A reader here at Spiritual River named Chris writes in and asks:
Hi I am in dire need of help, I’m a lost cause, all out of hope right now and everything I come close to I destroy. I have no insurance and no job and really need to find some way to get into a treatment program. I question my purpose here daily and I’m not sure how much longer until I call it quits.
First of all, thank you for reaching out and posting this Chris because it takes guts just to ask for help in a case like this, you can consider this fact pretty important that you even did this because it is a sign that you are either at the point of surrender or you are very close.
Now we before we go any further or get into any sort of specific suggestions as to what you should actually do at this point, we need to talk a bit about surrender, because that is pretty much the entire key to this thing working for you.
Realize the need for total surrender
To me it sounds like you are very close to surrender. You may even be totally there, and now you are ready to take action in order to recover. If this is the case then you are blessed beyond measure and your life is about to start a slow and steady ascent of constant improvement.
If you are not quite there yet then you must recognize that total and complete surrender is the right path forward. If you are still hanging on to the idea that you might use drugs or alcohol again some day, or that you might be able to have fun by using your drug of choice again some day in the future, then you are probably not fully at the point of surrender just yet. In recovery terms we call that “having a reservation.” If you have a reservation about recovery then it means that you are not quite fully surrendered yet, and you will probably self medicate again until you do reach the point of “full surrender.”
The point of total and complete surrender comes after you have hit bottom, and cannot imagine your life going on any more in any capacity, really. If you are honest with yourself you will realize that this has nothing to do with suicide; it simply means that you cannot picture a future for yourself either with or without your drug of choice. Continuing on with your drug of choice in your life and the constant self medicating seems like an unthinkable option, and you cannot realistically picture yourself doing that any more. It has become too tiresome, too much of a burden, too overwhelming to even think about. On the other hand, you also cannot picture your life in sobriety or recovery at this point either, it is too foreign, too scary, too unknown. Not that you are unwilling to explore this unknown, but at this point of surrender you cannot really picture it.
And so when you reach this point of confusion and doubt about the future you are standing at what they call “the turning point.” You can no longer envision yourself moving forward in your life and continuing to self medicate every day with your drug of choice, and you also cannot really picture yourself in sobriety. You may have some thoughts such as “I wish it would just all go away” or you might even think something like “I wish I had never been born and did not have to deal with all this mess” but in reality you are not suicidal or a danger to yourself (although some people confuse the issue a bit and believe that they are suicidal….in fact they are just desperate and really want their addiction to go away).
So if you can identify with any of these feelings then I am very excited for you. Why?
Because it means you are really, really close to an awesome new life in recovery. You are right on the brink of discovering this amazing new journey in life, where things will get exciting again and you can find genuine happiness without having to self medicate every day and the simple things in life can become delightful and pleasurable again.
If you can identify with any of these feelings or thoughts that I talk about then you are really close. I know that to be the case because I went through this surrender process myself, and it has led me to this awesome new life in recovery where I have enjoyed over a decade of continuous sobriety.
Surrender is a process. I do not believe that you can just decide “OK, I am going to surrender now, and then my life will magically change!” If you can do that, by all means, go ahead and do it.
But if you cannot just will yourself to surrender, here is what I want you to do in order to bring it about faster:
* Start paying attention. Start watching your life, and watching your addiction. This is how you will force your brain to see through your denial. Start with measuring how happy you are, all the time. When you use your drug of choice, how long do you stay happy and elated for? Measure it. Do you become miserable later? How quickly?
* Become hyper aware of when you are happy, and when you are miserable. Start measuring this, and start watching and observing how your drug of choice affects this. Naturally you will try to create happiness and with your drug of choice (this is what addiction is all about) and you have to start realizing just how ineffective it has become.
* Remember how good your drug of choice used to work? It no longer works that well, does it? It has become less effective over time. Start noticing that. Keep watching yourself, keep watching your life, keep watching how your mood and your happiness is no longer something that you can really control by using your drug of choice (even though it used to work really well).
