Some people are so discouraged with the idea of alcoholism recovery because they do not believe that there is any hope.
For example, maybe you have heard some recovery statistics that claim only a few people ever manage to stay clean and sober, or how nearly everyone will relapse within the first year. Or perhaps you just believe that you were never meant to be sober, and that you are doomed to chase your happiness at the bottom of the bottle and forever be miserable (this is essentially what I believed for many years).
What I want to convince you of today is that there really is hope. I have been clean and sober now for 12+ years, and I have worked in the field of alcoholism recovery for many years as well. I have watched several people fail in recovery but I have also watched many succeed. And I can tell you that there is definitely hope for any struggling alcoholic.
In fact, your chances at sobriety are no better or worse than anyone else’s. You are not more likely to relapse based on your intelligence, your career path, your relationships, or your average income. None of that stuff seems to make a bit of difference when it comes to alcoholism and recovery. Addiction is the great equalizer. Just look at how many celebrities fall victim to addiction even though they have more money and resources to be able to fight back against it. The problem is that it is a different sort of fight, the kind that cannot be won by having more money and resources. The battle is within yourself.
And that is why it doesn’t matter what background you are coming from, what your story is, or what you think the odds are against your success. I am telling you now that you have a real chance at recovery. You have a shot at long term sobriety. Everyone does. There is nothing to prevent you from taking it and claiming it for your own.
You can be happy. You can be happy in sobriety, without needing to depend on alcohol or other drugs. Does that sound like a fantasy? Does that sound impossible?
It sounded impossible to me, at first. I really believed that I would be miserable forever if I were to get sober. How would I be happy if I couldn’t drink? How would I enjoy myself ever again? I really did not believe it to be possible.
Getting discouraged with someone who relapses constantly
It is possible that you are stuck in a cycle of relapse.
This is not uncommon. It happens to nearly everyone before they finally reach that point of true surrender, where they finally ask for help and follow through and their life really changes for the better.
Before you reach that point there is much struggle with alcoholism and addiction. You are going to have many trials and painful experiences.
For example, before an alcoholic can reach bottom, they generally have to prove to themselves that they cannot drink like normal people. In other words, the alcoholic is not going to give up alcohol entirely unless they can prove to themselves that they cannot “have their cake and eat it too.” In other words they are going to avoid the idea of total abstinence at all costs. It is much more enticing to think that they can learn to control their drinking rather than to surrender completely and give it up entirely.
So this is where the experimenting comes in. “I will drink beer from now on instead of liquor.” Or they think “I will only drink after 8PM each night, but not before then.” Or they say “I will only drink on the weekends, but never during the week any more.”
These are the games that the alcoholic plays in order to try to control their problem. If they are a true alcoholic then these attempts only result in more misery. They always backfire. The alcoholic gets drunk enough and throws all of the rules out the window.
If you are playing these games and trying to limit and control your alcohol consumption, then you might get discouraged with the idea that you can ever be happy again in your life. And you may get even more depressed when someone suggests that the real solution is to give up alcohol entirely and go to rehab.
Of course at some point most alcoholics will get miserable enough in their lives that they will give rehab a chance. So they will go to treatment and they will go through detox and they will become sober, at least temporarily. Now the question is, are they willing to do the work that is necessary in order to build a new life for themselves in recovery?
You have two choices in early recovery:
1) Do nothing, and relapse.
2) Work your tail off on building a new life in recovery.
There is absolutely no middle ground in between those two ideas. If we could somehow convince all of the people who just got sober today that there is no middle ground between those two options, then success rates would probably be a lot higher.
Or, perhaps more accurately, we would discover that most people who have “hit a wall” in their addiction are not truly ready to get sober yet. They are just taking a break. But they probably have not hit bottom yet. They probably are not ready to do option number two, the one where you have to work your tail off for a few years in order to rebuild your life.
