In order to break free from the chains of addiction and get the results that you want, you have to take serious action.
The question is, what does that effort look like? What do you need to do in order to get your life back on track?
The problem that most addicts and alcoholics are facing is that they only know what they do NOT want. They know they are miserable from their addiction. They know that they don’t want the life that they have been living. They are sick and tired of being miserable and so they just know that they want something different.
What do you really want in life? Most desperate alcoholics and drug addicts don’t know yet
What is it that the struggling drug addict or alcoholic really wants out of life?
They have no idea.
I thought that I knew what I wanted. I discovered alcohol and drugs and I thought that the goal was to always be happy, to always be medicated.
That did not work out though. I ended up miserable, wondering how it all could have went so wrong. My tolerance betrayed me. I was only happy for very brief moments of time, followed by hours, days, or even weeks of depression. I was always chasing the perfect high. The perfect buzz was just a memory, not something that I got to experience every day. My life was being wasted and I did not know how to get back on track.
Even when I finally surrendered to the fact that I would never be happy if I continued to drink, I did not really know what I wanted out of life. I asked for help, went to rehab, got sober, and then wondered what it was all about all over again. In some ways I felt stuck in my early recovery just like I was stuck in my addiction, only just without the drugs and the alcohol.
I can remember getting frustrated with my life in early recovery because everything was not coming together for me. I had maybe 3 to 6 months sober, I felt stuck, and I was not sure that I could remain sober for the long run. I was afraid that I might relapse because I wasn’t really “happy” in my sobriety.
But what was going on was a massive transition. I can look back and see this now, at over 13 years sober. But when I had 90 days sober I did not know what was really going on yet. I was struggling to find my footing in sobriety, to figure out how to deal with reality without drinking, to figure out how to have fun in life without getting wasted all the time. Those were real challenges. And it takes time.
It takes time for all of that to come together so my main advice to you is to give yourself a break. I always thought that was stupid advice, to “give yourself a break.” But it makes sense to me now when I look back at my early recovery.
The idea is that you need to give yourself a break in terms of the time that it takes for your sobriety to start rewarding you.
You see, it doesn’t all happen overnight. You don’t just get sober and then wake up after 3 days of detox and you are magically cured and live happily ever after. That is not how sobriety works.
When I had 90 days sober, this is what I had been secretly hoping for. I wanted to suddenly have everything fall into place and then be happy forever. Not realistic.
Let me tell you instead what will really happen in your recovery if you are willing to put in the effort.
The reality is this:
If you are serious about recovery and you decide to get professional help, go to treatment, do the work, and make a commitment to become a better person through the recovery process, then after a few months to a few years your life will transform and you will become happy, joyous, and free.
The miracle will happen but you have to work for it. And you have to give yourself a break. You have to give it time. Give it a full year. Give it one full year while you are actually doing the work and pushing yourself to improve every single day. After one full year I can bet that you will be amazed at your results. This assumes that you are pushing yourself to actually do the work.
They have a saying in AA: “If nothing changes, then nothing changes.” Pretty profound, right? But it’s true. And it applies perfectly in terms of this discussion. If you want results in recovery then you have to put in the work, you have to commit to make massive change, and you have to put in the leg work. It is a tough road to hoe but it is incredibly rewarding.
Someone once asked me: “Why does it take time for the rewards of sobriety to kick in? It’s not fair. I want to be rewarded instantly for quitting drinking!”
I can tell you why it takes time. I can tell you this secret because it has taken me over a decade to learn it myself.
The secret is this:
The rewards of recovery are convergent based on a holistic approach.
Now what in the world does that mean? It means that when you get clean and sober, you don’t just put down the booze and the drugs. You also start to “do the work” and begin to work on yourself and get honest with yourself and clean up your character defects and so on. It is a holistic approach because you have to make this into a journey of personal growth. It is much more than mere abstinence. You have to learn to take care of yourself in a million different ways. You have to learn how to love yourself in all of these different areas of your life. And that takes time. You have much to learn. There are so many layers of denial that you have to work through, so many layers of the onion to peel back before you can get down to the truth of who you really are in life. And that takes time. If you have negative stuff lingering inside of you then it needs to be purged and eliminated. That takes time and it takes work.
