There was a time in my life when I refused to consider the idea of going to rehab.
Of course I was in steep denial. I was convinced that taking a drink or a drug was entirely within my own control, and that I just did not want to stop drinking at the time. That was my excuse. Of course if I really wanted to stop, I told myself that I could easily stop on my own.
Eventually this excuse wore thin, even for my own denial. I reached a point where I could no longer keep up the illusion that I was in control. I had to admit to myself that my life was a total train wreck and that I had no idea how to live without the crutch of alcohol. But it took a long time for me to get to that point. I was stubborn. And I clung to the belief that I could change if I really wanted to.
Of course it was fear that was holding me back. I did not want to face the fear of sobriety, the fear of the unknown. I was terrified that I would be miserable if I were to become sober. I was afraid of going to meetings. I was afraid of speaking in front of others. And through all of these fears, I was really afraid of facing life without alcohol. Because more than anything else, I was using alcohol in order to medicate my own fears.
I told people (and myself) a very different story. I told them that I loved to party, and that I liked to have an exciting life, and that sitting around being sober was just too boring for me. These were stories that I told myself due to my denial. The truth was that I was afraid. Deep down I was scared, and the alcohol helped to cover up my fear. I drank to reassure myself. I drank to indulge fantasy. I did not want the responsibility of creating my own life and happiness for myself. I would rather depend on the alcohol for that. I was amazed that you could put a substance into your body that could change your mood so quickly.
Eventually my friends and family took note of my deteriorating condition. They urged me to go to rehab. They urged me to get help, to go to meetings, to go to counseling, to seek professional help. And yet for many years I stayed stuck in denial. This was a cycle that was based entirely on fear. I was afraid and my pattern was to medicate my fear with alcohol and other drugs. I was very much afraid to step outside of my pattern and give sobriety a real chance. I resisted the idea of getting professional help.
At some point I caved into this external pressure and I went to rehab. In fact I did this twice during my journey and in neither case did I remain clean and sober. The problem was that I was not ready for this massive change in my life. I had not yet hit bottom and I had not yet pierced my denial. I was still stuck, even though I had enough willingness to investigate treatment.
This presented a unique situation moving forward. Here I was, still drinking and using drugs, and I had already been to rehab twice. My problem was that when I attended those treatment centers I was not yet ready to take action and make a commitment. So this became another challenge in the future when my friends and family would try to convince me to take action or to make a change. I had the best excuse in the world to keep me stuck in denial: I had already tried rehab twice, and failed both times! Obviously it doesn’t work for me.
So this became my battle cry over the years. I had tried treatment twice and failed. Why would anyone believe that the third time would be any different? Of course I was still in denial and at the time I did not understand how recovery worked at all. I did not realize that it was all about your level of surrender and your commitment to change. I still thought of rehab as being a magic cure that spit out clean alcoholics in the same way that a car wash would spit out a clean car. I thought that recovery was an event, rather than a process. This was all part of my denial and it was based on a simple lack of knowledge. How could I know any better? I was stuck in my addiction and I thought that I was cursed to live the life of a drunk. Alcohol just seemed to prefer me.
So at some point I became really miserable in my addiction, and things just got worse and worse. I was alone. I was trying to medicate myself and I could not seem to get back to that “party” feeling. Where had all the fun gone? I wanted drinking and drugs to be fun again but I had to admit that they were anything but. In fact I was quite miserable and it was becoming more and more difficult to ignore this fact.
At one point I became so depressed that I no longer really cared about my own welfare. This was my bottom. It was then that a family member suggested rehab again. What was different? Why give rehab another try if it had already failed for me twice?
What was different this time was that I did not really care about myself or my life. I was at a real bottom this time. I had reached that critical point of surrender.
So when I went to rehab for a third time, everything changed.
