Struggling addicts or alcoholics might ask themselves: “How can I take control of my addiction? How can I regain the control that I once had?”
Such a question comes to a person who is truly bewildered. They have been blindsided by addiction. It has taken over their life and they have lost control, and they did not give permission for this to happen. It seems so cruel and unfair. Thus is the nature of addiction.
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Logical people will notice themselves slowly losing control to the drink or the drugs. They will fight to regain control. This is where the problem drinkers are separated from the alcoholics, where the drug abuser is separated from the drug addict. The problem drinker or drug abuser can and will “straighten up and fly right” when faced with any real consequences. The true addict or alcoholic, however, will continue to use in spite of major or heavy consequences.
If there is any doubt in your mind as to your own personal diagnosis, consider how you have reacted in the face of major consequences (such as a lost relationship or a drunk driving or drug charge). Problem drinkers or drug abusers will put the substance down and swear it off forever–and they will make it stick.
But the true addict or alcoholic might only make it for a short period of time before returning to their drug of choice. Examining how we behave in the face of consequences shows us the depth of our addiction.
So how does the true addict or alcoholic regain control? After failing miserably at moderation, any reasonable person will finally come to accept that they must maintain total abstinence from the drugs.
The question, then, becomes how. How does a struggling addict or alcoholic take that leap of faith and enter a new realm? How does one go about achieving sobriety? What is the mechanism used to break the cycle and start a new way of life?
I have met a number of recovering people who have achieved sobriety. There are many paths. Here are several different doorways that a person can begin their journey of recovery through:
1) Hit Bottom
Almost any alcoholic or drug addict who is living in recovery will tell you that they had to hit bottom before they could make a real effort at living sober. For some people, hitting bottom means losing all of their possessions and being thrown in jail. For other alcoholics, hitting bottom might simply mean that they have finally had enough.
So it was with me–I still had my job, my car, and (basically) my health. I had not been thrown in jail or prison. But I got to a point where I had simply had enough, and could not picture myself continuing on with my drinking any more. To do so would be suicidal. At the same time, the thought of quitting drinking seemed like suicide as well.
The point here is that I had to reach my own bottom, in my own time. Sometimes you just have to let someone find their own path. No one could force me to surrender to my disease. It just happened of its own accord.
2) A Firm Personal Commitment to Self
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I’ve also met people in recovery who took a more pro-active approach to getting sober. Instead of suffering devastating consequences and humbly surrendering, these people saw their addiction spiraling out of control and managed to make a personal commitment to themselves to get help. Perhaps this is just a matter of perspective. The point here is that a struggling addict makes a firm decision to better their life. The focus is on their level of commitment, to take control of their addiction and to live a better life. We don’t have to end up in jails or institutions before we make a decision to change.
3) Ask Others for Help
Lots of struggling addicts and alcoholics ask for help from others in order to continue their destructive pattern of abuse. But those who genuinely ask for help in order to get sober are on the road to recovery.
The key here is if a person humbly asks for help. How to tell if it is genuine? A person is humbly asking for help when they are willing to accept the help on someone else’s terms. This means that the person will take any help you have to offer them. They are willing to take suggestions and use them. They are no longer trying do things their way. This is a good sign that someone is very serious about wanting to change their life.
4) Long Term Treatment
This is the most supportive and helpful environment that you can have for a struggling addict or alcoholic. Long term treatment saved my life, because it gave me just enough structure and support to start living a drug-free life, while still giving me the freedom to get a job, go to school, and still have a meaningful existence. Most people are not willing to consider long term treatment, because they fear it is too much like jail or that it will seriously curtail their life. Neither was the case for me. Long term treatment was a huge part of how I finally got clean and sober.
5) Spiritual Experience
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What does all of this point to? Why, the spiritual experience, of course. This is the critical piece of the puzzle–the one thing that will help to ensure long term sobriety.
This is not a case of “go to church and you might get clean and sober” (although that has happened for some). The spiritual experience is characterized by a connection with a higher power and a complete psychic change in personality. In my experience, this personality change is summarized as self-centeredness and self-seeking behavior that is replaced by a genuine interest in helping other struggling addicts.
Finding these Doorways
These are some of the different paths by which people find sobriety. In all of them, willingness is a key ingredient that will determine a person’s level of success. Forcing someone into any of these solutions isn’t likely to yield good results. Sometimes people just have to find their own path, and you can’t show them anything. That’s alright. Some of these people will find sobriety when they become ready.