There are, in my opinion, 2 strategies that are absolutely essential for the struggling addict or alcoholic who is attempting to get clean and sober.
The first of these two strategies is that of total and complete surrender.
Now when I say “total and complete surrender,” we need to go into detail and define that phrase much more thoroughly.
The reason that we must do this is because so many struggling addicts and alcoholics will, at some point, go through what I would call “partial surrender.”
So when an alcoholic reaches this stage of partial surrender, they are having about half of a breakthrough. They realize, at this point, that their life is really screwed up and that alcohol and drugs are most likely the main culprit of this. Up until this point, until they had this partial epiphany, they were constantly trying to blame their problems on anything other than their drug of choice. But the finally reached this point, after they were quite thoroughly miserable, in which they can admit to themselves that they might actually have a problem.
Now why is this a partial surrender, you ask? Because at this point, the addict might admit to having a problem with substance abuse, but that does not mean that they have the willingness to try to fix the problem. That does not mean that they have the courage to face inpatient treatment and total sobriety. That doesn’t mean that they have the courage to face life without self medicating all the time.
That is the difference between total and partial surrender. With partial surrender, the addict is saying “yes I have a problem, but rehab or AA just won’t work for me, I’m sorry.”
With total surrender, the addict is saying “yes I have a problem, and I am willing to do whatever I am told to do in order to fix it.”
Notice that with total surrender, all traces of manipulation are completely gone. The addict offers themselves up to be directed, instructed, and told exactly what to do and how to live. That is total surrender.
So therefore, the first key strategy that an addict or an alcoholic must employ in early recovery is that of total surrender, and not just partial surrender.
The problem in this case is that I am not so sure that a human being can choose total surrender. It happens, and for some people it happens sooner rather than later. But when it happens, the become open to getting the help that they need to recover, and before it happens, nothing can be done that will truly help them.
So what can you do if you or a family member is still stuck in denial? How can you proceed forward if you know that you are not yet willing to embrace a new solution in your life?
My suggestion if you are the addict in question is that you start to write in a daily journal, each and every day. This simple exercise is like putting a mirror up to your life and up to your emotional state. If you force yourself to write in a daily journal then eventually it will force your brain to start seeing the truth of your situation.
We get stuck in denial because we believe that self medicating through the chaos and madness of addiction is making us happier than we would otherwise be if we were completely sober. Our denial keeps us stuck because it tells us that we would be even more unhappy if we stopped the drinking or the drugs.
The truth is that the alcoholic or drug addict is completely miserable in their addiction 99 percent of the time. They are miserable, and yet they have this denial aspect of their mind that is telling them that either they are perfectly happy while self medicating, or that they would be even worse if they were sober. So they stay stuck in addiction because they cannot see the simple truth. And the truth is that they would be far happier if they got rid of all the drugs and booze.
When you write down your feelings and emotions every day in a journal, and you keep doing that over and over again, you eventually realize the truth: You are not happy while drinking or drugging. Hardly ever. And so at some point, your brain will have this moment of awakening in which it realizes “hey, this just isn’t worth it any more. I’m not happy.” And so then you can ask for help.
Now if you happen to be the family member of the struggling addict or alcoholic, your job is a little different. Now your role is to stop enabling the person so that they can one day realize the truth for themselves: That they are unhappy while drinking or drugging.
It takes guts to stop enabling a friend or a loved one, and you are probably going to need some help or guidance in order to follow through with that decision. Therefore I would recommend that you go to an Al-anon meeting and get some support and some guidance about how to set those healthy boundaries in your life.
Now let’s talk about the second key strategy in early recovery.
This actually goes along with the first strategy of “total surrender,” because without that total and complete surrender, no addict or alcoholic is really going to be able to live up to this next suggestion.
And that suggestion could be called “total and complete recovery immersion.”
There is a tendency, for various reasons, for the newly recovering addict or alcoholic to only want to take tentative steps towards recovery at first.
One of the big reasons for this is denial. But another big reason is because of the stigma attached to drug or alcohol treatment. Some people feel embarrassed or ashamed to be checking into a detox or residential treatment facility.
Whatever the reasons are, it doesn’t really matter, because anyone who is taking tentative steps towards recovery is going to need to figure out how to up-shift quickly. Meaning that you cannot just casually entertain the idea of recovery and end up succeeding at it. That never happens. Ever.
For a real addict or a real alcoholic, their only hope is total and complete immersion into the world of recovery.
They must make a leap of faith, and go “all in” when it comes to getting help and following a program of recovery.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter so much what that help is or where it comes from, as long as it is someone else telling them what to do and how to live. In other words, treatment and a recovery program that can be followed.
Then it is up to the individual, to dive into that program and truly adopt it for themselves. Without this level of “all in” commitment, the alcoholic or addict really does not stand much of a chance at turning their life around.
So if you want to apply these strategies in your own life, my best suggestion is to surrender completely, break through your denial, and go to inpatient treatment. Then start following directions. It really is that simple!