Let me take you through this process and explain how it worked for me.
I was addicted to alcohol and other drugs. When I was still trapped in my addiction I honestly believed that the thoughts and cravings and urges to drink and use drugs would never, ever leave me.
Before I got clean and sober “for good” over 17 years ago, I actually went to rehab a few times in a feeble attempt to find sobriety. The problem was that I had not fully surrendered yet, and this made it so that I was not successful when I made those visits to treatment.
However, I did experience some short bits of clean time. I wasn’t drinking or using drugs for about a month on each of those visits, so I knew what it was like to be “dried out” and technically be clean and sober, but not really be working a program of recovery just yet.
So it is easy for me to think back and remember what my mindset was like during those times. I can tell you that I had a lot of inner dialogue going on about wanting to get high and drunk all the time, but then trying to convince myself that I should want to be sober in recovery, and having this battle going on inside of me.
So there are really at least two levels of this “inner voice” that I want to talk about today. The first level is the voice that I am referring to above, the voice that you have when you are still wrapped up in active addiction, and you are still basically in denial, and you do not really believe that you could ever be happy and free if you are totally clean and sober.
The inner voice while you are in denial cannot really be overcome until you reach the point of surrender. This is not a grey area. This is not some nebulous concept that is fuzzy, that you might be in denial one day and surrender then next and then flip back to denial again. If that is what you are experiencing then that is not “total and complete surrender.”
When a struggling alcoholic or drug addict really and truly surrenders, it is with such a profound conviction that they become willing to do whatever they are told to do in order to recover.
That is an intense level of surrender, which then produces a large amount of humility. They become willing to do whatever it takes. The person becomes willing to listen, to learn. If this is not the case with a person in recovery–this high level of humility and willingness–then it likely means that the person is not in a state of “total and complete surrender.”
Now if you or someone you love is stuck in denial and you are struggling to find the path to recovery, then that person needs to go through this moment of surrender in which everything changes for them. The moment in which their denial drops away completely and they realize that their drug of choice really has been the cause of all of their problems, and that it is only leading them to misery, and that the fun times that they once had with their drug of choice is long, long gone.
How do you bring about this moment of total surrender? I don’t know of a magic way to produce it other than to focus on being honest with yourself. I believe that writing in a journal every day can help force a person to “wake up” to the fact that they are miserable with their drug of choice. But you cannot just magically force yourself to surrender.
Real surrender happens as a result of consequences. If you want to learn more about that process then I would honestly suggest that you attend a few Al-anon meetings. Even addicts and alcoholics themselves–even though they would traditionally go to AA meetings rather than Al-anon–can get a lot of benefit and insight from going to an Al-anon group. You learn quite a bit about relationships. You learn about boundaries. And you learn why many alcoholics and addicts only really respond to a “tough love” approach in which the friends and loved ones detach from the person as much as possible while still loving them. Enabling can be a very tricky thing to define when you love a struggling addict or alcoholic.
Now the second inner voice issue that I want to address has to do with the recovering alcoholic or drug addict who is already living in recovery. They are now clean and sober and they are attempting to work a recovery program. In this situation, especially during the first few years of recovery, the person is going to have a certain amount of cravings, temptations, and urges to relapse.
This is unique though because they have already made the decision to live a life of recovery. They already surrendered completely. And yet there are going to be inner struggles, inner dialogue that is essentially their “addiction voice” that is trying to trip them up and cause them to relapse.
So every person who is living in early recovery has to acknowledge this inner dialogue and actively manage it.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. When I was in early recovery I noticed at some point that my brain was coming up with reasons that I was a victim. My mind was searching for these reasons, it was looking for them, and if someone did some injustice to me my brain would seize on that thing and obsess over it.
Why was this happening? It was how my brain used to justify my drinking and drug use back when I was actively using. Now that I was in recovery, my brain had not yet got the memo that I was no longer trying to make excuses to drink or take drugs. But my brain just went right on trying to make these excuses for me, even though I did not actually want to drink or use any longer.
So first of all I had to recognize that this was happening. Then I had to realize that this was not me, this making of the excuses and playing the victim. That was my addiction. Then I had to ask for help and advice from my mentors in recovery–my therapist, my sponsor, and my peers in AA and NA. I had to ask them how they dealt with this problem and how they ended up solving it or managing it.
So what I learned is that I had to increase my awareness of this thought pattern. I had to identify it more quickly, the second it started. Then I had to make a decision that I was not going to tolerate this thought pattern, ever. It would only lead to relapse or unhappiness. It served no useful purpose.
Then I had to find some alternative thought patterns. So for example: If I notice victim thinking, self pity, or resentment thought patterns, then immediately force myself to mentally list 3 things that I am grateful for in that moment. On that day. What am I grateful for right now, today, in this moment? Force the mind to dig for those answers.
And then practice this, over and over, and dedicate yourself to being very strict about doing so. Make it your top priority for a week straight, and then you can effectively retrain your mind so that it stops engaging in negative thought patterns.
If you doubt the possibility of this, simply ask your therapist to help you with it. And for that matter, go get a therapist. Get a sponsor. Get into treatment. And start turning your life around today. Good luck!