Is it possible for a struggling drug addict to stop using drugs entirely on their own? Or do they absolutely need some form of help in order to stop?
If you go to traditional recovery programs such as AA or NA, they will tell you that it is impossible for a true addict to stop on their own. They are powerless over their drug of choice. Is this really true though?
What defines drug addiction and alcoholism? Generally the inability to stop on your own
It can get a bit tricky, really. What people in recovery tend to do is to define addiction based on the inability to stop using.
In other words, if there is a drug addict or an alcoholic and that person manages to sober up on their own, then people in traditional recovery programs will dismiss this case, and say that this person must not be a “real alcoholic.”
The same thing happens sometimes with the 12 step program itself–some of the people in it will believe that no true addict could ever sober without the 12 steps, and that if they did happen to do so, then that person must not be a “real addict” or a “real alcoholic.” So in effect they are defining addiction based on what program works for the person. I do not believe that this is fair or accurate. Addiction exists and should be defined without a program to measure it by. Addiction existed before the 12 step program came along. “Real addicts” existed in the past, just as they exist today.
My thought is that if you cannot overcome your substance abuse problem on your own without any form of help, then you might be a “real addict” or a “real alcoholic.” If you have a problem and you simply correct it yourself without any outside help then that is probably not a “full blown addiction.”
The amount of help that you need sort of determines the level of your problem. If there is no problem then there is no problem! Seems obvious, right? An alcoholic who can just sober up at will is not really an alcoholic.
What to do if you cannot seem to control your drug or alcohol intake any more
If you find that you cannot control your intake of drugs or alcohol then you may want to take action to improve your life.
What can you do though?
The first step in the process is to make a decision that you want to recover. Again, this may seem obvious but it needs to be explicitly stated because it is such an important part of the process.
Unless you put all of your effort and willingness behind this one decision, you will probably never get the momentum that you need to remain sober.
This is because it takes such a monumental effort to really change your life. Anyone who wants to get real results is going to have to make this sort of “inner promise” with themselves that represents a total commitment.
Just how serious is this commitment? Think of it like this: It must be a greater commitment than anything you have ever done in your life before. This whole “getting sober thing?” Yeah, you need to take it more seriously than you have ever taken anything in your life before. You need to try harder than you have ever tried before. This is the sort of decision that you need to make.
The decision to get sober is not a casual decision. You must make it with every single pore in your body. You must commit to the idea fully.
Most people do not do this the first time that the idea strikes them to get sober. They might like the idea of being sober, and so therefore they “give it a shot.” But giving sobriety a shot and actually making it happen are two different things. You cannot just make a casual effort at sobriety and expect for it to work.
So after you make this decision that you want to rebuild your life, what next?
Here is the part about other people–you need to ask for help.
Now don’t get all caught up here like some people do. Many people have trust issues. Many alcoholics and drug addicts are quite smart as well, and so they don’t really believe that they should have to take advice or direction from other people.
Don’t fall into those traps. In order to achieve long term sobriety, you need to ask for help.
You need to take direction from others.
You need to listen to people and do what they tell you to do.
Because it works. It is dead simple and it will keep you sober.
And I have a challenge for you as well if you don’t believe this. Because deep down, most alcoholics and addicts think that they are pretty smart. And don’t get me wrong–they are smart people! But they can also benefit a ton if they take this simple piece of advice.
First, try ignoring this advice, and see what results you get. But when you do this you must be completely honest with yourself.
I used to try this experiment while I was still drinking and using drugs but I was not really honest with myself. Therefore the experiment did not work.
The experiment is this:
Simply try to quit using drugs and alcohol on your own. Really try. Do it all by yourself (because you are not stupid, right?).
But the key is this: Don’t allow yourself to make excuses, like I was doing. When you make excuses at this point, it is denial. You are saying “Oh well, I did not really want to stop drinking right now anyway, so this doesn’t count. If I really wanted to stop, I would.”
So don’t fall into that trap. Really try to stop on your own, and make your best effort at it. Make an agreement with yourself that you will do that.
