Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Can Give you a Freedom that You Never Knew Existed
Attending inpatient alcohol treatment and give you a freedom that you never even knew existed.
I see this happen over and over again in recovery. When someone finally “gets it” and breaks free from their addiction, it is not simply that they no longer are addicted to alcohol. That is just the surface level change, that is what everyone sees on the outside.
But in order to maintain their sobriety, the person must change from within. We know today that alcoholism or drug abuse is only a symptom of something much deeper. The drug or alcohol abuse is only an outward manifestation of the thing inside which is the addiction. And so once you remove the drugs and the alcohol you have to change what is going on inside, or the addiction will simply find another unhealthy outlet of destruction. What is even more common is when the alcoholic fails to change “from within” they will simply end up relapsing at some point and go back to the old chaos and misery.
Going to inpatient rehab can be the key that unlocks this new freedom. And there is really no way that you can put any sort of price on this transformation because the alternative is so incredibly bad, no matter how you look at it.
Cost benefit analysis: What you get out of treatment versus staying drunk until you die
You have to keep in mind what the alternative to treatment is: Living in misery until you die.
Really consider this and think about it for a while. Aren’t you sick and tired of being miserable? Going from one high to the next is not a good way to live. Eventually you will realize that each “high” from the drugs or the booze is barely enough to keep you happy for an hour. And then later in your addiction you will realize that even that hour of happiness is gone, and you are hustling just to avoid feeling miserable. Your tolerance will eventually shift to the point where you get drunk or high just to feel normal. And then even that will begin to feel miserable. It is a downward spiral and it never gets any better.
You can fool yourself though. For example, you can stop drinking and using drugs for a few days or seriously cut down. Then suddenly cut loose again and drink large amounts of alcohol all over again. Bingo! You will feel happy and elated, just like it used to feel! You figured out how to be drunk and happy again. All you have to do is stop for a few days first and let your tolerance adjust. Then get totally smashed and you will have that hour or two of “real fun” back in your life.
Of course then you have to realize that you are back to square one again. You are miserable and so you try to drink more and more to recapture that happy feeling. But it is gone again until you take a few days off and let your tolerance adjust again.
Is this fun? Is this a good way to live? Are those few days off really tolerable? Of course they aren’t. They are miserable. You have to go through several days of misery, several days of depriving yourself from alcohol, just to have a few good hours of “fun” when you get drunk again. Is this really worth it?
If you make a decision to escape from this trap and go to inpatient rehab, you will discover that you can have this same level of “fun” without ever drinking any alcohol at all.
Now I realize that many alcoholics do not believe that. They think that they are different, that they are unique, that they are the only person in the universe who needs alcohol in order to be “happy.” But they are wrong. I was in that same position. I thought that I was unique, I thought that I was “wired differently than other alcoholics” and that I just had to accept the fact that I needed alcohol in order to be happy. I believed that I was doomed to drink forever, because there was no way possible that I could ever be happy if I was sober.
Well, I was wrong. And all of the alcoholics out there who think they are special, they are wrong too.
You are not special. You can get sober and learn to be happy without alcohol. Yes, you can. I know you don’t want to believe that right now, but it is the truth. You can deny the truth, but what does your denial really get you?
What do you get by believing that you are doomed to die an alcoholic death?
What do you gain by sticking to the belief that you just have to drink in order to live?
What do you gain by continuing on the path of alcoholism?
These are the sort of questions that can break you out of denial.
It is denial to live in misery and to believe that you can never be happy if you are sober. That is denial. You may not realize that you can actually be happy while sober, but I am trying to convince you of that now. Many alcoholics have done it before you. Many of those alcoholics were in even worse shape than you are. They were “further down the scale” in terms of their disease, and they still managed to go get help and turn their life around.
Ultimately there are only two choices for an alcoholic who is struggling:
1) Continue to drink, and eventually die in misery.
2) Get help, get sober, live a better life.
Those are the two paths. Of course there thousands of details and variations within those two paths, but those are the two basic choices.
You can either keep drinking, or you can get sober.
Notice that there is definitely no middle path here. If you try to define a middle path between those two, then guess what? It is actually the “continuing to drink” path. You can’t “sort of be an alcoholic.” You are either abusing alcohol or you are sober. There is no in between for someone with a real addiction.
So what are the outcomes of these two paths?