I was no longer fighting for control of things. I had given up. I was willing to face my fears because the alternative was even worse than my fears. It felt to me like the alternative to rehab was death. I was not necessarily suicidal but I also did not feel like I would keep living for much longer if I kept drinking and using drugs. I had reached an endpoint. It was time to make a decision. And I was so sick and tired of being afraid. I was so sick and tired of having to hustle in order to self medicate myself. Not hustle the streets (I still had a job) but anyone who is trying to keep their fears self medicate on a regular basis is “hustling.” They are trapped in a cycle and they will feel like they are on a giant hamster wheel. It never gets any easier. And it becomes tiresome.
So when I got to this point I dropped all of my excuses about how I had already been to rehab twice before. I wasn’t really saying “oh, maybe it will be different this time!” I honestly did not have much hope. So in reality I just didn’t care. I was willing to go to treatment because I was sick and tired of everything and everyone. Any change would be better than the misery I was stuck in. I just wanted the misery to go away.
This was my turning point. I did go to rehab at that time, and things have been getting better ever since then. And that was over 12 years ago. So my life is vastly different today and things are much, much better. And because of the way that I live my life now (personal growth) things continue to improve even now. It is a journey of growth.
My solution started when I surrendered and went to rehab. It was my third rehab. The important part was that I had finally reached my bottom and surrendered. I stopped fighting everything and became willing to try a new idea. I was willing to listen to others. I was willing to do what I was told to do. This was the key that unlocked a new life for me.
If you are struggling with alcoholism then what do you have to lose?
If you are really struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction then what do you have to lose by going to rehab?
I thought that I had so much to lose when I was stuck in addiction. I was self medicating every day and I was a miserable alcoholic. In my mind I was clinging to the memory of when drinking used to be fun. But that fun was long gone. And my mind would not let go of it, and it tried to convince me that I could return to that “fun place” whenever I wanted. But the truth was that I was miserable most all of the time.
I started to think of rehab as being a loss of freedom. I thought of it like it was going to jail or prison. This made no sense though because I had been to treatment twice in the past and I knew that it was nothing like jail. But my stubborn denial made me believe that going to rehab was a total loss of freedom.
I had another mental game that I would play in order to rationalize my disease. I was afraid that if I was forced into rehab that they would somehow cause me to not want to drink any more. I thought that they could “brainwash” me or change my mind. Of course if they could actually do this then they would be able to cure alcoholism and drug addiction. But of course they cannot really do this and they cannot force anyone to change who does not really want to.
Part of the problem is that my friends and family and all of society thought that rehab could change my mind. Or at least this is what they hoped. And so that belief sort of seeped through to me and it scared me. Because my friends and family believed that if I could just go to the best rehab center in the world then I would surely be able to overcome my alcoholism. But in order for that to be true then the rehab would have to be able to actually convince me to want to stop. Mind control. This was what had me scared of treatment. I thought that they could control me and change my thoughts somehow. And I think the rest of the world sort of hopes that this is possible as well. But that’s not how it works at all. No rehab has the power to brainwash you. You have to want to get sober on your own, before you even set foot in treatment. If you show up to rehab and you don’t want to change then you are just wasting everyone’s time. It won’t work.
So really I had nothing to lose and everything to gain when I was stuck in my miserable addiction. Yet I was in denial and I could not see this. I thought that if I were to go to treatment and get clean and sober that I would be “giving up” the magic elixir of alcohol. I really believed that I would be miserable forever if I could no longer drink. I had pity on people who did not use drugs or alcohol. I looked down on people who did not “party” like I did. I thought that they were missing out on life. Such is the power of denial. In reality it was I who was missing out on life, and thought that I was living so great by getting tanked every night on booze and drugs.
The important thing is that you be honest with yourself about how happy you are in life.
If you are genuinely happy with your life then I would not urge you to change things. Don’t go to rehab just because someone tells you to go. Only go to rehab if you are miserable with your life and you want to change it.
At the same time you need to be honest with yourself. I was at a point where I would be “happy” for maybe an hour or two each week. The rest of the time I was miserable and I was chasing that happiness by drinking as much as I possibly could and using whatever drugs I could get my hands on. But in reality I was only happy for maybe an hour or two per week. And yet I refused to admit this or to really see it. I was blind to my misery. I still believed that alcohol could save the day and make me happy at any given moment. The truth was that it had stopped working that way for a long time, and it really only “worked” about one day out of the week or so.