Then if you fail, you have finally proven once and for all that you need help in order to stop drinking or using drugs.
This is key. You must prove to yourself that you need help. That you are, in fact, a real alcoholic or drug addict.
If you do not reach this point then you cannot move forward in recovery. You cannot rebuild your life unless you are willing to surrender completely.
So then let us assume that you reach this point. You try your hardest to quit on your own, and you fail. You admit fully to yourself that you need help.
How seeking help can help you to regain control of your life
So at this point you ask for help. Don’t worry about who you ask. Basically you want to ask for help from:
1) Friends or family members who you trust.
2) People in 12 step programs.
3) People who work in treatment centers or rehabs.
Those are the people you want to ask for help from.
The only people you really don’t want to ask are people who are using drugs and alcohol every day and encourage you to do the same.
But quite honestly, if you ask those people for help, most of them will tell you that you should, in fact, go to rehab. Seriously! This is amazing and you can test it out for yourself. Because deep down, the people who are abusing drugs and alcohol know that they should clean up their act, and they know that you should too. So even my worst influence in my life in terms of drugs and alcohol was encouraging me to get help. Everyone wanted to see me get help.
So you ask for help. People tell you to go to this meeting, to call up this treatment center, to go to this rehab. They point fingers in various directions. Generally speaking, you should do what they suggest. This is not complicated. It is actually very simple. It will feel very simple too, because what you are doing at this point is you are removing your own decision making from the equation.
Find someone you trust and explain to them that you need serious help. That you are out of control with your addiction and that you cannot stop on your own. Ask them to help you.
It really is that simple. People will point you in the right direction if you cannot do it yourself. They will find you a rehab. They will find you a detox center. They will point you towards 12 step meetings. All of these things will eventually lead you to the help that you need. For example, if you show up at an AA meeting and they see that you need detox, they will probably advise you to go there as soon as possible. People are helpful. They will try to get you the help that you need. But you have to ask first, and you have to be willing.
This is not rocket science.
Recovery is quite simple. Ask for help, and then people will tell you what to do. Then you do it. By taking directions, you can start living a new life without using drugs and alcohol. Slowly, things will start to get better and better. This creates the foundation of your recovery. Simple actions, daily progress. Each day sober is another brick in this new foundation. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes consistency. And so this is how you ask for help and start building up a few life for yourself.
If you refuse to ask for help, or if you refuse to listen to the advice of others, then you don’t really have a chance. You are on your own. And everyone knows that you cannot really recover on your own! That is, at least not in early recovery, when you are basically lost and not able to figure everything out all at once.
What you need to do in order to move beyond drug or alcohol addiction
In the long run you never really need to go any further than this basic level of instruction. Believe it or not, the concept of surrender and taking direction from others is enough to keep you sober for the rest of your life.
However, you might want to move beyond this basic level of instruction and create a better life for yourself in recovery.
You can do this by blending the concept of surrender and taking advice from others with another concept: That of personal growth and holistic health.
In reality this new concept is not so different. All you are doing is pushing yourself to take positive action, pushing yourself to make healthy decisions.
Really what you are doing is simply removing the advice that you normally get from other people. After becoming stable in your recovery and already having taken lots of advice in early recovery, you will eventually get to the point where you can figure out new goals for yourself without being told what to do. Now you are taking your own advice and thinking on your own again.
This is not something that you want to do at 30 days sober.
No, at 30 days sober you want to be taking advice from others. Why?
Because you need help! You cannot recover on your own, remember? We all need direction in early recovery or we will sabotage our own efforts.
So after you have built a foundation in recovery, and after you have taken lots of advice and lots of direction in your life, you can start to think on your own two feet again.
I waited at least a year or two before I really tried to push myself in my own direction again. Up until that point I told myself: “I am not making any decisions for myself because I know that I will screw them up, so I will trust others in recovery to tell me what to do.”
