In order to stay clean and sober for good, you are going to have to make some massive changes. This is the equivalent of going to boot camp in the Army.
You have to change everything, practically overnight. Every routine will be disrupted. Is this too severe?
No, it’s not. Addiction is a vicious foe. You have to bring an intense level of willingness to the table, or you are not even going to be able to get started.
There is probably an idea out there among many people who struggle with addiction and alcoholism that they might be able to take “baby steps” and make a slow but meaningful change in their life. They suffer from the illusion that if they can just get a tiny bit better today, maybe drink one less beer or take one less pill, that some day they will be fully “cured.”
It doesn’t work like that. You cannot just wish your way into sobriety. And you cannot baby step your way into it either. That approach will never work, and it is just wishful thinking for the most part. If you drink one less beer today than you did yesterday, it is just a comforting story that you are telling to yourself so that you don’t feel so bad. But you are not really getting any better. You are not moving towards any sort of new or meaningful life in recovery by reducing your booze intake by one drink.
At least, that is not how it worked for me. Nor do I see it working that way for any of my peers in recovery. We have self identified as alcoholics and drug addicts of the “hopeless variety” as outlined in the popular recovery literature. In other words, we have already tried playing all the games. We have tried to limit our intake. We have been down that road of moderation. It did not work for us. In fact, things just got worse and worse. Our addiction came back stronger than ever. We needed a new solution, and that solution was to take the plunge into recovery. Dive in head first and embrace a whole new world that is sobriety. That was the only solution that offered us any real kind of hope. Just trying to take baby steps wasn’t working for us.
We needed massive action. We had to make a leap of faith. Yes, getting sober is scary–whether you will admit to yourself or not. It’s a scary ride, and that is why people stay stuck in denial for so many years.
And so hopefully one day you get truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you surrender. Totally and completely. You surrender to a new solution, without hesitation, without reservation. You give yourself and your life over to something else, to anything else. Your way did not work. You could not figure out how to be happy. Drinking and drug use made you miserable.
Time for a change.
Surrender. Leap of faith. Take that scary plunge into sobriety. The unknown. Will I ever be happy again without drugs and alcohol? No one knows. And no one can convince you.
You must see it for yourself. That is, you must experience sobriety for yourself so that you can realize the true benefits of it.
Take the plunge and do the work by going straight to rehab
So how do you enter into “recovery boot camp?”
Simple. Ask for help, and then take advice. Get the heck out of your own way.
All of those ideas that you have had about how to be happy, about how to live a successful life, you can just take all of those ideas, and you can throw them out the window. They are useless to you now.
Your ideas were not working. Time to try someone else’s ideas.
Who? you may ask.
Anyone else. Anyone that you trust. Anyone that has experience overcoming addiction.
How about sponsors in AA and NA? How about counselors and therapists that have been helping people like yourself for years on end?
How about the people at inpatient treatment centers, who dedicate their entire lives to helping people in recovery?
Do you think that those folks might know a thing or two about how to overcome an addiction?
Yes–those people do know what they are doing. They cannot work miracles, but they know more than anyone else how to get clean and sober. It’s what they do. They reach out and try to help people recover, over and over again. The professionals who work in rehabs are in the trenches, just like the sponsors in AA and NA are in the trenches, and they are doing their best to try to help people to recover. Period. They are the ones who are trying to help alcoholics and addicts. If you turn away from them, then good luck to you….hopefully you can discover some sort of miracle and find recovery on your own.
I wouldn’t bet on it though. Collective wisdom, in this case, is far stronger than any one individual. That’s why if you go to an AA meeting and you ask for advice, you will probably hear many flavors of the truth as each person weighs in on your situation. They all want to help you, and while none of them may be experts, the sum total of all that wisdom will likely point you in the right direction.
Understand this at least–if you ask a room full of recovering alcoholics, such as an AA meeting, how a person should try to recover, they are going to have a bit more wisdom and insight than someone who has never recovered a day in their life before. And that is the state that the newcomer is entering in–they have no idea what they are doing. They have no clue. And yet sometimes the newcomer thinks that they can figure it all out on their own, that they can conquer and outsmart their addiction without any outside help. Without any outside wisdom.
