One of the greatest paradoxes of addiction treatment is this:
You must surrender to win.
What does this really mean though?
Anyone who has successfully found recovery knows exactly what it means.
Conversely, everyone who is still struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism does not really know what it means. They cannot know because they have not yet experienced it.
When an addict or an alcoholic starts to develop their addiction, they start to notice when things begin to go “off the rails:” they drink a bit more than they had planned on, they spend money on their drug of choice that they had not planned on spending, and so on. Maybe later in their journey they start to experience more and more consequences of their addiction. They say things like “I may use too many painkillers, but I would never stick a needle in my arm.” But then at some point in their future they end up using needles, and they look back and realize that they have finally broken this promise to themselves. And yet they feel powerless to stop, as if they just have to continue chasing after more drugs and more of the high that they are seeking.
So as their addiction continues to develop and evolve, the addict tries to somehow make it okay in their own mind. They try to justify their behavior. And while they are doing this, they also seek to “hit the brakes” a bit on their drug of choice. If they can maintain some control and limit their intake then it will allow them to feel better about themselves, more secure. So they attempt to cut back, to try to control their drug or alcohol intake, and they have some success with it.
I say “some success” because every addict and every alcoholic can–in the short run–limit and control their drug intake. This is what sets them up for denial–because they have had some success in cutting back. Remember that time when they made an agreement with themselves to only have 3 drinks over the course of an evening, and they did so and it all worked out great? The alcoholic remembers this and they cling to the memory as proof that they are not really an alcoholic, that they can actually control it just fine, so long as they want to.
The problem is that–most of the time–they simply don’t want to control it. But they tell themselves that they can when it really counts, and this is what perpetuates their disease.
So this becomes an epic struggle for the addict. It is a struggle between using and enjoying their drug of choice, versus controlling it and limiting their intake so that they don’t get into trouble. And most addicts and alcoholics struggle with this for many years, sometimes even decades before they realize it is a game that they cannot win.
At one point I clearly saw the game for what it was, and I realized that I could never win at it. This was the moment that I finally broke through my denial. I could see that if I continued to self medicate with drugs and alcohol that I was going to be miserable for most of my life, and that I would only be really “happy” and high every once in a great while.
I finally realized that if I drink and take drugs every single day, all of the time, then the experience is no longer novel. Part of what I enjoyed so deeply with getting high was the novelty of it. I loved being teleported to another dimension. But if you do it all day, every day, then it is no longer “fun” at some point. And it takes a while for the addicted brain to realize this, even though it is living this truth every day–existing in a state of misery, chasing that next high, knowing that it is all futile. It takes time to wake up to this truth.
So once the addict reaches this point of surrender, once they break through their denial and realize that their drug of choice has nothing more to offer them in terms of “fun”–that is when they need to make their move.
Now when I surrendered I did not have much hope. I had been to meetings and rehab in the past and I honestly did not believe that it could work for me.
I did not know what I needed or even what I wanted in life. I just knew that my addiction was pure misery, and that it was never going to get any better. I was finally past that bit of denial, so I could surrender and ask for help.
So here is how surrendered healed my life: I went to rehab after I asked for help. People told me what I should do, and I listened. It really was that simple. All I had to do was to break through my denial and get out of my own way.
I went to inpatient treatment and I started going to groups, meetings, and talking with a therapist. Very slowly, my life began to get better and better.
I was not instantly happy or anything like that–but every day I was a little bit less miserable. I still craved drugs and alcohol for a while, but the cravings were not too intense, and I was able to make it through each day in recovery–one day at a time, as they say.
I was taking advice and I was trying to do what people suggested for me to do. I went to meetings, I went back to school, I got a job, I quit smoking cigarettes, I started exercising. Note that I did not do all of that in the first month or anything. It took time for me to start making all of these positive choices for myself. But each time I made a positive change in my life, I got to keep the results of that change.
During my addiction, if something good happened or a positive change was made, it was almost always temporary, because the drugs and the booze just destroyed everything.
But in recovery, every positive change that I actually enjoyed and benefitted from was something that I could form a habit around, and then it became permanent. Living in recovery was amazing because I was really making progress, and I was not constantly backsliding. In addiction I was backsliding every single day, always going back to destruction and misery thanks to my drug and alcohol use.
This is how surrender helps you to turn your life around–because when you listen and take advice from others, you can get on a path of continuous personal growth that just keeps getting better and better results. So instead of tearing down your life in addiction you are building it up in recovery, and you keep building on your previous gains that you made since you got clean and sober.
This process can begin with one simple decision–to surrender, to ask for help, to go to rehab. Call a treatment center today and turn your life around. You won’t regret it!