Does that sound like fun? It may not, but this is the easiest shortcut to sobriety you will ever discover. For the first year of your sobriety, don’t make any decisions for yourself. Don’t allow your ego to push you around at all. Completely rely on the advice of others instead. It sounds like a pathetic way to live, but it is actually very empowering. Your life will get better and better.
This is because it is easy for someone who has more sobriety and experience than we do to look at our lives and to give us really good advice.
It is difficult for anyone to take such advice.
But if you make an agreement with yourself to take that advice, and to do so consistently for a full year, you will reap incredible rewards from doing so.
And this then lays the foundation for the future. Now you are learning what a healthy decision really looks like. So that after a year or so you will be able to take some of this control back, to go back to relying on your own decision making ability again. Just like you did during your active addiction, when you were in charge of all your own decisions. Remember how badly that turned out during your active addiction, when you relied only on your own ideas? Yeah….we want to go back to that point very slowly and carefully, after taking lots of advice and learning much from others first.
The concept of a “we” program
They say it is a “we” program in AA, and for the most part I agree with that.
But it all comes down to timing.
If you want to get clean and sober on your own, I have a suggestion for you.
Tell yourself that you can live the rest of your life in recovery “on your own,” but first you have to put in a full year of getting serious help and support from other people.
This is a serious suggestion and this is honestly how it worked out for me to a large extent. I lived in long term rehab for 20 months, and I relied heavily on meetings and sponsorship and therapy for the first year of that. After that first year though I started to “do my own thing” in recovery. After leaving treatment at the 20 month mark I have never looked back, and have since accumulated over 12 years of continuous sobriety. Over 90 percent of that time has been “on my own.”
But the beginning is different, and therefore you should treat it differently.
It is possible to be clean and sober on your own, but I do not think it is likely that you will GET clean and sober on your own.
The process of learning to live a new life in recovery requires outside help. It requires other people.
In the beginning, it really is a “we program.”
So make an agreement with yourself. Agree to give yourself a break, and that you will give recovery a fair chance.
Agree to ask for help, and to do what you are told to do. What have you got to lose? If you are miserable anyway in life, it can’t get any worse. You aren’t going to become even more miserable if you simply take advice from others and start living sober. It can only get better from here.
So you have to trust in the process. You have to ask for help and then take direction from others.
I wished that when I was still drinking and looking for solution that I could just read a book and this would help me to recover. I asked myself “why do I need other people to recover? Can’t I just read this book instead that is supposed to help me?”
It didn’t work. It could not work, there was no possible way that simply reading the Big Book of AA by myself was going to change my life. It was too artificial. There was no impact behind the words. None of it applied to me because I did not really believe that sobriety and happiness were possible for me.
I had to get advice and help directly from real humans, from people that I spoke with face to face. I really wanted to find a different way for things to work, but I could not. So in the end I had to ask for help, I had to surrender to the concept of a “we program,” and I had to go to rehab.
I was afraid to sit in groups with other people in recovery. I was afraid to sit in meetings with people due to anxiety. But at some point I had to face those fears and do it anyway. At some point I realized that I was gonna die if I did not do something different. And so it came down to a decision between facing these fears and anxieties, or going back to the bottle and the drugs which were going to kill me. I was afraid of dying drunk and I was afraid of getting sober. And after a while I became sick of living in fear.
This is the point of surrender. When you let go of the fear. You let it all slide. This is why it is at a point that is close to suicide. You don’t really want to kill yourself, but you get so sick of the fear that you are living with that eventually you just let it all slide. You become so sick and tired of it all and it finally reaches a boiling point. And so you let it all go. You no longer care. And at that point you can finally make an agreement with yourself:
“Yes, I will ask for help. I will do what they suggest. I will go to rehab. I will sit in meetings. I will face my fears about getting sober, and whatever happens next I will just have to deal with it.”
At this point, you realize that whatever fears you may face, it has to be better than the misery you are living in.
Sort of a dark picture of surrender but this is how you will come to take action.
What about you, have you tried to stop using drugs on your own before? How did it work out? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!