Again, not likely. Don’t bet on it.
If I were you, I would ask for help. Go to treatment. Go to AA and NA meetings. Go to those places and surrender yourself to a new solution and ask for help. This is the only thing that is really proven to work. This method works when your other ideas have already failed you. And in fact, this method may only work after all your other ideas have failed you.
Because we can be stubborn, us addicts and alcoholics. We don’t like to be told what to do. And we like to think that we are smart. So listening to others instead of our own ideas feels like defeat. Humility leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
And yet this is the solution. Shut your mouth and listen. Ask for help, then take the advice and run with it. Do as your told. Obey.
No one wants to do that. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to “obey” anyone! It sounds awful.
And yet that is the attitude that can save your life right now, this very moment.
Addiction is self destruction. The alcoholic is in a downward spiral and they are destroying themselves. The only way to reverse that course is total abstinence combined with “right living.” How do you live right? Ask your sponsor. Ask your therapist. Ask your peers who have been sober longer than you.
Then take their suggestions and start implementing them. Take their advice and put it into action. Stop using your own ideas for a while.
Seriously, make an agreement with yourself right now, this second. Say to yourself, in your head right now: “I will no longer use my own ideas for the next 3 months. I will only use other people’s suggestions. I will take advice from people I trust, and I will act on that advice. And after 3 months, if my life is not a whole lot better, I will go back to using my own crazy ideas instead.”
Make that agreement with yourself right now. Then start asking for advice from people that you trust. And then go follow through on that advice, and take action.
Again, nobody wants to do this. It is tough. It takes humility. You pretty much have to hit bottom first.
But once you do this, once you run this little experiment and start listening to others and taking their advice, your life will slowly start to change.
You won’t see it at first. For the first few weeks, you wonder why you are committed to this course of action. You will question yourself.
Don’t stop though. Persevere. Keep taking advice. They will tell you to go to meetings, to go to rehab, to work the steps, to become vulnerable, to share your innermost fears, and so on. Do it all. Open up yourself to this new path. Push yourself to keep moving forward, to keep taking these new actions.
Your life will transform. You will look back and realize that “the program” of recovery is doing for you what you could not figure out for yourself. And you will be happy.
And that will be amazing.
Go on, try it. Make an agreement with yourself right now that you are going to take advice from others, rather than your own advice. Do it for 90 days. Make a commitment.
You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Can you surrender when you are in treatment?
Yes, you can surrender while in treatment.
Just agreeing to check into treatment is a huge step. So get on the phone, call up a treatment center, and start asking questions. Say to them: “What would I have to do in order to come to treatment there?”
And then work from that starting point. Maybe you can’t attend rehab at the first place you call. Who cares. Don’t worry about that. Politely ask them to redirect you to the resources that you need. Ask them if there are any funding agencies. Ask them if they can connect you to a help line. If they can’t direct you, then simply find someone who can. Get to an AA or NA meeting and start finding resources. Find peer support people. Find therapists and counselors and people who are connected within their community. Be nice, be polite, and be desperate to take positive action. If you are serious about recovery then someone will help you. Someone will help you to connect the dots and get started on a path of recovery. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” But the student has to be willing first. Are you willing to take action? Are you willing to go to rehab?
Get yourself into treatment. Try to get into an inpatient treatment center. There are lots of reasons to shoot for a starting point in inpatient rehab. One is that you are far safer and more protected when you are at inpatient treatment. I know a lot of people who are stuck in outpatient programs who are also stuck in a cycle of perpetual relapse. They can’t break free from their everyday triggers.
What are your triggers? They asked me that and I thought “Life is a trigger! I want to get high and drunk right now!” If that is the case with you, then you may need more help than just an AA meeting or counseling. You may need inpatient treatment. Maybe 28 days can get you the start that you need in sobriety. Or maybe you need more, like I did. I went to a 28 day program and they referred me to a long term facility. That was the best decision I ever made for myself. You may or may not need long term care. But if you are struggling with addiction, and you have relapsed in the past, then you probably do need inpatient treatment.
