Yesterday we looked at the real truth about recovering from addiction and alcoholism, and how complacency can be a hidden killer. Today we want to look at how the quick solutions for drug addiction are not necessarily the easy ones (or the successful ones!).
First of all, what exactly is the “quick solution for addiction,” anyway? This would be the opposite of what most people end up doing, which is to stumble in and out of recovery for a few years and flirt with sobriety before they eventually “get it” (or end up in jail, an institution, or dead).
The quick path to success involves actually following through and doing what is suggested to you in early recovery, something that most people are going to have a lot of resistance to at first. This is the reason that most people have to go to treatment a few times before they are ever successful with it in the long run. They fail to commit fully to the solution because doing so is such a crushing blow to their pride, and to their ego. It is more difficult to let go of that old life than one initially thinks.
Today’s quick solution: go to rehab then attend AA/NA meetings for life
So the “easy path” in recovery these days is to simply go to rehab and then attend 12 step meetings for the rest of your life. Believe it or not, I would suggest that you initially set out on this path and do your best to follow it. This does not necessarily mean that I recommend that you spend the rest of your life attending 12 step meetings, however. The fact remains that this is still the strongest path that you can be on in the beginning. There are other ways to try and get clean and sober but none of them really measure up to the idea of “rehab + AA meetings.” That is the standard formula for success because that is the path that will give you the most support (at least initially).
The way for this to become a “quick solution” for any struggling addict is all up to them. They simply have to drop all need for control and follow the suggestions without hesitation. The deeper the level of their surrender, the quicker that recovery can work in their life.
We slow the process down when we resist the process of getting help.
Right now the dominant path in addiction recovery is basically one of two things:
1) Go to rehab and then follow up with 12 step meetings (AA and NA).
2) Go to a religious based rehab and then follow up with religious involvement (through a church).
Neither path is right or wrong and neither path is faster or slower than the other one. We might also identify a third possible path such as:
3) Go to treatment and then transition to a life of personal growth.
Again, not a faster or slower path to recovery, just another way to prevent relapse in the long run.
The whole key is not in the method so much (as everyone falsely believes to be the case), but instead it is in the level of willingness and surrender.
What typically happens for most struggling addicts and alcoholics is that they will partially surrender at first. They will realize that yes, in fact they do have a small problem with drugs or alcohol, and therefore they might actually need to do something about their problem. They have finally ran into enough consequences that they can no longer deny the fact that their life is a train wreck because of drugs or alcohol.
But this is where they get tripped up: they do not FULLY surrender. They only partially surrender. And so they will say things like “Yeah, I know my drinking is bad, but it’s not so bad that I need to go check into detox or anything.” Or they might say “I might take too many drugs sometimes, but it’s not like I am a total junkie or anything! I still have a job! etc.”
So something is holding them back from full surrender. Their pride and their ego is causing them to hang on to something, to a piece of their addiction, to a piece of their old life or to part of their pride. They will not let go entirely because to do so would be to admit defeat, to admit that they are weak, to admit that they are wrong. Something prevents them from absolute surrender.
And so they remain stuck. They cannot make any progress at this point because they are not fully surrendering. This is how to get on the “slow path to recovery.” You are almost there, but something is holding you back. Such a person might very well go to rehab several times over the years and always end up stuck in a pattern of relapse. They never find long term sobriety and get the full benefits of recovery because they never fully surrendered to begin with.
Sometimes a reservation is what is keeping someone from success. They have a little something, a tiny idea that is in their back of their mind that they are hanging on to and saying “if such and such happens, I am going to go back to drinking/drug use.” So for example, someone might say to themselves “If my wife ever leaves me, I am going back to drinking for sure.” This is an obvious reservation, and this can keep people from success in recovery. In fact, such a person with this mental reservation might relapse without the wife even leaving him, just based on an argument that they get into one day. Because he has the reservation in his mind, the then projects an outcome and gets so worked up over the idea that he starts drinking anyway! He did not even wait for the wife to leave. This is how powerful one of these reservations can be; therefore, we must work to eliminate them during early recovery.