If you want to get clean and sober in recovery then you don’t need luck, or a magic process, or anything special. You just have to roll up your sleeves and be ready to work hard for it. That is all it takes to get sober and enjoy an awesome new life in recovery. You have to work for it.
Ask yourself: “Am I ready to work hard for my recovery?”
Hitting bottom and reaching the point of total surrender
In order to reach this point where you are ready and willing to work hard for sobriety you must first surrender.
If you have not surrendered in full then there will be this force that is drawing you back towards relapse. There will be a large part of you that still wants to drink and self medicate and party it up. That part of you must be killed or eliminated before you can have a real shot at sobriety. We call that process “surrender” and it is a process that is driven by pain and misery. If you have not yet surrendered then the way that you will get there is to experience more pain and misery at the hands of your addiction.
Only after the alcoholic has experienced “enough” pain and misery in their life will they finally become willing to surrender everything and try a new way to live.
Have you had enough pain and misery yet?
Are you willing to embrace a new way of life, even if you are not sure that it will make you happy?
That is the leap of faith that I had to make in my own journey.
I was essentially saying to myself “This recovery stuff is for the birds, and I do not believe that it will ever make me happy to be sober and to go to meetings or whatever.”
But I had no better option. I had finally admitted that I was miserable in my drinking, and that I could not make myself happy. So I had reached the point where it was worth a try. I had to give sobriety a chance because it was better than the alternative. The alternative was to go back to drinking and I finally had the dawning moment of realization that if I did that I would just be miserable again. I had that moment of clarity where I could see the future, I could see myself trying to drink more and use drugs in order to be happy, and I could finally see that I would only be happy about 2 percent of the time, and that I would be miserable the other 98 percent of the time. This was my moment of surrender. I decided to give sobriety a chance, even though I firmly believed that if I got sober and started going to AA meetings that I would just be miserable. I really believed that, but I was so miserable anyway in my addiction that I no longer cared one way or the other. I may as well give sobriety a chance.
As I mentioned above there are really only two possible paths in recovery. One is to build up a new life and the other is to stay on some sort of negative path that leads to addiction and relapse. One of those negative paths is the idea of victim mentality and always blaming others for your misery and pain. This is very common with alcoholics and addicts. I have done this myself and when I was busy playing the victim there was no way that I could possibly embrace recovery.
If you are busy blaming others for your misery then you have the perfect excuse to self medicate and to drink. If your misery is other people’s fault then you can easily justify drinking over it. Take a step back and realize that this attitude is only hurting you in the long run because it keeps you drunk and killing yourself through your addiction. At some point you have to take responsibility for the fact that you are unhappy in life and that this unhappiness is largely as a result of your drinking.
The alcoholic mind is very good at denial, at pointing out that the alcohol is not really the true source of the misery. This is a persistent lie because in almost every case you can find exceptions where the alcohol really doesn’t produce pain or misery directly, and the alcoholic will cling to these examples that help to justify their position. The problem is that when you do this you also ignore hundreds or even thousands of other days in which you were miserable due to your drinking. In order to see the misery and pain that alcoholism is causing you, you have to take a step back and get really honest with yourself. Most people are not willing to do that until they have finally hit bottom and surrendered.
Why there is no cure (or why recovery is a process rather than an event)
Recovery is a process and not an event.
This is something that many people have to learn the hard way. It would be nice if you could just send an alcoholic into rehab for a few weeks and then expect them to come out completely sober, never to even think of taking another sip of alcohol for the rest of their lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if it worked that way? Wouldn’t it be nice if it worked that way every single time?
It doesn’t work that way. Not even close. And so the idea of paying money for treatment that may or may not work probably puts a lot of people off. But what is the alternative? To live in misery and die in the pain and suffering of addiction? It is always better to risk it, to try to recover at any cost. The benefits of sobriety are too great to ignore. The pain and suffering of addiction is too thorough, too damaging. It is a downward spiral that always has the same negative outcomes.
