It is never the perfect time to quit drinking.
There will always be an excuse why you should hold off and just try to quit at some later date.
What you need to realize though is that your mind actually creates excuses for you out of thin air.
The same phenomenon happens when an addicted smoker attempts to quit smoking cigarettes. The story is always similar:
The person gets to their quit day and so they start to practice total abstinence. They have sworn off their alcohol or their cigarettes or whatever it is they are trying to quit. They may be trying to achieve total abstinence in their life for the first time.
Then, reality hits. New drama appears in their life at just the wrong time, giving them the perfect excuse to continue using their drug and to avoid abstinence for one more day.
“Today just wasn’t the right day to try to quit” they might reason.
Another popular saying that exemplifies this phenomenon is “I picked a hell of a day to quit drinking!”
The truth is, it does not matter what day you choose. You could try to quit drinking today, tomorrow, or five years from now–it does not matter from the standpoint of how much drama is in your life.
What you will find is that if you try to quit drinking, and fail (thus trying many times to quit drinking over several years) is that every time that you try to get sober, life happens. At first you might believe that this is just bad luck, or Murphy’s law taking it’s toll on you. But ultimately you will learn over time that there is always drama, there is always one more crisis, there is always something that will make you say “I picked the wrong time to quit drinking again.”
In reality there is not additional drama when you choose to try to quit drinking–all that is happening is that your volume knob is temporarily turned up when it comes to detecting drama.
BECAUSE you are under so much extra stress from trying to quit, your life does not actually have additional drama in it, you just THINK that it does.
This is a perceptual problem, not bad luck.
It is important that we realize the difference, and understand how our “volume knob” works when the stress gets turned up in our lives.
If we realize what is happening, and can see the situation objectively, then we can have a better chance of making sobriety work for us in spite of all the drama that happens in our lives.
We need to realize that when we try to quit alcohol or other drugs, things are going to seem more intense for a while. This is not bad luck and it is not bad timing or the universe conspiring against us. Instead it is just that we are stressing out from quitting something we are addicted to and therefore we are more sensitive to any little problem that occurs.
So this is the key thing for you to remember when you are attempting to quit any drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes:
The drama you experience is not unique or bad timing. It is normal, everyday life happening, and your “volume knob” has been turned up due to withdrawal.
Therefore you can prepare for this, be aware of it, and realize that you can still overcome an addiction if you have the right attitude going into it.
There is always another crisis in your life as an excuse to continue drinking
The tough thing for alcoholics and drug addicts is that going through withdrawal is a crisis all unto itself. Nothing more is required for an addict or alcoholic to feel like they are overwhelmed with stress and that their life is completely out of control at just the wrong time.
In addition to this, however, another crisis is almost certain to manufacture itself in your life as you are going through early recovery. This is just the nature of recovery itself, due to the amount of intense change that has to happen.
To be successful in recovery requires massive change, not just minor changes. This is almost certain to create additional stress in the mind of the recovering addict or alcoholic.
Early recovery is almost defined as being a crisis state. You are bewildered with sudden sobriety because all of a sudden you are left defenseless against reality without your drug of choice. Your old method of coping with reality was to self medicate with chemicals and that option is now gone.
We were so used to self medicating that we medicated nearly any emotional state that you can think of. If we were angry, sad, frustrated or upset in any way, we self medicated. If we were happy or joyous or excited, we self medicate then too. Any amount of drama in our lives–whether positive or negative–was cause to self medicate.
So everything was a cause to self medicate during our active addiction, and we would use any excuse to take our drug of choice. Most of us used our drug of choice every single day, so we had lots of excuses to manufacture. No drama was too small for us to medicate it away with our drug of choice.
So when we are attempting to quit drugs or alcohol and we take away the ability to self medicate, we tend to really notice all of the little issues in our life because suddenly we cannot medicate them away. They might not be a huge crisis and they may not be very serious drama, but we will still treat every little thing that way, because suddenly we are left defenseless and cannot medicate our problems away.
