It is not uncommon for an addict alcoholic (or anyone who is struggling with drug or alcohol addictions) to be completely at a loss as to what they should do to get help.
Obviously the key is that you need to make changes, you need to get help, and you need to find a way to help yourself. Unfortunately, when you are stuck in a cycle of addiction, all of those tasks seem overwhelming and next to impossible.
Luckily there is a solution. The solution is not easy, and I do not believe that it is particularly simple either. I am in the minority with that opinion. If you ask people in AA or NA or various other recovery programs, they will tell you that it is not easy but that it IS simple. I disagree. I believe recovery is complicated. I believe addiction can be quite complicated as well. To say that the solution is difficult but “simple” is to do recovery a disservice. Recovery is complex and involves many different levels, layers, barriers, and challenges that have to be processed. Sometimes there are multiple challenges going on at the same time for the newly recovering addict or alcoholic.
For example, one individual who is just starting to try to find their path in recovery may be struggling with such issues as:
* How do I have fun in my life without getting drunk or high?
* How do I summon the courage to socialize with people and act normal again while sober? How to overcome my anxiety without self medicating?
* How do I detox safely?
* How do I find support in early recovery where I can also learn how to build a new life for myself?
* How do I replace all of my friends that I drank and used drugs with? (Everyone is telling me that they were not really my friends, which is an obvious lie!)
* How do I reach out and ask for the help that I really need without my ego getting in the way?
* How do I surrender if I am not ready to do so yet?
* How do I work in recovery and earn money when I cannot do my job without being drunk or high?
These are just examples, and they are also just representing a tiny fraction of the issues that a newcomer might be facing. This could all be overwhelming just one single person in recovery, at the same time!
And to think, the people in many recovery programs try to preach to the newcomer that “this is a simple program for complicated people.” The nerve of such people. If you don’t see any complexity or the potential to get overwhelmed based on the list of potential issues above, then you are not paying attention. Or perhaps you just had a really easy time in addiction and did not have any major problems or issues to speak of? I kind of doubt that though. We all have problems in addiction and the addiction itself creates even more problems….hence the complicated nature of recovery.
So do not minimize the process of recovery. Do not try to convince me that it is simple. Simple might involve having a 3 step program, but not a 12 step program. Twelve is complicated, trust me…it is overwhelming to the newcomer.
So if you are struggling with addiction or alcoholism then I have a few suggestions for you. They are not easy and the process is not simple by any means. In fact it will be a tough and wild road if you care to embark on the journey. I can promise you though that it is well worth it. At the end you will find joy, peace, and contentment. But it ain’t easy and it ain’t simple. It takes work.
Here is how you can get things started. Your first task is to break through denial.
Breaking through your denial is the key to a new life in recovery
Every addict or alcoholic who is still stuck in their disease is actually in denial.
What exactly are they in denial of? Usually they are denying the fact that they are actually miserable while using their drug of choice. They deny this misery and instead they hang on to the memory that they have of when it was fun to use their drug of choice.
In the beginning it was fun for every addict and alcoholic. Later on it became much less fun as tolerance built up and the window of drunken pleasure slowly closed up forever. What do I mean by that?
In the early days of your addiction you may have started drinking early in the afternoon and you could be drunk and have fun and be jolly all night long. This would last for hours and hours. Maybe at the end of it all you would pass out or black out. Good times.
Later on in your addiction after you have become a full blown alcoholic you may notice that you are not having as much fun. Your denial will attempt to obscure this fact. But really measure it. You will drink all day and all night and you will find yourself miserable rather than dancing around and laughing like you used to do. Then at the end of it all you may pass out or black out, the same as before. But of course at that point there is no more “fun” left to be had. You’re out for the night. Wake up tomorrow and do it over again. The only problem is, instead of having fun and laughing and being “drunk” and happy, you just drink and drink all night until you pass out or black out again. Your “window of drunken happiness” is forever shrinking.
The alcoholic is in denial. They deny their misery. They deny the fact that this window of happiness is shrinking. They deny the idea that they might be happier if they were clean and sober.
Everyone thinks that denial is about diagnosing yourself. “I don’t have a problem!” says the alcoholic. That is only the classic definition of denial. The trickier definition that you need to worry about has to do with your misery and happiness.