And so you get sober, you start doing this work, maybe you get a sponsor and work through the 12 steps or maybe you get a therapist and do the work through therapy. Or maybe you just increase your awareness and start working on your issues by yourself. Whatever the case, we all have multiple issues, multiple layers of denial, and lots of different ways in which we need to heal our lives.
Recovery is not one dimensional. You don’t just stop drinking. It is more than that. Ask any recovering alcoholic who has multiple years sober. Ask them if their success in recovery was based on more than just abstinence. They will laugh and tell you that it took a whole bunch of work beyond just putting down the bottle.
And that work is where the rewards come in. This is why you cannot have the perfect life in sobriety overnight. Instead, it takes a bit of time. You have to work for it. You have to transform into the person you were meant to be.
How long does this take? There is no perfect answer to that question. It takes more than a week. It might take more than a month. And for some people it might even take more than a year. I have to admit that I puttered around in early recovery for a quite a while before I figured out that personal growth was the ticket I needed. I took my time. I don’t really feel like my sobriety kicked into high gear until I was past the two year mark. But I can be a slow learner, so there you go. Others might progress much quicker.
And it’s not about who finishes first. It’s about the process.
My sponsor loves to say: “Everything in recovery is process.”
He is right, of course. It’s all about taking action. Get honest with yourself, identify the problems in your life, then take action and fix them. Rinse and repeat. It does not get much more simple than that. You will probably, at times, need help in identifying your problems. And you will also probably, at times, need help in knowing how to fix those problems. This is what recovery is all about. People helping each other to overcome. People helping each other to transform their lives, to become a better version of themselves. To become the person they were supposed to be all along, but somehow drugs or alcohol got in the way of that vision.
It’s time to reclaim that vision. And you do that by doing the work. By asking for help and following directions.
And if you don’t have a clue as to how to get started, that is the whole secret in a nutshell: Ask for help and follow directions.
How to treat your addiction or alcoholism if you have no idea where or how to get started
It turns out this is a very common problem among alcoholics and drug addicts: How do they even get started in recovery? What do they do first?
I had this problem myself. I finally solved the problem by simply asking for help and then following directions.
There really isn’t much more to it than that. Of course it will help a great deal if you trust the person that you ask for help. If you know anyone who is already clean and sober and in recovery, that would be a really good person to ask for help.
Alternatively, you might just call up a drug rehab or alcohol treatment center directly and ask them for help. Tell them you don’t even know how to get started in recovery. Tell them your problems. That is their whole job, to try to help you! So you might do well to start there.
Maybe you know someone who attends AA or NA meetings. Ask them for help. Their response will likely be one of two things:
1) Take you to a meeting with them, or
2) Direct you to inpatient treatment.
Either of those is better than doing nothing. Either of those is better than simply going back into denial and living a life of misery and chaos.
This takes a leap of faith. It takes a moment of courage. You have to suddenly have that moment of clarity and see through your denial.
My denial was telling me that I could only be happy if I was drinking and using drugs. That I would never be happy again if I were to become clean and sober.
My denial told me that those first few miserable days of detox would be what the rest of my life was like in recovery. That I would never feel any better.
My denial told me that I would never have any real courage in life to face my fears unless I was drinking or self medicating.
I had to get to that point where I no longer cared about these fears.
I fought through my denial when I became so miserable that I no longer cared about it.
That was how I got started. That was how I was able to finally ask for help. I had to reach a point of total and complete desperation. I had to become 100 percent full of misery. I had to be so sick and tired of my life in alcoholism and addiction that I was willing to face my ultimate fears instead.
That is the jumping off point. When you feel like you are jumping out of an airplane when you agree to get help and go to rehab. The alternative is to stay stuck in the misery. You just have to be able to get to this point, to work through the denial, to realize that it is only misery that awaits you if you stay in your addiction. And you realize that there is hope for a better life in recovery. Even if you cannot see how that would be possible.