Alcoholism treatment is not a cure. There will always be a chance that someone could relapse in the future. This is why the recovery process is ongoing and must be a daily practice that extends for the rest of your life. If you stay vigilant then the benefits of recovery will expand and keep coming into the future. If you slack off then you run the risk of relapse. There is probably no middle ground in between these two extremes.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some middle ground in recovery? Must alcoholics and addicts always go to extremes? Maybe we are just wired that way. My experience and observations thus far are that you have to choose a path. Either you are working on recovery or you are drifting towards relapse. If you fail to choose a path then guess what? You are choosing to drift closer to relapse. The only way to avoid that choice is to deliberately choose recovery. And the way to do that consistently is to make your recovery into a daily practice.
Beating the odds and staying sober for good
In order to stay sober forever you need to work hard at it forever. You don’t get to claim that you are “cured” and then prop your feet up and do nothing. This won’t work. You will get complacent and then relapse if you stop pushing yourself to make positive changes.
How do you commit to long term growth? How do you make a commitment to personal growth in your life?
You must answer this question for yourself, but I can help you be describing the outcome of that:
1) You must take care of yourself every day in a physical sense. You must take care of your body. You must strive for greater physical health. This means not putting drugs and alcohol into your system but it can also go beyond that (and probably should). So things like exercise, quitting smoking, eating healthier–all become important in the long run. The goal is to move towards greater health.
2) You must take care of yourself emotionally. A good indicator of this is balance. If you do not have balance in your life and you are upset all the time then this is probably not a good indicator of long term sobriety. You can still have emotions of course but you want more balance than what you had in the past. You want to be able to become more stable if you get angry or fly off the handle. You want to learn coping skills so that your only solution is not reaching for the bottle when you are emotionally upset. Relapse is always preceded by an emotional relapse. Before you can ever pick up a drink you have to say “screw it.” This is an emotional problem. Therefore you must strive for emotional health as well.
3) You must take care of yourself spiritually. If you go to AA or NA then this is the entire thrust of their program, and all that they focus on. Obviously it is important, but so are the other points listed here (which they miss). In order to take care of yourself spiritually you should focus mostly on gratitude and feeling grateful for your life and your sobriety. Nothing more is necessary from the standpoint of your spiritual health, though you may certainly take it further than that.
4) You must take care of yourself socially. This means finding healthy relationships in your life and nurturing them. This also means eliminating toxic people from your life or minimizing contact with them. Obviously this is a lifelong challenge and a bit of an art form. We learn from other people in recovery and so relationships are very important, but they can also be a negative point as well.
5) You must take care of yourself mentally. This means feeding your brain positive information, keeping your mind sharp by practicing gratitude every day, and generating new ways of improving your life and your life situation in recovery.
When do you have to do this stuff?
You have to do all of it, every single day.
Some people will look over their day at the end of it and see if they checked off these items in their life. That way they can monitor if they are neglecting something.
In fact, it is not doing these things that will keep you sober so much, it is the opposite: If you neglect one area for too long, you will relapse.
Therefore it becomes about vigilance. You must keep pushing yourself to take positive action in all of those 5 areas.
Over and over again.
If you do this consistently then you are rebuilding your life in recovery. New opportunities will open up to you as if by magic. But you have to have this foundation in place in order to be ready to see the opportunities. You have to be taking these positive actions every day in order to set yourself up for success.
This is the daily practice.
People who remain sober are doing something like this, whether they realize it or not. If they fail to do these things then they move closer to relapse.
Another way to say this is that recovery from alcoholism is a holistic affair. It is not just spiritual. It is bigger than that. It is holistic. If you fail to check off those 5 things in your life then you are risking relapse.
If you are still looking for help in overcoming alcoholism then consider the idea that you should explore this website further, or possibly take action today by asking for help. If nothing changes, nothing changes!
Are you in recovery already? Do you have hope for the future? Or are you hoping to get sober some day? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!