Checking into rehab can be scary, but once you are there, it is suddenly very easy to be there. They do what they can to make you comfortable. And there is always plenty of support when you are in rehab. There will be other people going through the same struggle as you. Your peers. They are there to help you. You will help each other to recover. And the fear and anxiety will lessen. You can do this. Pick up the phone and call up a rehab. That is the equivalent of the leap off a cliff. This is your leap of faith. Make the call, check into rehab. It all starts there.
Of course there are other ways to get clean and sober. It’s not impossible to sober up while avoiding rehab. For example, you could end up in the hospital. Or the psych ward. Or jail. Or prison.
That is meant to be a bit of a joke, but there is also a lot of truth to it as well. There are not a lot of options for a struggling alcoholic or drug addict other than inpatient treatment. Certainly that list of alternatives is not very appealing. You can do better than death, jail, institutions, hospitals, and mental wards. You can go to a 28 day program where they respect you and want to help you. Seriously, I have done the research, and rehab is always the best option. I have watched a lot of my peers in recovery who explored all of those other options (and then some). Nothing beats treatment. Nothing. It is the single best choice that you can make for yourself.
If you want to put yourself into recovery boot camp, get on the phone and call up an inpatient treatment center. Period. That is the start of your new life.
Doing what you are told to do in order to change your life
Boot camp is not easy, but it is dead simple. Someone yells orders at you, and you do what you are told to do. Simple.
If you go to inpatient treatment, you will not be treated poorly. No one is actually going to yell at you. No one will scream orders at you.
But people will make suggestions, and you had better listen carefully. You would do well to obey their “orders.” No one is going to force you, but if you want to build a new life for yourself, one in which you are happy, then you have to do the work.
This is the responsibility that every alcoholic and drug addict would like to escape, at least at first. We all look for that “easier, softer way.” But after banging our head into the wall long enough in our addiction, we eventually realize that there is no easier path. Treatment is it. AA is it. Recovery programs of any kind are the easier path. They are easier than a life if misery, chaos, and addiction.
And so you have a choice in rehab, just like you have a choice in front of you today: Are you going to follow your own ideas and chase after a fleeting happiness in life, or are you going to listen to advice from people in recovery and take a new direction, try something different, and build this new life for yourself? Which is it going to be?
Of course it is all or nothing. That is just how we are wired. You cannot take a few pieces of advice, implement some new ideas into your life, and then continue to drink or take drugs and expect for everything to get magically better. The continued addiction ruins everything. It erases any progress that you might make in other areas of your life.
And that is the magic of sobriety–once you start building this new life for yourself in recovery, it just keeps getting better and better. Because it builds. In other words, the gains that you make in recovery, you get to keep! You get to hang on to all of the positive benefits that you get in sobriety. And eventually it starts to add up.
It takes a while. It doesn’t just get magically better overnight. And that is why you should expect this version of “boot camp” to last for several weeks, possibly several months.
And it doesn’t matter. The wait is well worth it. If you take positive action and do what you are told to do, then the benefits that start to accumulate down the line are truly amazing. You will fall in love with your life, all over again. One day in recovery you will look back and realize that you love your life sober as much as you ever did when you were getting drunk or high. Expect now you don’t have any of the negative consequences to deal with any more. It’s all good! And you get to keep building, and learning, and growing in your recovery. Things just keep getting better and better.
Taking orders leads to a life of freedom and happiness, believe it or not…..
I know that you don’t like the idea of “taking orders” in recovery. No one likes to be told what to do.
Put that aside for a moment, and do it anyway. Take that leap of faith. Ask for advice, and then act on it. Ignore your own ideas, your own intuition. Listen to others for a while. Do it for 90 days in a row. Do not take back your own will, your own ideas. If you do take back your will, then start over with another 90 day experiment.
If you do this then you will be amazed and delighted with the results. That is the benefit that you get when you make it through this early phase of your training.
Have you figured out how to get through your own “basic training” in recovery? What have you learned through that experience? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!