If you are a struggling alcoholic then your job is to stop being in denial. You must see the truth.
That you are miserable in your life when you are drinking or using drugs.
How can you break through denial?
By increasing your awareness. It is not enough to just agree with me and say “yes, you are right, I am miserable most all of the time.” You must start to recognize it for yourself, each and every day.
Start measuring. Measure your happiness. Measure your misery. You have to be honest with yourself to do this. Most people don’t have the guts to really find this out. Because they know that deep down, their happiness is entirely their own responsibility. But the typical alcoholic or drug addict is busy pointing fingers at other people in their lives, trying to determine why they are not happy in spite of their drug or alcohol use. They blame others for their unhappiness rather than their addiction. This is denial.
I’ll tell you what to do: Start writing a daily happiness journal. Write down each and every day how happy you are in life. Keep drinking if you life, but make sure you keep logging your happiness. This will be eye opening beyond all measure if you take it seriously. After a few weeks or months you will be forced to say to yourself:
“You know what? This isn’t working. This drinking and doing drugs every day is not really making me happy like I thought it was. This is not what I wanted in life. It is not working any more like it used to work. I want something different.”
But you have to do a LOT of soul searching to really get to that point. It’s complicated stuff. Follow my suggestion and start writing about your happiness every day. See if you really are happy when you drink. How often you are happy. How long you stay happy for.
Alcoholics and drug addicts quickly realize that they are miserable 99 percent of the time (hence, chasing that next drunk or high all the time). This is the nature of addiction.
If you are struggling with denial, then start writing. Start keeping track of your happiness. Start measuring just how effective your drug of choice really is.
Asking for help and taking direction
So you are struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction and you have taken my suggestion above. Are you cured yet?
Of course not. I mentioned that this was complicated, and difficult. So there are more steps to this. But I promise you that it is all worth it in the end.
Your next step is to ask for help. Now obviously anyone can do this while trying to manipulate others, but you have to ask for help in a different way here. You have to be coming from a place of total surrender.
This is why you had to break through your denial first. So that you could surrender fully. After you break through your denial, you are then ready to ask for help, and to be sincere about it.
So when you ask for help you are truly willing to follow through. You are willing to go to any lengths. If you call a hotline and they tell you to go to rehab, you go to rehab. If you ask your friends for help and they drag you along to an AA meeting, you go to the AA meeting. And you do it with an open mind and a willingness to learn and to change. If you are not able to do these things then back everything up and go back to the start of this article again, because you did not probably break through all of your denial. You must still be clinging to something that is holding you back from the change that you need to make.
I know that there are different levels of “asking for help.” Let’s just highlight a few examples so that we can see what we are really talking about here:
* Asking for help by trying to extract money from your family or friends so that you can buy more drugs or booze. Manipulation.
* Asking for help so that you can feed your infant kid after you blew all your money on drugs. This is more manipulation.
* Asking for help but putting all sorts of conditions on it. “I won’t go to that particular rehab.” Or “I will get help but no rehabs or AA meetings.” Ridiculous. This is still manipulation on some level.
* Asking for help and being willing to do whatever it suggested by friends and loved ones. Being willing to take suggestions. Being willing to follow through. No longer fighting for control. This is not manipulation.
There is an easy way to settle this if you are arguing with a struggling alcoholic or addict. Simply tell them that you will never, never help them on their own terms….you will only them them on YOUR terms. In other words, they have lost the right to even attempt to manipulate you in any way. You refuse to play the game. If they want help, then they have to do exactly what you say (get them to rehab if they are agreeable to this sort of boundary setting…which is exactly what it is: setting a boundary. Different from an ultimatum).
So you are struggling and you break through denial. You surrender to the fact that you cannot drink or use drugs successfully. You realize that it only leads you to misery. You decide that you really want something else in your life. So you ask for help, and the people who respond to your plea tell you to go to rehab. They direct you to professional help. They take you to AA. And so on. This is the start of recovery, if you are willing to be open to it and follow through with it.
If you are truly ready to change then you can not do much better than going to rehab
If you have reached this point in your journey then it is time to seek professional help. I would urge you to go to rehab for a number of different reasons, the most important of which are:
* Rehab typically includes a medical detox, which can be a huge point of safety.