It is obvious to anyone who has made the choice for sobriety. I can look back today and realize just how far I have come. I can look back at the previous 13 years and realize how much more joy and happiness I have experienced that otherwise would have been sacrificed if I continued in my addiction.
These are polar opposites, these potential outcomes.
Perhaps as an alcoholic or drug addict you are holding to possibilities like this:
1) I might stay drunk and be happy somehow, or
2) I might get sober and be miserable forever.
These are both denial! They are simply not true. Addiction is a downward spiral. You can fool yourself in the short run but eventually the misery and the chaos of addiction will multiply and compound.
And the same thing is true of recovery. You may get sober and be depressed for a short while, but eventually the positive actions in recovery will start to compound and multiply. If you stay sober and take positive action every day then you are NOT going to be miserable forever. It gets better very quickly. Then it starts getting insanely good. Life becomes awesome in recovery, more amazing then you ever imagined when you were drinking.
But of course you have to give it a chance. You have to give your actions time to compound and to multiply. This takes time. It takes time for this to happen whether you are sober, or whether you are drinking–it doesn’t matter. Time is the multiplier. And eventually your daily actions will determine how your life ends up. You either build a life of happiness in sobriety or you continue to accumulate more and more misery in addiction. The choice is always yours, and it is a simple choice. Not an easy choice (I know!) but it is very simple. If you keep drinking then the misery will keep building over the long run.
And so this is what you are evaluating when you think about going to rehab. Do you want to keep accumulating misery in the long run by continuing to drink, or do you want to start accumulating happiness in the long run by being sober? Those are your choices. Rehab is just a vehicle to help you get started on the right path. Inpatient treatment is not a magic bullet, it is simply pointing you in the direction that you want to go. You still have to put in the effort. You still have to take action. You still have to decide, and commit.
The alternative to this change is to stay stuck in misery. To let the misery and chaos continue to build over time. At the extremes it is really a choice between life and death. Choosing your addiction is really a choice for death in the long run. Choosing recovery is declaring that you want to live. Of course it is more complicated than that but if you carry these decisions out to their logical extremes that is what you get: Life and death. Choose recovery and you choose life.
Most alcoholics realize that there was something inherently wrong with them all along, and the alcoholism was merely a symptom of this
The real truth about addiction is that it is just a cover for something inside, some sort of sickness that the alcoholic is medicating.
Alcoholism and drug addiction are merely a symptom. I really believe this to be true because I have noticed this “addictive tendency” in myself, even in recovery.
And this is where the real freedom comes in at. When you recover from addiction and you “do the work,” you unlock this freedom that you never knew existed.
For example, maybe you always felt sorry for yourself (like I did). Even before I started drinking, I used to engage in self pity. I used to feel sorry for myself. I never realized that this was limiting me, or that this might be hurting me in some way. I never realized that this mental exercise was just an excuse to not take any action. A way for me to play the victim. I did not know that it was hurting me.
So in recovery, I had to start “doing the work.” If you go through the 12 steps with a sponsor, then this is one way to start “doing the work” that I am talking about. Of course, you don’t have to use the 12 step program in order to do this sort of internal work. You can do it by yourself or with a therapist or whatever. But you have to increase your awareness and figure out what is really going on inside of you and then take care of it.
So when I had a few months sober I was living in a long term treatment center and I was starting to identify some of this internal stuff. And I realized that I was prone to this self pity thing. It as what I did. Everyone else seemed to talk about resentments and how they really drove them to drink, but I could not find any major resentments in my own life. I was baffled for a little while. But then I started to pay attention and I realized one day what I was doing.
I was feeling sorry for myself. And it suddenly struck me and I thought: “Wait a minute! Why am I doing this? The only reason to feel sorry for myself is to justify taking a drink!” This was my excuse. This was how I justified drinking and drug use. Because I had this self pity thing going on. It was how I justified my addiction to myself, in the same way that other people used resentments to fuel their drinking.
So then I had a road map. “I must learn to eliminate this self pity if I am to remain sober.” So that is what I did. I started to ask people how to overcome self pity. I started to research this and learn about how to overcome it. And I developed a system by which I could start to eliminate it from my life every single day. My system basically amounted to:
1) Increase my awareness. Become hyper aware of when I was slipping into “self pity mode.” Become vigilant.