* Realize that your drug of choice no longer works. It stopped doing what you want it to do (make you happy when you use it).
I believe this is the process of surrender. It is an awareness you must develop. The awareness sees through your denial, sees through the lie of addiction. At that point you can realize how foolish it is to chase your happiness with your drug of choice (because it no longer works) and then you can ask for help, go change your life, etc.
So the first step for any recovering addict and alcoholic is to see through their denial and to surrender completely. They have to say and realize at the deepest level “using my drug of choice no longer makes me happy. It has stopped working. I should find a new way to live my life.”
Do not bother going ahead any further with my suggestions until you have reached this point. You can certainly read further ahead and see what comes next in the recovery process, but all of it that follows after this is completely useless unless you have reached that point of surrender, unless you have moved past your denial, unless you have hit bottom and realized a need to get serious help.
It is all about surrender. This is the critical first step of recovery that everything else hinges on.
Get the surrender part right, and it is unlikely that you could screw up the rest of the process.
But if you fail to surrender fully, then it is almost certain that you will drink or use drugs again.
It is THAT important. Your entire recovery hinges on surrender. Therefore you should focus your efforts on trying to see through your denial and bring yourself to the state of surrender.
Take immediate action
After you have reached the point of surrender then it is time to take immediate action. You should feel a little bit scared, a little bit nervous, and quite a bit of relief if you are in the correct state of surrender. Perhaps your feelings will be slightly different than this but either way I think it is important that you act quickly while you have the motivation and the initiative to do something about your problem.
The action that I suggest that you take when you reach the state of surrender is to ASK FOR HELP.
This is a simple action and yet it can be very difficult for many people. One reason that it is difficult is because of pride. They do not want to admit that they need help from anyone. So this might keep them stuck in addiction for much longer than what it really necessary, if they would just give themselves a break and allow themselves to be humble for a bit and to ask for help then their life would get so much better.
The human ego is very powerful. Many of you who might be reading this might say something like “well that is all well and good, I am sure most addicts and alcoholics probably need to ask for help in order to recover, but I am pretty smart and I think that as long as I surrender fully to my disease that I should be able to recover on my own without any problems. I can probably avoid having to humble myself and ask for help.”
This is your ego talking. It wants to protect itself and it does not want to admit that it cannot figure out recovery on its own.
But stop and think about this for a moment. Most addicts and alcoholics have struggled for months or even years to control their drug or alcohol intake. They know that they have a problem with their addiction and so they have fought really hard to try to control it. They have already given it a 100 percent effort; they have tried everything in their own power to conquer their own addiction, and they have failed.
If you doubt this, then you could always take one more shot at it just to be sure. Say “OK, now I am totally serious about overcoming my addiction, and so I am going to do everything in my power to either control or completely stop my drug of choice so that I can recover on my own.” The payoff for doing this successfully is that you would no longer have to ask for help. You could just go your own way and recover on your own without any issues or having to involve anyone else or ask for help at all.
But the truth is that I do not believe that this is possible for true addicts and alcoholics. I think this is what defines us addicts–we cannot unmake our own problem of addiction by our own self, without any outside help. If we could, then we would just do so ourselves, without help, and go on about our lives. We would not even self-identify as “addicts” or “alcoholics.” There would be no need for those labels, because we would just walk away from the drugs or the booze one day, there would be no problem. Easy peasy.
But I do not see evidence of this in my life, and this was not my experience, and I have watched hundreds of others who have made the journey into recovery, and I do not believe that it works that way (where you can just decide to recover on your own without any help).
No, real addicts and alcoholics need help in order to recover. They must ask for help, and they must do so at the start of their recovery journey.
So if the first concept is “surrender” then the second concept is simply “asking for help.”
I strongly suggest that you do both, in that order.
Ask for help from a local treatment center
So then, how do you ask for help?
If you have friends and family who want to help you to get off drugs or booze, I would encourage you to ask them to help you find treatment.
