You may believe that it is an overstatement to suggest that inpatient treatment can “save your life.”
I can assure that this is not an exaggeration. Of course there are going to be people who go to rehab that were not on the verge of death, but that doesn’t make it an untrue statement. And what you really need to ask yourself is not necessarily “Is my addiction going to kill me anytime soon?” but rather “Given that I am miserable in my addiction, am I really alive?”
Is this really how you want to be living? Are you truly “happy?”
The happiness question gets to the heart of what is “real denial.”
When an alcoholic or a drug addict is stuck in denial, it is not necessarily because they believe they are truly not an addict or an alcoholic. Often times they are stuck in denial because they do not believe that there is any hope for their condition. They honestly believe that they are unique, that no other addict has ever loved their drug of choice as much as they do. They feel alone in their struggle, as if they were meant to simply drink or use drugs until they die. They don’t have any real hope that they can go to meetings, go to rehab, and turn their life around. The solution isn’t even within the realm of possibility for them because they feel so hopeless.
I can remember when I was stuck in active addiction and I had no real hope for recovery. I had gone to rehab twice before and I did not believe that I could ever sit through AA meetings comfortably because of my anxiety. I could never picture myself sharing and opening up to people in a group like that. At first I imagined that there were probably other methods of finding sobriety, but I was fairly surprised when I asked a therapist what the alternatives were and they were all pretty much social based solutions. In other words, I could go to AA meetings, or I could go to something else that pretty much looked like an AA meeting but had a different name on it. But everyone was pointing me in the direction of total abstinence, opening up and sharing with others, and both of those things scared the pants off of me. It was too overwhelming to take it in all at once.
I think because I had anxiety, I was willing to entertain either solution, but not both at the same time. So for example, I would be happy to go to AA meetings if you were expected to be drug and high while you were there–then I could handle the anxiety. But to get completely clean and sober, have to deal with anxiety, and then speak in front of a room full of people at an AA meeting? That was just too much for me to contemplate. So while I continued to drink and self medicate, I basically wrote off that solution and figured that recovery just wasn’t for me. It was too darn scary for someone with anxiety.
Now what I thought was real anxiety in my life was actually just a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Little did I realize that pretty much anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol is going to experience some degree of anxiety as they are going through withdrawal from the booze. That is normal and should be expected.
What I was doing, however, was projecting this “withdrawal anxiety” on to the rest of my life in sobriety. I was assuming that it would never get any better. I tended to be fairly shy anyway, and getting drunk fixed this really, really effectively (sometimes too effectively, of course….we all know how that goes too).
So what happened is that eventually I reached a point in my life in which I was so miserable and so sick and tired of trying to chase after my “happiness” by getting drunk and high every single day, that eventually I just reached a tipping point. That tipping point is known in recovery as the “gift of desperation.” I was on the verge of self destruction and I was trying to medicate away my misery using anything that I could get my hands on and it just wasn’t working any more. I can remember being all alone in my apartment, drinking very strong liquor and using other drugs, all by myself, and I had expected this to feel like a great party and a good time. There I was, all alone, the perfect night of drinking and drugs, and I realized that I was still miserable in spite of the “perfect” setup. I had everything that I wanted and I was miserable.
Suddenly the misery smacked me in the face. Suddenly I got a true glimpse of my future: I was just going to keep drinking and chasing drugs, all alone in the world, trying to find happiness. And yet there I was, alone and fooling myself, realizing that I wasn’t actually happy at all. I was just alone and medicated.
And that was my moment of clarity. I could finally see that chasing after happiness with drugs and booze was going to be a losing battle for the rest of my life. It would never be the non stop party and fun time that I imagined it to be. I was never going to suddenly have plenty of drugs, plenty of booze, no responsibilities, and lots of random friends and beautiful women on my arm laughing–that was never going to materialize. And even if I could arrange the perfect night of “partying,” it was going to be followed by depression and self loathing for days or weeks on end. Then maybe another great night somewhere in the future. But in my mind I could create a party every single day, I should be able to create the perfect night at any moment, and my fantasy was not accurate at all.
And I suddenly realized it. I suddenly realized that I was living in denial, that I had been miserable all along, and that I was just running away from my fear and misery by taking drugs and booze.
And so I made a leap of faith. I said to myself “well, sobriety is darn scary for me, but dying from this disease is even scarier, and I don’t really want to live in misery anyway, I would rather die.”
So I made the decision to give rehab another try, and to actually listen and learn this time. To throw up my hands and surrender completely. I agreed with myself that I was going to do exactly what the professionals told me to do, because the stuff I was doing in life was only leading me to misery.
There had to be a better way.
So I went to rehab and that was over 17 years ago now. Because I surrendered completely, everything stuck, everything worked out, and I started rebuilding my life. I am still building to this day: Creating new things, going on new adventures, discovering more and more layers within myself, and finding new ways to grow as a person. My life today is a continuous process, and that process is recovery. In a single term I would define this process as “personal growth.” The method is to strive for greater and greater holistic health. The result of this process is freedom and happiness.
If you are on the fence about treatment then I would urge you to go. Not because it will save your life, but because it will give you a life that is worth living. I was only existing in my active addiction. Today I am creating positive energy in the world, helping others, and living a healthier life with a smile on my face. Come join me, go to rehab!