Ultimately what we have to learn is that even if one of these reservations comes to pass in our life, drinking or drugging is not going to make the situation any better. We have to realize and remember that a relapse will only make things worse. The problem will still exist and on top of that you will have relapsed as well.
Compartmentalizing recovery: What it really means to recover and how this affects your life
You can measure the future success of a drug addict or alcoholic by their willingness to commit massive amounts of time and energy to the future of their sobriety.
Think carefully about this for a moment. Imagine that you work in a drug rehab or alcohol treatment center like I was doing for so many years. Imagine that you are checking new people into rehab and talking with them a bit about their problems and how they want to change.
Now imagine that you talk to the following two people who are just checking into rehab for their first day of sobriety:
Person #1: “I am sick of using drugs and alcohol and I want a different life. But I don’t want to have to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to get this new life. I don’t want to change friends or go to a bunch of boring meetings either. If I do have to do all of those things, I am willing to do so for about a month maybe, but no longer. I want this over with quickly. I don’t have time for this stuff.”
Person #2: “I am sick of using drugs and alcohol and I want a different life. I will do whatever it takes and whatever is suggested to me in order to change. I don’t care how long it takes or even if I have to go to meetings forever and ever. I need a new life and I do not know how to get it on my own. I am in this for the long haul. Show me what I need to do.”
Which person do you think has a better chance at achieving long term sobriety?
Person one is in a hurry and cannot be bothered with the idea that recovery is going to invade into their life. They just want a quick fix, an easy solution, something that is not too disruptive.
Now listen closely here because this is the most profound truth you will learn from this article:
Person one is trying to compartmentalize their recovery. This is not possible, and they will relapse and fail because of it.
What does it mean to “compartmentalize your recovery?” It means that person one is trying to separate their recovery from the rest of their life, so as not to disrupt the rest of their life too much. What they want is to be able to just go to a meeting each day for a month or two and then be magically “cured.” They want to be able to go through the motions, jump through the right hoops, and then say “OK, that’s done! I am recovered now! Let’s move on with life!”
This would be compartmentalization if you could pull that off. You would have successfully put your recovery from addiction into a box and sealed it all away from the rest of your life.
This doesn’t work. It can’t work. Heck, I tried it once. I went to rehab and basically said “OK, let me read this whole AA book so I can get cured and go back to my old life!” I was actually that naive as to believe that I could compartmentalize my recovery.
And this is the crux of the matter: there is no quick solution, no way to compartmentalize your recovery. You cannot just whisk yourself away on a plane to a million dollar rehab center and expect to be cured in 28 days. It doesn’t work that way.
Stop for a moment and realize this is a fantasy. Stop and think for a moment. Your idea of a quick path to success is misleading you.
If you really want to achieve sobriety in the long run, it is not going to happen in a brief 28 days, after which you go back to “your old life just without the drugs or drinking.” This is a fantasy. To expect this is to expect a magic 28 day cure for addiction. It does not exist.
Now I am not saying that you should avoid treatment. You absolutely SHOULD seek out rehab, as it is a great starting point. But it is just that–a starting point. To think that you can section off a bit of your life and recover during that time and then go back to your old life–this is pure fantasy. It cannot happen this way and it never will work out that way. You cannot compartmentalize your recovery from addiction.
The reason for this is because your addiction envelopes your entire life and every aspect of your being. It is an holistic disease that affects the “whole person”–mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. Even just looking at one sliver of this spectrum such as your relationships with other people reveals the fallacy of compartmentalization. Consider someone who is now six months sober and is living a new life in recovery, on a new path, and learning new things every day. Now ask that person if their relationships in their life have changed at all over the last six months. They will laugh out loud and remark that their social life is completely and 100 percent different than it was six months ago. To think that you could somehow overcome your addiction without being affected in such a deep and profound way is just silly. But of course we do not necessarily know this when we are still stuck in addiction, trying to imagine what recovery might be life for us if we fully surrendered. Well, I am telling you what it is like: You will look back in six months and realize that EVERYTHING changed. Your relationships changed. Your attitude changed. Your spirituality changed. Your willingness to learn changed. What is important to you changed. What makes you happy in life changed. Everything, everything, everything changed!