For example, I could take a few days in a row where I would drink very little and I would be unhappy. Then after a few days of this I would get totally smashed and I would be “happy” for a few hours. But then in order to get to that same level of happiness I would have to do a few days of misery again. If I just drank as much as I could straight through then I would be miserable the whole time.
And this is what addiction eventually becomes. You get totally smashed all of the time and this becomes your new “normal.” It is no longer enough to make you feel happy and buzzed. So then you have a choice: Stay smashed all the time and be miserable, or take some time off from heavy drinking (during which you will be miserable) in order to get smashed again at some point and experience “peak happiness” for an hour or two. Then after that peak you are miserable again.
This is what addiction becomes in the end. Doesn’t really matter what substance you are using (alcohol versus other drugs). It all turns out the same. Eventually being loaded becomes normal for you and it is no longer fun. And then you are miserable nearly all of the time. Not fun.
So if you are at this point then all you have to do is to realize it. Realize that you are miserable. Embrace your misery. By doing so you can hopefully break free from the misery and make a positive change. But if you busy denying your misery then you will not be able to escape it.
The time spent in rehab is not a “cost.” It is a gift. You still get to enjoy life in treatment and recovery
Because of my denial I believed that going to rehab was a “cost.” In my twisted way of thinking I was missing out on time that I could have been getting drunk. So going to rehab was “costing” me that time.
This is the wrong way to think about it. In fact, the time spent in treatment is a gift. You are not miserable in rehab. I believed that I would be miserable in treatment and that at the very least I would be missing out on the “fun” that I could be having while getting smashed. But the truth is that you will enjoy yourself in sobriety.
I did not believe this for a long time. I did not believe that I could enjoy my life if I were sober. I had to reach the point of surrender and give sobriety a chance before I would really believe this.
But it is true. Go to rehab and become sober. You will not be miserable. In fact you will laugh and have real fun with the peers there. This is not some fantasy. I am serious, if you just go to rehab and allow yourself to go through the process you will find yourself laughing again. Sobriety will bring you joy simply by virtue of interacting with others.
I was stuck in denial because I believed that the only way that I could be happy was if I was drunk. I thought that if I was forced to be sober in rehab then I would be miserable the entire time. But the truth is that when you get sober you will still enjoy yourself and your life. The “misery” of detox ends very quickly. Real life comes back to you and you start to enjoy the simple things again. You just have to realize that this possibility exists for you. You must embrace the process of recovery and allow it to unfold for you. It can take time, but not very much time. Detox is over pretty darn fast. Before you know it you will be enjoying life again, if you are willing to give it a chance. Most alcoholics and addicts refuse to give it a chance though until they are truly miserable in their addiction. That is how I was, anyway.
How to turn your life around even if you have lost all hope
If you have lost all hope then you should definitely give rehab a chance to work in your life. In fact that is the perfect time to attend rehab. If you still have lots of hope and you are still drinking then that is actually a bad sign. You will probably continue to manipulate yourself into thinking that you can drink successfully. It is when you give up all hope that you can finally make progress in recovery.
In order to get sober you have to “get out of your own way.” This is very simple but that does not mean that it is easy to do. Most alcoholics cling to control. They don’t want to surrender and let go of everything. In order to turn your life around you have to become willing to listen to others.
Treatment is not the only path, but it is a very strong starting point
Don’t get me wrong, there are other paths out there other than inpatient rehab.
But treatment is the best starting point for most people. It is the strongest path available for the struggling alcoholic or drug addict.
You get the benefit of being in a protected environment, where the chance of relapse drops to zero. Most people need this protection in very early recovery so that they can avoid temptation.
If you are struggling to get sober then you owe it to yourself to get professional help.
If nothing changes then nothing changes. In order to start a new life you have to take massive action.
Checking into rehab is a shortcut to massive action. It forces you to explore a healthier path towards recovery, even if just temporarily.