What happens when a struggling alcoholic or drug addict finally is able to break out of the cycle of relapse and recovery and finally “get it?” What is the fundamental change that must occur in order for that person to break through their denial and recover? What is the breaking point for the person who suffers from chronic relapse?
I do not know if we can pin this down to a single truth and then apply that principle to every addict and alcoholic who suffers. The problem is that some people never reach their bottom in which they are able to turn it all around; instead they pursue their addiction into insanity, or prison, or death itself. Certainly unfortunate, but that does not make it any less true. Some people simply do not find recovery in time, and we certainly want to see that reversed here at Spiritual River.
So what can be done to identify the true bottom? How can we convince a struggling alcoholic or drug addict that their time has come, that the time to act is now, that they need to reach out and ask for help before it is too late?
If you go to an Al-anon group you can get some level of guidance when it comes to these sort of questions. And more than that, you can get some support from other people who have dealt with the same struggle that you are dealing with. You can get some hope that there is the possibility of change out there, and that you are not responsible for that change.
What you can do is to offer to help the person–not to enable them to continue drinking or abusing drugs, but to actually help them. And the way to do that is to reach out to them when they happen to be clean and sober for the moment and communicate your offer to them. The offer should be simple and it should involve professional treatment. In other words, you offer to help the person–when they are truly ready–to go to rehab and get the help that they need.
When the struggling alcoholic comes back at this with “oh, sure, but right now what I really need is _____,” at that point you turn and walk away. And then in the future, when you communicate with the addict or alcoholic, you reiterate your offer: Inpatient treatment is what you can help them with, and nothing else. You cannot take them for a ride to the store. You cannot babysit their children. You cannot bail them out of jail. You cannot give them money for food. Those are all behaviors that may simply enable them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol.
You see, even if you buy them bread and sandwich meat, that is allowing them to spend more money on their drug of choice, and it could just perpetuate the problem further. You think that you are side stepping their addiction by helping them with something like food or shelter or childcare directly, but all you are really doing is allowing them to hold their life together a little bit longer while they continue to self medicate themselves to death.
In the end, it is all enabling behavior, except for driving them to an inpatient treatment program where they go through detox and do 28 days of residential treatment. Just about anything else that you can potentially do for an addict or an alcoholic is enabling behavior.
What will happen if you stop enabling the person?
Hopefully, not only will you stop enabling them, but other people in their life will stop enabling them as well. And at some point they will face a stark reality: Either their addiction is going to drown them completely, or they are going to ask for help.
Note that the addict or alcoholic is not likely to reach a breaking point, or to hit bottom, if there is someone who is enabling them to continue. If someone is “rescuing” the addict in any way then it is far more likely that the addict will continue to abuse their drug of choice. No one really quits when things are going well. Why would they? I never would have quit if things had been going well for me.
But things were not going well for me. My primary enabler at the time had left for an extended vacation their their family, and I was left completely alone. This is when I realized the crushing depression that was drinking alone. What was the point? You can only “party” by yourself for so long until you realize that it is all a sham, it is all in your mind, and the party is, in fact, long over.
That is how I found myself when I hit my bottom. And the smack in the face was that this is what I had wanted all along–I wanted to be left alone, I wanted everyone to just go away and allow me to drink myself silly, I wanted to have unlimited drugs and booze and be completely isolated so that I could drink the way that I always wanted to drink, without any negative consequences.
And I got my wish. Through random chance and circumstance, eventually everyone was gone for a while, and I was left home alone with plenty of spending cash. I bought plenty of very hard liquor, I had a decent stash of other drugs to put into the mix, and I was finally able to be left to my own devices and “party” to my heart’s content.
And I was miserable. Completely and utterly miserable. It was so crushing to see, and to admit to myself, that I no longer knew how to make myself happy. At all. Here I had got exactly what I wanted, and yet I was completely miserable in my isolation.
It was at that moment of realization that I finally broke through my denial.
Because my denial was telling me all along that if only I had a billion dollars and only if everyone would just leave me alone for a while then I could drink and take drugs and finally be happy. That was what my denial had been telling me over and over again for the last few years.
And so when I finally achieved that set of circumstances I was miserable and the misery shattered my denial.
I knew at that moment that if I was going to be happy again in this world that it would require the help and direction of someone else. I needed guidance, therapy, treatment, whatever it would take to straighten my life out.
And so I became willing to ask for help, to give treatment a real chance this time. I surrendered completely and asked my family for help, and they sent me to rehab. Which is all a family can really do in the end, is to send you to rehab, send you to the professionals.
And it worked. It worked this time because I was completely ready for change. I was done with my old life in addiction and I was eager to try something new, anything new, something other than the crushing misery and depression of drinking myself silly every night.
I went to rehab and, very slowly mind you, I started to get my life back. It took a few months, but honestly that is not that long when I look back at the last 17 years of my recovery.
By the time I had 4 months or so I actually had a day in which I never even had a single thought of drinking booze or taking drugs. And that was a miracle that I never thought would happen! And yet it happened in just a few short months.
My hope is that you can achieve the same freedom. All it takes it the willingness to ask for help, and then follow through. Good luck to you!