In withdrawal, we make mountains out of molehills. Every little negative in our life is a reason that we used to medicate.
How we manufacture drama in our minds
In our active addiction we became very good at latching on to drama and using it as a mental excuse to justify our using. Thus we manufacture drama because we learn how to focus on the negative stuff in our lives and amplify it into an excuse.
The alcoholic or the addict has yet another self-referential trick up their sleeve here too: When they cannot find drama in their external circumstances, they simply use the fact that they are a messed up drunk or a drug addict as their source of drama. This is usually sufficient to give the addict or alcoholic the excuse and the justification that they need to justify heavy drug or alcohol use. The logic is simple: “I’m already a screwed up drunk, so I might just as well drink,” etc.
Therefore the drunk or the drug addict will have a tendency to argue against sobriety and against radical change in their life based on the argument that they are some sort of lost cause. “Why bother?” is the sentiment here. They draw on their own negativity and bad situation as an addict as justification to keep abusing themselves. It becomes a vicious cycle and it takes an incredible amount of denial to keep the charade up but it is easier than facing the truth and taking action to change your life.
This is another source of drama that the addict can draw upon: they know exactly what they are in for if they ever get serious enough to change their life. And so the idea of recovery or rehab can become like this big boogie monster in the mind of the alcoholic. They may have been to detox or residential treatment in the past and so they know full well that it is an intensive and rather scary process. Going to rehab is sort of a big hairy deal for the average addict and so they build it up in their mind as being full of drama. It’s all more fuel for their addiction in the end. Any slice of drama that they can focus on in their minds is more justification for abusing large amounts of drugs and alcohol.
“Someday” becomes a mantra that never really materializes
Because the threat of massive change, rehab, detox, and recovery is so scary and threatening to the average addict, it should come as no surprise that so many alcoholics simply end up procrastinating against the idea of finally cleaning up their act.
It is just so much easier to stay on their current path and continue to self medicate, a solution that has actually been working for the person for a very long time (it just does not work very well, and it may be working with decreasing effectiveness over time).
So the addict or alcoholic is caught between this decision–on the one hand, they very much believe that their life would, in fact, be much better off without their addiction. On the other hand, they would do nearly anything to avoid having to face life without their drug of choice.
It is not that they do not want to quit their drug of choice, because in fact they very much wish that their life was different, and that they were free of addiction and could be happy without drugs or alcohol. Every addict eventually gets to a point where they wish that they were free from chemicals.
However, when they first get to this point, even though they may be quite miserable, they are not usually to the point where they are ready to surrender fully and take action. In order to reach this point of true and full surrender, they have to go through even MORE misery. This is not to say that people have to suffer and be miserable just for the sake of suffering, but in my experience most people who have not gone through enough pain are not willing to change. Or rather, they are not willing to make the massive changes that are required in order to overcome their addiction. The whole key to achieving this level of massive action is to endure enough pain that you become able to break through your denial, surrender fully, and humbly ask for help.
If the addict is not yet at this point of surrender, then the prospect of quitting drugs is generally too overwhelming to take seriously and they will continue to do what “works” for them and that is to self medicate. They wish things were different, they wish that they were sober, and so they genuinely would like to get clean and sober….SOMEDAY. But therein lies the problem: “someday” is a disease that never comes, it never gets any easier, and there is just never a great time to finally take the plunge and get sober.
As a scared addict or alcoholic who is procrastinating in this way, it becomes easy to convince ourselves that it will get easier in the future to quit our drug of choice and get sober. We think back to a time in our life when “things were easier” and we believe that at some point our luck will change and we will seize the opportunity in the future to get sober. Right now, we tell ourselves, things are stressful and it is just not a good time to make such a drastic change. This is a form of denial though because the truth is that it will never get significantly easier, and it will always be a very scary decision if we are to throw in the towel and surrender fully to our addiction.
No, if you really do wish that things were different, then at some point you have to take the plunge and realize that tomorrow never comes. It is never going to get any easier to quit your drug of choice. It is never going to be easier in the future to surrender to your disease and choose to ask for help. It is never going to be easier in the future to quit using your drug of choice forever, even if you do it “one day at a time.”
