The absolute best way to determine the course of alcoholism treatment–especially early in the recovery process–is to allow someone else to determine what is best for the alcoholic.
Simple: because of self sabotage.
Every alcoholic has a self destructive nature built into their disease. Alcoholism, by nature, makes the person want to relapse, and the disease will craft all sorts of excuses and rationalizations in order to make that happen.
So the single best thing that a struggling alcoholic can do is to surrender completely.
Now I went through my own struggle with denial for many years, and I was trying to understand that denial on an intellectual level. Here is what I ultimately learned:
There are at least 2 different ways in which an addict or alcoholic must surrender. The first is to surrender to the disease, to the fact that you are alcoholic and that you have a real problem. That is one half of your denial.
The other half, however, eluded me for many, many years. I could not figure out why my acceptance of the disease had not magically produced recovery. If I was past my denial, why wasn’t I cured?
The reason was because of the second half of acceptance that is necessary: Acceptance of the solution.
In order to recover from addiction or alcoholism, the struggling addict must also come to accept a new solution into their life.
Note that I said “a new solution.” That means it cannot be their own ideas. They must get the information for recovery from outside of themselves.
Now perhaps a struggling addict has been to rehab before and also been introduced to AA meetings. However, because they continue to struggle and to self medicate, they obviously missed something critical. They failed to implement the principles of recovery, even if they happen to know those principles forwards and backwards. Therefore, they don’t really “know” what they need to know in order to recover yet. They have more to learn.
So the first step in determining your best course of action in recovery is to ask for help, to go outside of yourself, and to seek advice and guidance. My number one suggestion is that you call an inpatient rehab facility and ask them for help. Get scheduled to go to treatment. If all else fails, go do a 28 day rehab program, as this is the gold standard by which other treatment paths are judged. Successful recovery usually begins with a medical detox followed by residential treatment.
Now once you have surrendered fully–both to your disease and to a new solution–you need to get started on the task of rebuilding your life in sobriety.
In other words, after you go through treatment and you get settled into a routine of therapy, AA meetings, support groups, aftercare, and so on–you still have to rebuild a life that works for you in recovery.
My suggestion for you is that you continue to rely on the guidance and suggestions of others, much more so than you might think is necessary, at least for the first full year of your addiction recovery.
The reason for this is simple: We are poor predictors of our own happiness. If you try to figure out the best possible life for yourself in recovery, simply based on what you think you want, you are very likely to end up miserable.
Instead, what we are really doing in recovery is we are investing in our own future happiness. This requires making tough decisions in the short term–the sorts of decisions that we really would prefer not to make.
It is easier to sit on the couch all night and munch on potato chips, rather than to go to an AA meeting and follow up with coffee with our peers in recovery. But if you take this same sort of approach to decisions and multiply it out by the next 6 months worth of evenings in your life, choosing the couch over the AA meetings is going to lead to something that resembles depression.
This is why we live by the suggestions of our therapist, our sponsor, and our support system in recovery. If people make suggestions for us and those suggestions feel like “work,” then that is probably something that we should consider doing in order to help ourselves. Recovery takes work! Sitting around, being lazy, being complacent–these are the things that lead to relapse.
You have to realize that when you are dealing with “the rest of your life in recovery” you are dealing with a very, very powerful multiplier effect. That multiplier is each passing day. Every single day goes by in your life, and the habits that you build into that day are going to ripple through the rest of your life. The more consistent (and persistent) each habit is, the more powerful the long term effect is going to be.
This is why you need to focus on developing and cultivating the right daily habits in your life, the habits that will allow you to sustain your recovery for the long run.
A few notes about this: One, you cannot know in advance everything that is going to work perfectly for you in terms of which habits are most effective.
Therefore, you need to experiment. This is what they mean when they talk about willingness and open mindedness in recovery. You must be willing to, when your sponsor suggests that you exercise, try dedicated walking or some kind of fitness, every single day, for the next 90 days. Instead of just nodding politely and then ignoring the suggestion, you have to actually follow through and test the habit out.
And just because you don’t believe it will help you does not mean that it won’t. I was shocked to find how much exercise helped me. Ditto that for seated meditation. So I had to experiment and give these things a chance when my therapist and my sponsor made such suggestions to me.
You have the entire rest of your life to live in recovery. Therefore, you have plenty of time to experiment and test out various habits that will help you to remain sober. That said, you need to get busy with the testing and the experimenting process. Do not delay this for any reason. Start listening, humble yourself, and start taking suggestions from people that you trust in recovery. Do this sooner rather than later. Do this when you have one week sober and also when you have 5 years sober. Keep doing this over and over again–taking suggestions from people and doing experiments–and your life will continue to get better and better.
This is how you can build a life in recovery that is sustainable, that is able to keep the demons of addictions at bay. Your habits define your success in recovery. Good luck!