2) Shut it down mentally. Zero tolerance. Distract thinking, redirect.
3) Practice gratitude daily. Self pity dies instantly in the face of gratitude. Counter attack with gratitude.
And so I made this a priority and I put it into action. And it worked instantly. I never again had a problem with self pity.
And so this is what it means in recovery to “do the work.” When they talk about cleaning up all of that bad stuff inside of you, they are talking about stuff like this. Like my battle with self pity.
And this is also how you gain “a freedom that you never knew existed.”
Because think about it:
I was using self pity in my life for a long time, before I even started drinking or using drugs. It was a crutch that I used my whole life.
Then I became alcoholic. Then I got sober.
And then I fixed my self pity problem.
So this gave me a new freedom, a freedom that I had never known before in my life–not even before my addiction started.
And this is the kind of thing that people are talking about when they talk about how amazing sobriety is, or how their life is better today than it has ever been in the past. They are not just saying those things for effect, they really mean it, and this is why. Because they are now addressing these sort of flaws and defects that existed even before their addiction did! This is how they discover a new freedom. By doing the work.
Of course in order to know this new freedom you have to put in the work. You have to take action. And most people won’t do that until they really have no other options. And this is why we say that most alcoholics have to hit bottom before they can build a new life in recovery.
A new life and a new freedom can come from structure and discipline
I went to short term treatment and then I lived in long term rehab for 20 months. This is how my recovery started.
There is something to be said for this level of structure. Some people don’t need that much help in early recovery. I obviously did though. I am grateful I lived in rehab for 20 months. It was the best decision I ever made.
I see early recovery as an exercise in building discipline. It is like you are exercising your discipline muscle.
They tell you to go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days.
What is the point of this? There are many potential reasons but for me the biggest thing that you gain from that particular challenge is the structure and the discipline that it builds.
Let me give you another example. Maybe you are not in great shape but you find that you can get out there and jog a few miles if you really push yourself.
So over the first year of your sobriety you decide to get out there every single day and run a few miles. And you slowly increase the distance.
And you never skip a single day. Ever.
This is discipline. And my point here is that this is a really powerful tool in early sobriety.
So powerful, in fact, that there are entire recovery programs based on this very principle (Look up Racing for Recovery if you want proof of this).
But that doesn’t mean that you have to run marathons in order to get sober. It just means that building up your “discipline muscle” is a very powerful technique in early recovery.
Going to treatment for 28 days is one way to get this discipline muscle kick started. It takes a certain level of dedication and commitment just to be in rehab for 28 days. I should know, I worked in a rehab for 5 plus years and I have watched people walk out. Many, many times. More than most people would guess is typical.
So this is an important principle. You want to be sober, then start building your up your discipline. Exercise it like it is a muscle. Be consistent. Take positive action every single day. This is something that you learn in treatment. This is something that you learn by being in treatment as well.
Now when I was still drinking every day, I did not like the idea of becoming disciplined. I viewed it as a loss of freedom. I had it all backwards in my mind. I thought that if I were in treatment and had all of this structure that it would squeeze the fun out of my life, that I would be like a robot, or like I was imprisoned.
This is denial. I was hanging on to the idea that I wanted to be free so that I could drink.
What I could not see at the time was that I was already in chains. I had to drink just to exist. I was not free at all.
And then I went to rehab, and then I lived in long term treatment for 20 months. And I started to build this discipline and I realized a whole new level of freedom.
I was sober, and I had some structure in my life, and I was growing stronger each day. And I realized at some point that this was very powerful. Not only was I sober but I was happy. And I had more options than ever before. If I wanted to, I could certainly go back to drinking again. But I no longer wanted to, because I was happy with the new freedom that I had discovered in sobriety.
“It just keeps getting better and better”
I heard someone say this in an AA meeting once. They said “I can’t believe this sobriety stuff, it just keeps getting better and better!”
And it’s true. You have to get through the hard part, of course. You have to put in the hard work in early recovery.
After a few months though the positive benefits start to build on themselves. Life starts getting really good. Then it gets even better.
And before you know it, you will be amazed at how good your life is in recovery.
You will look back and realize that you have never had it this good, not even before your addiction started.
And this is the blessing of sobriety. That you will know a new freedom, one that you never knew existed.
Have you found this new freedom in your life today? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!