If you do not have this option, then you must find treatment yourself.
Do this using a phone. Get on the phone. Make some calls. Make a lot of calls. Get out paper and something to write with.
Call up a local treatment center or drug rehab. If you do not have a local rehab then call the closest one to you. If you cannot find that or identify a rehab then call the nearest hospital.
If you cannot find a hospital then call up a helpline, such as 211.
The key is to get on the phone, start asking questions, and if you talk to someone who cannot really help you, then ask them who could help you. Ask them if there are other rehabs around that might take you.
If people are saying “no,” then simply ask for alternatives. Ask if there is any other way that you might get help, or treatment, or funding.
Sooner or later as you talk to rehabs and treatment facilities the issue of funding is going to arise. This is of course what it is all about; in order to go to rehab there has to be a way for you to pay for it.
Just because you have no money and no insurance and no job does not mean that you cannot get help. Depending on where you live, you may qualify to get help through various programs that may exist. I know in my area (southwest Michigan) people who have absolutely nothing can qualify to go to detox and inpatient rehab depending on what county they live in. There are a few funding agencies set up that specialize in this, but it is strictly arranged by what county you reside in as to where you can go to get this sort of funding. Similar arrangements are likely to exist where you live as well, you just have to find about it and ask questions.
The main question, of course, is this:
“I need to get help for my addiction, can your treatment center help me and what would it take for me to get in there, given that I have no insurance?”
Then the follow up question is:
“If you cannot help me, do you know of any other funding agencies, programs, rehabs or hospitals that I might try instead?”
Those are the two basic questions that you want to be asking, over and over again, until you have exhausted all of your options.
Obviously you want to be extremely patient, cordial, and nice when you are talking to people and asking these types of questions. If you act demanding or entitled then you are less likely to have doors open for you.
For example, you may run out of options and they might realize that you do not qualify for funding, but if they are desperate to try to help you then they might dig a little deeper to find a loophole (such as by getting you access to a long term rehab by saying that you are essentially homeless, even if you still technically still have a roof over your head….that sort of thing).
Be truly open minded to any help offered
The options that you get for help may not be what you expect.
For example, you may have thought that you would go to a 28 day rehab that is 12 step based, but maybe the only way you can attend treatment is to go to a religious program.
Initially you may reject such a solution, but this might be a big mistake on your part.
If you are truly at the point of surrender, then perhaps you should just “go with the flow” and allow yourself to be open minded. Take what help is offered, and be grateful for it. You may be surprised at the results.
Do not close yourself off to certain avenues of help that you might receive. This will only limit your options or keep you stuck in addiction.
Finding a purpose comes naturally in recovery
You mention that you have no purpose, or feel like you have no purpose at this point.
I want to assure you that you will find a purpose rather quickly in recovery. This happens naturally because suddenly your life will take on new meaning.
It is impossible to see this or appreciate this while you are still drinking or using drugs. But once you are clean and sober then your life will take on new meaning.
They have a saying in recovery, something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing here): “We will see that no matter how far down we have fallen in our addiction that our experience can help and benefit others.”
In other words, even if you feel like your life and your addiction has been a total disaster and has no value to anyone, you will realize in recovery that your experience has value. This is because you will be able to use that experience to help other people in recovery.
So do not feel that you lack purpose, for purpose will find you quickly in recovery. It always does. Sobriety gives new meaning to life.
And there is nothing I could say or do that could convince you of this, that you will find purpose in recovery. You just have to trust it, and get sober, and then experience it. No one could convince you of this in advance. I know this because I was the same way….I did not think I would find purpose in life again either. But I did.
A spiritual purpose for your journey thus far
So you should realize that your life up until this point still has value. The religious would say “God has a plan for you.” Those in 12 step programs would say “no matter how bad your addiction got, you can still benefit others in recovery, and life can be good again.”
They are both right. It gets better. Life gets better.
So get on the phone. Start making calls and asking for help. Be persistent.
That is my advice to you, based on what worked for me.