* Rehab gives you instant structure and support.
* Rehab gives you a safe environment. There is zero chance of relapse while you at an inpatient facility.
* Rehab gives you access to counselors, therapists, and others who can help you with potential complicating factors. For example, referring an opiate addict to a pain management clinic so that they don’t go back to painkillers (their drug of choice).
* Rehab sets you up for success with aftercare recommendations.
And so on. This is why I argue that recovery is necessarily complicated, because addiction is complicated and our lives are a tangled mess of interactions. It is not as simple as “just quit drinking.” If it were then why is the problem so darn persistent? The solution is not simple, if it were then then 12 step programs would have far fewer steps (keep in mind that many of the potential issues outlined in this article are not even addressed by the 12 step program at all…for example, pain management in an ex-opiate user, etc.).
Yes, addiction and recovery are both necessarily complicated, no matter how badly the veteran spokesperson for AA wants for them to be simple and tidy and neat so that he or she can feel secure in their recovery.
Going to inpatient rehab gives you a fighting chance against this overwhelming complexity.
True, there are other solutions for recovery. You could simply wander into an AA meeting and never drink another drop in your life. You could read just the right book about recovery (or website for that matter) and get lucky in much the same way. But I would not count on these outcomes from such a trivial amount of effort. Recovery takes work, and lots of it. It takes serious dedication. It takes massive action.
If you doubt this then I want you to do me a favor. Ask anyone in recovery who has several years of sobriety if it was easy when they first got sober. Ask them if they had to try only a tiny little bit, or if they in fact had to try really, really hard. Just ask them that. Make sure you phrase the question appropriately so that you don’t get a misleading answer (like recovery may not be easy but at least it is simple!)
People who are established in their recovery will tell you that they have had a very difficult journey. They will tell you that getting through early recovery was very challenging. Most will agree that it was the most challenging thing that they have ever done in their entire lives, period!
Given that fact, don’t you think that the greatest challenge of your entire life would also require…..the greatest effort?
Hence, massive action.
Don’t expect to just accidentally trip and stumble into sobriety one day. This stuff takes serious effort.
Hence, rehab. Give yourself every advantage you can.
How to get the ball rolling and get the help that you need
So in order to really get the ball rolling I suggest that you do three things, in the following order:
1) Break through your denial by measuring your happiness and misery each day. Do this every day until you are sober. I strongly suggest a journal format and writing down your feelings each and every day. If you don’t do this then you will just keep living and staying stuck in denial and you will never realize how miserable you really are in addiction.
2) Ask for help. The details of this are not important. Call a rehab. Ask a friend. Tell your old sponsor you need serious help. Call a drug hotline. Reach out and ask for help. And really mean it.
3) Follow through. Do what they tell you to do. If you are a mess like I was then anyone who has any competence at all will steer you into rehab or professional treatment services of some kind. Go do this. Go with willingness and an open mind.
There is one more thing on the list of important things to do here and that is a lifelong journey of learning and personal growth. It is difficult to teach that to someone in a 28 day rehab and it is even difficult to teach it in a 2 year long term rehab.
This is why a certain percentage of people in recovery end up relapsing, even after they may have been clean and sober for many years.
They get lazy. They stop pushing themselves to be better people. They stop learning. They stop growing.
We call this “complacency.”
If you get complacent then you might relapse. Simple as that. It might happen after 3 years, it might happen after 30 years.
And, it does happen.
So your final step in the process of recovery is to take a pro-active approach to this problem. The only way to really do that is to constantly reinvent yourself in recovery. Push yourself to improve your life. Push yourself to learn more and more about yourself. Push yourself to become a better and better person. Push yourself to improve your health, in every area that you can find (including physical, spiritual, emotional, socially, etc.).
This can be overwhelming as well if you completely slack off for years at a time. But if you follow any sort of program in recovery (doesn’t matter which one, so long as it is loosely based on taking positive action every day) then you will build up a daily practice that can lead you to success in recovery.
You become what you do every day. This simple truth ruled your life in addiction. And guess what? It rules your life in recovery as well.
So explore your world, and find the actions each day that lead to a more positive future for yourself.
Hence, the daily practice. This is the endgame of treatment (though everything is process).