This is what most people who are still stuck in addiction and alcoholism are missing. They do not realize the full extent of the changes that they truly face. Many of them believe that they might be able to change their drinking or their drug use without changing EVERYTHING. This is the great mistake they are making. This is why the “quick solution” for alcoholism or addiction does not really exist. If you try to change your drinking or drug habits in a compartmentalized way, you will fail. You cannot just fix one area of your life and leave the rest of it totally broken and in disarray. You have to change everything. This is what real recovery is based on. Positive changes in ALL areas of your life.
Secret truth: there is no easy solution for recovery, only a hard path that leads to success
There is no quick fix, there is not easy solution.
If you want to think of it as being a quick fix, then imagine this:
You surrender fully to your disease of addiction and you realize that it will never be fun again. Thus you ask for help from people that you trust and when they suggest that you do something, you do it. Maybe they suggest that you go to rehab or treatment or meetings or counseling or whatever. You do it without hesitation. Then you follow through when you go to this place of help (where ever that is, rehab or therapy or meetings or whatever) and you ask for more advice and you follow through on those suggestions as well. You take direction and you do exactly what you are told to do. This is humbling and you must swallow your pride to do so but you do it anyway because you are so sick of being miserable in your addiction. Life slowly starts to get better and better and one day you look back and realize that you are living a new life in recovery. You will also realize that in spite of taking advice and direction from everyone, that you are in fact still in charge of your own life and you are making your own decisions and you still have your pride intact. The only difference is that you were smart enough to listen to other people’s advice for a year or two and now you are in a much better position than what you used to be. Your life is completely different in recovery and you have power, friends, resources, and happiness again. Life is good.
Now if you want to believe that what is described above is a quick fix or an easy solution, then go for it. I can tell you that while you are actually living through such a process it will not feel quick or easy, for the most part. It will be hard work and it will take months or even years but the end result is more than worth it. The alternative is to keep being miserable in addiction and spiraling out of control towards more and more negativity.
In face you can think of yourself as being on “the fast path to recovery” by simply letting go of everything and surrendering completely. Unfortunately this will not FEEL like the fast track to success, because you are letting go of all control it will feel more like a defeat. This is the paradox of surrender. You have to let go of everything and trust that other people can guide you to success. Thus it feels very counter-intuitive because you will feel as if you are giving up instead of trying harder at first. But this is the path to success in early recovery. If we try to maintain control of our own decisions in early recovery then we are very likely to sabotage our own efforts and end up relapsing.
How to stop looking for a quick fix or an easy solution
The way to stop looking for a quick fix is to break through your denial and realize that it is time to do something different, to use a new approach. Most people have a stubborn bit of pride in them and so they will not be able to surrender fully until they are 100 percent miserable with their life. At some point however they will need to realize that they have created all of their own misery for themselves, and that it no longer makes sense to keep blaming their misery on external circumstances.
I had to do this myself in order to become willing to go to rehab. I finally realized that even if I had unlimited amounts of drugs and alcohol that I would never be truly happy. I had thought that having complete “substance freedom” (unlimited supply of chemicals) was the same thing as having “personal freedom.” I thus imagined that if I only had a million dollars and all the drugs and booze in the world that I would finally be happy. One day I realized that I had plenty of supply and yet I could still not find that “happy place” in self medicating. And so I realized that I was always going to be miserable in addiction and that there just might be a better way. Thus I was able to finally surrender to my addiction, after finding my misery and realizing that the misery was never going to get any better.
Real recovery begins when you can let go of your need for control and let someone else tell you what to do. This is a simple thing to do but it is not easy for anyone. Our pride tends to get in the way. The way to crush your pride is by realizing how miserable you have become in addiction. There has to be a better way.