You can absolutely become happy in long term sobriety without drinking.
I am not just saying that. What I am really saying is this: Every single addict and alcoholic, no matter how thoroughly hooked they believe that they are on their drug of choice, can live a happy life in recovery.
Every single addict and alcoholic can achieve this new life in recovery.
I know that this sounds impossible to some people. I know that you might believe that certain alcoholics or drug addicts are simply “too far gone” to ever live a normal kind of life again, to ever be happy again in sobriety.
This is not the case though. Any addict and any alcoholic can achieve meaningful recovery.
The key is that they have to surrender. They have to let go of everything after hitting absolute rock bottom and become willing to do whatever is suggested to them.
If this sounds extreme, it is. But addiction and alcoholism are extreme conditions. The person is caught in a trap, a trap in which they believe that they can self medicate their way to happiness, and instead it spirals further and further into misery and chaos. The addict or alcoholic is not a stupid person; they just cannot see a way out of the trap that they are stuck in. They do not believe that recovery could ever work for them.
I know this because I was caught in that exact trap. I was drinking and taking drugs every day in order to be functional and to seek my own happiness. Eventually it stopped being fun and then after I chased my addiction even further I become completely miserable. It got worse and worse and I thought that I might just end it all at one point. I was truly desperate and I wanted for the whole universe to just go away. I was sick and tired of it all to the point that I wished that existence….did not exist. I wanted oblivion because I was sick and tired of living in pain, a pain that I was creating myself through my addiction.
The escape route came in the form of surrender. I did not believe that I could ever be happy in addiction recovery, because I had been to treatment a few times and I had been exposed to a few AA meetings and I had also talked with a substance abuse counselor. I did all of these things but I continued to drink and take drugs because I did not believe that the solution that they were offering could ever work for me.
One of the reasons for this was because I had quite a bit of anxiety when it came to socializing in recovery. Alcohol made it easier for me to loosen up and talk to people and meet people. When I had dabbled in recovery and tried to go to rehab, I realized that if I was ever going to get clean and sober that I was going to have to sit in AA meetings, open up, talk to people, and somehow get past this social anxiety without medicating it away using drugs or alcohol.
That was a lot to take on. I honestly did not believe that I could ever do it, which is how I justified more and more alcohol and drug use for myself. So I continued to drink and to self medicate for a few more years, believing that recovery was simply impossible for me. I had put up this roadblock to my recovery because I was afraid of rehab and AA meetings and becoming vulnerable with other people. I was afraid of the social aspect of recovery. I had a lot of drinking buddies and people that I got high with, and I honestly could not see a way for me to replace those friendships with people in AA and NA. I did not think it was possible for me to do that, because I was so afraid to reach out socially and meet new people. So I reasoned that I was doomed to die an alcoholic death, rather than to face my fear of social anxiety and go back to rehab and embrace the AA program.
So what happened?
What happened is that I finally became desperate enough and miserable enough that I no longer cared about my fear of AA, my fear of rehab, my fear of losing all of my friends.
That feeling that I wanted the universe to go away, that feeling like I wanted to give up and just quit at life, that grew and grew and grew. Finally my misery and my isolation became so great that I reached a magic point of surrender. I knew that this was different because I thought to myself at the time “my family thinks I am just crying wolf again, going back to rehab for a third time, playing games, destined to drink again and cause more chaos, but they don’t realize that I am serious this time.” So instead of trying to convince everyone that I was serious, I simply became willing to go back to rehab and I knew that I was willing to give it a real chance this time, to actually embrace the program and face my fears.
I was afraid to die drunk, and I knew that I was getting close. Very close. I knew this was true because my behavior was more and more reckless and I did not really care if I lived or died any more due to my miserable addiction. And yet I was still afraid to face death. At the same time, I was afraid to face the fear of recovery, the fear of going to AA meetings, the fear of going to rehab and taking on this new and scary life in sobriety.
And I reached a point where I was just so sick and tired of….being afraid. I was tired of the fear. I wanted it all to go away.
So I faced the fear of recovery and I asked my family to get me help. I went to rehab and that was over 17 years ago. Today I am clean and sober and, believe it or not, actually happy in recovery. And I never really thought that it was possible.
How did it all happen? It all started with surrender. I had to reach that point of desperation in which I was willing to ask for help and to really mean it, to really want it, to be willing to follow through and to follow directions.
My life started to slowly get better and better and better.
And that is how addiction recovery works–you start to rebuild your life slowly, one day at a time and one action at a time, and you start creating positive habits that lead you to long term happiness. It takes time to change your lifestyle and to create healthy habits. It takes a whole lot of work to create healthy habits. And the payoff builds up very slowly at first, which is why you have to be in such a deep state of surrender, of misery, of desperation. Because if you suddenly start feeling good again and you decide that you can go off and drink again, then it will of course ruin all of your progress. This is why you have to hit bottom first, so that you don’t suddenly get antsy before the miracle happens. It takes time to build up joy and freedom in sobriety, but it will happen if you work for it.
And it works for anyone. No alcoholic or addict is immune to the effects of a recovery program. If they surrender fully and work that program then it will change their life, no doubt about it. But you have to surrender and you have to ask for help and then you have to follow through and actually do the work. This is what builds happiness and even joy in long term recovery. Surrender and start on a path towards your new life today.