I can remember being stuck in active addiction. One of the things I remember most is the total and complete lack of hope.
I lacked all hope because of what I believed at the time.
When I was stuck in addiction I believed that I was not really meant to recover, to find sobriety, to live a life of recovery.
Why did I think this?
A few reasons. One, I thought that I was unique. I honestly believed that I was the first person on the planet earth who truly fell in love with drugs and alcohol. Looking back this seems outrageously stupid, right? There are addicts and alcoholics everywhere, they are prevalent in the popular media, and of course addiction exists. But in my diseased little mind I somehow believed that this was new, that I was the only one, that I was the one true addict of the world, and everyone else must be just dabbling in drugs or alcohol. But I was serious about it, and I was seriously addicted, and no one else could possibly imagine the grip that my drug of choice had on me.
Second of all, I had gone to rehab twice before. Both times it failed for me. I had gone to treatment and I had immediately gone back to self medicating after leaving rehab. I was terrified to face myself, I was afraid to get honest in therapy, and I was afraid to attend recovery group meetings of any kind (including AA or NA).
Because I had been to treatment before I had sort of made the decision in my mind that it was not for me, that meetings and rehab could never save me, that I had tried that path in the past and it did not work, and so therefore that was that. I had tried rehab and it failed.
Part of my problem had been that I was very premature in going to rehab the first 2 times. I was not in a state of real surrender or desperation yet, and because of that, I was not willing to do whatever it took in order to recover. But even more than that, I did not even want to recover yet, I did not want to stop drinking or using drugs. I was still having fun getting high and drunk, and I wanted it to go on forever, and I could not imagine having any sort of contentment in life without self medicating. I just wasn’t done yet and I had no intention of stopping yet. My thought about rehab back then was “How do they convince you at rehab to not want to get drunk or high? How do they even do that?”
I did not know this, but rehab doesn’t even try to convince you of this. They assume that you are ready to stop, that you want to stop, that you have come to realize that you are truly miserable in your addiction. The first 2 times I went to rehab I was not at this point of surrender yet. I was still stuck in denial. I still believed that in order to have fun in life you had to get drunk or high, and all of these poor saps who were clean and sober just did not realize that simply fact. They were missing out! But I was living it up and getting wasted every day and really enjoying life, or so I thought. That was the level of my denial the first 2 times I attended treatment. So you can see why those attempts failed for me, because I was not in a position to even want to change my life. I wanted to keep using.
So what changed? How did I go from being hopeless and in denial to having some surrender in my life and finding that ray of hope?
What happened is that I finally surrendered completely. Now please note that at the moment of total surrender I really did not have much hope at all. I wasn’t jumping for joy and excited to be going back to rehab with a big smile on my face, anticipating this great new life in recovery. It wasn’t like that at all.
No, I was miserable and I was near being suicidal from my addiction. I was all alone, my family and friends were out of town for a while, and I was able to drink and use drugs in peace, getting as thoroughly wasted as I wanted to be. And honestly, it wasn’t working. I was drinking huge amounts of liquor and I was quite miserable, and I could not seem to get to that “happy place” that I thought that I had permanent access to through the use of drugs and booze. It just wasn’t happening for me. I was full of booze but I could not seem to escape from myself. I was stuck in my own skin and I was miserable, and since I was all alone there was no one to shift the misery to, no one else to blame for my unhappiness but myself.
That was my moment of surrender and my moment of desperation. I suddenly had a flash of insight and I realized that my future was going to be this constant cycle of misery and chaos in which I scrambled to medicate my “happiness” with drugs and alcohol. But in this flash of insight I realized the truth, which was that I would only get to that “happy place” some of the time, but much of the time I would be miserable even though I was drinking or using drugs.
And suddenly I could see that getting wasted was a bad deal. Suddenly I saw through my denial and realized that I wasn’t actually all that happy getting wasted every day. That was the flash of insight that convinced me to go back to rehab again, to ask for help, and to take it seriously this time.
But now I was willing to do whatever it took. Now I was willing to actually try.
No–more importantly, now I was willing to face my fears: Going to AA meetings, being nervous in front of people at rehab, facing the world without the crutch of alcohol or other drugs. Those things scared me and kept me drunk for years. Now I was willing to face those fears in search of a better life. This is the real turning point–when you become willing to face your fear in order to climb your way out of addiction and find a better life. It takes work and it takes guts and you have to face yourself, face your fears, and meet them head on.
Not only did I go to rehab but I started actually speaking in meetings, sharing the real “me” with a therapist, and so on. I had to get real, I had to open up, I had to actually work a recovery program.
That was when the hope kicked in. After a few short weeks, I had a revelation in my early recovery journey: I was no longer craving alcohol or drugs all day long. That had been completely removed from me.
That was the miracle that I needed. That was where my hope came from, the fact that it was actually working.
Then I realized that my life was getting better and better, and that I was happier and happier with each passing day. This was also a beacon of hope for me, because I could see that if I continued to work my recovery program that things were just going to keep getting better and better.
I did not get hope from out of thin air, it was like I had to take action first and see the results start to manifest at least a tiny bit, and then I got hope from the situation. This is why everyone should consider going to rehab, because it will give you a chance to find some hope in your life, so that you can turn things around. Good luck!