The best way to help alcoholics recover is to get them to create. This is because creation is recovery. Most people erroneously believe that recovery is an act of elimination, because we are attempting to quit using drugs and alcohol. But the key to long term recovery is creation, not elimination.
Photo by Mark Sebastian
An alcoholic is trapped in a cycle of addiction, and this trap has taken over their entire life. Sobering up is not a long term solution. They must create a new life for themselves if they want to stand a chance at staying sober over the long run. Hence the need for creation.
Assessment and side issues
Some alcoholics need more help than others. For example, some will need to go to a medically supervised detox in order to get off the booze, while other alcoholics might be able to walk away from the drinking without any physical withdrawal symptoms.
On a similar note, some alcoholics have some related health issues, such as certain medical conditions. Dealing with these side issues becomes important in the quest for long term sobriety. Many who first get sober don’t realize how sick they were because they were covering up symptoms of other diseases with their drinking.
Mental health issues can surface as well. All must be dealt with or the alcoholic risks relapse in the long run. So the idea with a comprehensive assessment is to go beyond the addiction and find any additional problems that a person might have. We have to treat the whole person in order to achieve health and well being in the long run.
Now don’t get me wrong — alcohol addiction is a big enough problem by itself. But so many in recovery have relapsed due to side issues such as mental health disorders or physical problems that they never dealt with in early recovery. It is astounding to see how many have relapsed due to illness or physical health problems. This is one of the sneaky routes that the disease uses to attack the alcoholic. The solution, of course, is to go beyond a spiritual approach and instead use a holistic approach that treats the whole alcoholic– in mind, body, and spirit.
Stage one recovery
Think of recovery as being split into two stages: early recovery, and long term sobriety.
Early recovery is your first few months of sobriety. It’s like a massive shock to the system because you are so new to recovery and you don’t really know how to stay clean and sober just yet. For most people, it’s all we can do just to hang on at this point and string together a few weeks of sobriety. We do this by using brute force tactics, such as staying in treatment centers or going to lots of AA meetings each and every day. The winners in recovery find a way to stick it out through stage one recovery and eventually transition into long term sobriety.
Long term sobriety is not the same as those first few months while getting clean. Your life will be a lot different at 5 years sober than it was when you only had 5 weeks sober. It makes sense, then, to think of sobriety in 2 stages, and understand that you need a different approach depending on where you are at in your journey. As mentioned above, the key to success in early recovery is in using overwhelming force to muscle your way through the early days of recovery. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably fooling themselves a bit, as early recovery is overwhelming and difficult. Use anything and everything at your disposal to get through this difficult period and start working on the transition into long term sobriety.
Transition and finding your vision
The best way to help alcoholics recover is to help them find their vision. “Finding our vision” is about realizing our passion in life and pursuing it as a means to sobriety. In other words, getting sober is not enough. Likewise, getting sober and then doing your day job and watching television every night is probably not enough either. The key to long term sobriety is to find your vision and pursue it. This vision will involve connecting with others or helping them in some way.
For example, some people have a vision of reaching out and helping other alcoholics directly in recovery, and these people might go on to be sponsors in 12 step groups, or they might become counselors or therapists as well. Another example might be someone who gets really fired up over exercise and fitness in recovery, and they might eventually turn to fitness coaching or being a trainer in a gym or something. The point is that they find their passion and then use it to reach out and help others.
Now these are both obvious examples as far as helping others goes, but your vision doesn’t have to be that direct and obvious. People can find purpose and fulfillment without becoming teachers or coaches too. It’s more about simply finding your passion and connecting with others. If you haven’t found anything in recovery that gets you as passionate as you were about drinking, then you haven’t found your vision yet. Keep seeking.
Values and purpose
Look to your values to find your purpose. What does this mean?
Think about your values for a moment. Your values are those things that you hold to be valuable. You might value family very highly. Or your might value physical fitness and health. Or emotional balance and meditation. And so on. Realize that your values are hierarchical; you can put them in order from most important to least important.
So, what is really important to you? The values that you hold to be most important should have a hand in directing you to your passion and purpose in life. Your highest values should dictate your vision. This just makes sense….it’s why an animal lover might become a veterinarian or a sports enthusiast might become a little league coach. Again, these are obvious examples but you might find a less direct connection with your values that still points you in the right direction. The point is that you should allow your values to guide you towards your purpose in life.
Stripping away the alcohol leaves us with a life devoid of meaning. If we want to transition into long term sobriety then we have to find passion in our lives that exceeded our passion for drinking. If we cannot do that then we risk relapsing back to the booze.
A good purpose in life usually will involve helping others or reaching out and connecting with them in some way. It is up to the individual to find out how their unique values will direct them towards their purpose.
How can we best embrace creation? Through holistic growth. The best way to help alcoholics recover over the long haul is to push them to grow holistically.
Why holistically? Because any other method of growth is limiting in nature. For example, focusing on spiritual growth only (a common error in traditional recovery) neglects the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of recovery.
Instead, the key is to push for holistic growth. For example: Get some exercise. Eat better. Quit smoking. Strive for emotional balance. Meditate. Work on relationships. Network with others.
And so on. The holistic approach seeks to treat the whole alcoholic, not just a part of them (such as their spiritual shortcomings).
Realize that the holistic approach has a non-linear growth curve. This means that growth will start out very slowly because the person is attempting to grow in several different areas of their life. It might be difficult at first because their won’t be dynamite results right away. But over time, because of the holistic approach, all the growth in different areas starts to add up. Our efforts start to pay off in all of these different areas all at the same time, and then the benefits are so great that it becomes overwhelming.
So the holistic approach might seem slow at first. Give it a chance to start working in your life. The payoff is huge once everything starts coming together for you. Those who have focused exclusively on one area of growth might enjoy more benefits in the short term, but their enthusiasm will taper off in the long run because they are not exploring growth in other areas.
Giving back and helping others
As mentioned above, the idea of giving back is usually connected to a person’s vision or purpose for recovery. This idea is particularly powerful because it’s a win-win situation. In particular, the idea of helping others is beneficial to us because:
1) Giving back and helping others raises our own self esteem.
2) Helping others actually helps us to learn things at a deeper level. Our effectiveness increases.
3) Helping others is an act of creation. We are adding value to the world.
It is not enough to simply eliminate the alcohol. We have to find passion and purpose in our lives and reach out and connect with others. In doing so we create a new life for ourselves, one that can fully replace our old life of drinking. This is creation. This is the solution that real alcoholics must embrace in order to stay sober. It becomes even more powerful if we can figure out how to help an alcoholic in the process.
If you are interested in professional help for creative recovery, email Keith and set up a free coaching session at:
Keith can work with you directly to help you with creation in your own life.