In fact, the only time that an addict or an alcoholic can decide to change their life is…..right now.
All you ever really have is the present moment anyway, you cannot quit “in the future”
Anyone can say that they will get clean and sober “someday.” But we have seen that someday never really comes, and that it is far too easy to just keep on self medicating. Drugs and alcohol is what works for us, so why would we change it in the present moment? Maybe our addiction will get us into trouble at some point in the future, but right now we are doing just fine, right? So it is very tough to take action in the present in order to overcome an addiction.
But we must realize that this is the ONLY way that someone can ever overcome an addiction. You cannot decide to quit drinking tomorrow.
You cannot decide to quit drugs next week.
Because next week comes, and then you have a decision to make IN THE PRESENT.
Right then, in the present moment (next week when it finally comes) you will have to decide, RIGHT NOW, to quit drinking and using drugs forever.
You cannot make a future decision. The future will come, and then you will have to make a new decision in that present moment.
And it never gets any easier.
The only time you ever have is right now. The future is an illusion, it may or may not even come. To make a future decision about your sobriety is a complete lie to yourself. You are only kidding yourself, fooling yourself into thinking you can delay your misery and that maybe things will get easier tomorrow.
Like maybe tomorrow you will wake up and suddenly not like your drug of choice any more….yeah right!
The truth is that you can only decide to get clean and sober right now.
This present moment is the only time that you can decide to change your life.
The foundation of this shift involves complete surrender. You have to accept the fact that you are fully beaten by your addiction.
The successful continuation of this process comes when you decide to ask for help. If you think you can rely on your own agenda in early recovery you are most likely mistaken. Our best ideas about living resulted in chaos due to our behavior and our addiction. We need to learn to ask for help and to take some direction from others for a while in early recovery.
Now is the time to take the plunge
So now, here in this present moment, is the right time to take the plunge.
If you are still self medicating with drugs or alcohol, why not make the decision to change your life right now?
Let me guess…..you don’t believe that recovery is possible for you, right?
You may believe that even if you were to go to detox and get dried out, that you would never be able to have fun and enjoy your life again without your drug of choice.
I know about these hesitations because I have been there myself. I have been at the point of no return, when I was so desperate for something to change but I still felt like I was too scared to face my life without my drug of choice (which happened to be alcohol). I also believed that if I got clean and sober that I would never have any fun again, and that life would no longer be worth living.
But at some point I got so miserable, and so lonely that I took the plunge anyway. I asked for help. And people helped me. They took me to a rehab center and the treatment specialists put me through a medical detox and then they put me in 12 step meetings and I went to groups and I started to learn about recovery.
This was a process and in fact it took several years before I really felt like I was “living in long term recovery” and had anything like a “normal life” again. For one thing I actually lived for almost two years in a long term rehab center.
But of course it was worth it. Living in rehab for two years was nothing, really. Now at the time, I believed it to be an enormous commitment, but looking back it is now just a tiny drop in the bucket. After making it to over eleven years of continuous sobriety, the 20 months of treatment at the beginning was just a tiny blip at the start of the journey. I would gladly invest that 20 months again if that is what it took, and I would encourage others to do the same. In fact, that 20 months of living in rehab was not “wasted” at all, and in fact I would gladly do it again if I had to live there with no problem at all.
If I could go back in time and talk with my “addicted self” who was still stuck in alcoholism and addiction, I would have told him this:
“It never gets any easier to get sober. Do it now. Buckle down, admit defeat against your addiction, and ask for help. Your life can and will get better and you will be happy again, without having to depend on drugs or alcohol for your happiness. But you have to take action. And you can only make this decision right, in the present moment. Do not kid yourself and think that you could make this decision in the future. Don’t tell yourself that you will get sober someday. That day will never come and you will die a miserable death. Or rather, you will die after never having really lived. So get clean and sober, today. In fact, do it right now. Because right now is all you have.”