Depending on how entrenched you are in the lifestyle of drug and alcohol addiction, you are going to need something of a “clean slate” in order to recover.
Now some people discourage this type of thinking in recovery with the logic that tactical moves such as relocating do not really work for overcoming addiction. They argue that people who attempt to cure their addiction by simply moving to another city are pursuing a failed solution because you “can’t run away from yourself” and the real problem lies within us (as far as addiction goes).
But trying to achieve a “clean slate” is about much more than making a geographic move (and likely does not even involve one in most cases). In fact, anyone who finds success in recovery must do so from this “clean slate” perspective, because to do so means that you have finally entered a teachable state where you can start learning how to live in recovery.
Defining the clean slate
The “clean slate” is a state of surrender. This is where you drop your defenses and stop trying to manipulate your life and your drug and alcohol intake.
In active addiction, it’s like we are on a hamster wheel. In order to keep our charade of a life going and keep using drugs and alcohol we have to put in a tremendous amount of effort. It’s like being stuck on a treadmill or something. We have to continuously plan out our drinking or using, how we are going to get more, where we’re going to get the money from, and so on. It’s a lot to keep up.
The moment of surrender is defined by letting all of that slide. We have to let go of all of it completely. We step off the hamster wheel and pause for a moment. This is our moment of clarity. We might not be hopeful or enthusiastic at this point about recovery, but at least we have stepped off the treadmill.
At this moment of surrender, some of us were not quite ready to let everything go, and we continued to struggle. We might have held on to the need for control in some area of our lives. We might have said “Yes, I need to quit drinking, but….” or “Yes, my life is a mess, but….”
If you still have a “but” in there then you have not achieved a clean slate. Something is still blocking you from making the leap into recovery. Whatever comes after the “but” is what you must let slide. If you can let whatever that is go, then you will be able to recover.
Examples might include:
– “Yes I need to quit drinking but I need to continue working to support my kids so I can’t go to treatment.”
– “Yes I need to quit drinking but if I do then I won’t be any fun to be around anymore.”
– “Yes I need to quit drinking but if I do then I won’t be able to relate to my friends anymore.
You get the idea. It is fear that holds us back. Most of these examples above are actually surface-level answers that don’t really get at the heart of the issue anyway. The real issue is that we are terrified to face life sober. We are afraid of facing our real emotions without being self-medicated all the time. We are afraid of life itself.
A state of learning
The emphasis in early recovery is on learning. It is a learning process to get clean and sober. We have to relearn all sorts of things in order to remain sober. The only way to be receptive to all of this learning is to have a “clean slate.” This is achieved when we let all of our ideas and emotions about sobriety fall by the wayside. We have to let go of the fear that holds us back from giving sobriety a chance.
It is like the turning of a key; like a light bulb going off. Just let go of all your fear about the future, about being sober. Let it all slide and put a tiny bit of trust in the idea that you might be able to live some sort of normal life in sobriety. That is the moment of surrender. That is the clean slate that is needed to make a start in recovery. It is a scary thing to go through because you no longer have any control over your own future. You have released that control; you have surrendered it and instead decided to ask for help.
This is the clean slate that you need because now you have dropped all of your defenses that were driven by fear. You have decided to face the fear of sobriety and therefore cast off all of those excuses about why sobriety will never work for you. If you have reached this highly teachable state then you will find success in recovery. If you are still clinging to old ideas and fears then you will not be in a teachable state and will probably struggle with staying sober.
Have you let go absolutely? Have you reached a teachable state?