let people fall down; to suffer some consequences. It takes what it takes.
At any rate, Marie, don’t give up hope. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.