Let me be clear on that: When I asked for help and surrendered finally, I had no real hope that things would work out well. I had no real hope that I would be happy one day in sobriety. I did not even believe that this was possible for me. I was just so desperate and so sick and tired of my old life that I was willing to try anything….even jumping out of an airplane. So I agreed to go to rehab, which in terms of my fears at that time, was the equivalent to being shot out of a cannon. Or jumping out of an airplane.
Because I was terrified to face sobriety. I was terrified to face myself, sober. I did not want to see the truth. I did not want to face myself.
But it wasn’t so bad, once I did it.
Why follow up treatment in addiction recovery is so vital
There is this term in the field of treatment known as “aftercare.”
So you might go to rehab for 28 days or whatever the case may be. After that 28 days is up, what happens?
What they have found is that if they just send people home from treatment then they tend to relapse. The numbers are not so good.
On the other hand, if you can involve people in lots of follow up care after treatment, and keep them engaged in it on a daily basis, then their chances at remaining sober become much greater.
The reason for this is because recovery is a daily process and it results from a daily practice. In order to heal your life you must make positive changes every single day. And you must be consistent and continue to push yourself to reinvent yourself on a continuous basis. Personal growth is key.
This is why follow up after treatment is so vital.
If you want to see direct evidence of this, go work at a short term treatment facility for a few years. You will see the effects of this first hand. What will happen is that you will start to look at everyone who relapses after leaving treatment and you will secretly judge that person and their effort. I don’t think there is any way around this, and it is not necessarily a bad thing to judge these people. But what happens is that you start to notice what doesn’t work in recovery.
I lived in long term rehab for 20 months and I watched about 30 of my peers relapse during that time. Four of them even passed away. I got a good look at what doesn’t work in recovery.
Then I worked in a short term treatment center for 5 years. Again, I watched a whole lot of people relapse because they eventually came back for more treatment later on. The numbers were staggering. I was shocked at how few succeeded. And so you talk to these people, you hear their stories. And you also hear the stories of the people who remain sober and successful. So you make judgments and you form opinions. You see what works and what does not.
And so based on all of these observations, based on watching hundreds or even thousands of struggling alcoholics and addicts over the years, I can definitely say that there is one thing that separates the winners from the losers more than anything else.
You could put a number of different labels on this concept. One term is simply “aftercare.” Does the person follow through and do everything that was suggested to them after rehab? If so, then their odds of staying sober skyrocket.
But it is interesting to play with the words and the concepts. It is not just “aftercare.” We can dig deeper than that.
We could call it “commitment” instead. If the person is not going to their aftercare, then it is because they failed to commit. They lack commitment. Sure, they are not going to their aftercare, and this is what is ultimately hurting them, but it is because they did not make a commitment to themselves to follow through with that.
And we can dig even deeper still. Why is the person not making this commitment to themselves?
I will tell you why. It is because they lack surrender. In order to commit fully to recovery, you must first surrender fully to your disease.
And we might dig one level deeper. Why no surrender? Reason: Still in denial.
It all comes back to denial. Either you follow through and are willing to commit to do the work, or you are stuck in denial and you have failed to surrender. There is no grey area in between those two extremes. You are in one camp or you are in the other. You can never be in both at the same time.
Recovery is a pass/fail proposition. You are either in recovery and sober and committed to positive change, or you are in full relapse mode and headed for disaster. No in between. This is what addiction is. This is what defines addiction. If you can find a middle ground then congratulations, you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict! But for the rest of us, we are either working on recovery, or we are working on a relapse.
Treatment is a lifelong lifestyle change
Treatment may end but the new lifestyle that you adopt must last for a lifetime.
Which is why your recovery should be based on daily practice. Positive habits that define your new life in sobriety.
What are the results that you want in life, and do your daily habits reflect that? Are your actions taking you where you want to go? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!