* The major problem with quitting drinking on your own
* Establishing a baseline of sobriety
* Transitioning to long term recovery and healthy living
* Reaching out to help others but still “on your own”
* Establishing a solid foundation of recovery that is not dependent on social networking
The major problem with quitting drinking on your own
Now I have obviously written about how to stop drinking before and if you go back and read that article you will notice that one of the key elements that I push is that you need to ask for help. This sort of implies that you cannot quit drinking on your own and that you need help in order to do so. But is this really true?
As I progress in my recovery, I get to watch other people recover and I also observe my own journey through sobriety. What I am noticing is that depending on other people to maintain your own recovery is not necessarily a healthy thing. I see many, many people relapse who are depending on the social aspect of traditional recovery programs to keep them sober.
At the same time, I have basically formed my own path in recovery and do not rely on group therapy or meetings in order to maintain my sobriety. In fact I have probably been to less than 5 AA meetings over the last 6 years.
Now the problem with quitting drinking on your own is that this is a thinking disease…..our mind is messed up and we our in a battle with ourselves to try and control our own drinking. Our mind created the problem of addiction and now we are trying to solve that problem with the same mind that created it.
I believe it was Einstein who first said that “you cannot solve a problem at the same level that it was created at.” You have to go up a level or two in order to really change your life if you are currently trapped in a cycle of addiction.
Now this does not mean that you cannot solve your problem without asking others for help and direction. However, it does indicate a few things:
1) You are not going to cure your drinking by sitting around and thinking about it. It takes more than that. It takes action.
2) You do not have to depend on other people for your sobriety, but you should not immediately discard any and all connections with others in recovery. There is still value in the idea of support, but not to the point of developing dependency. You can still interact with others in recovery without “needing” them for your continued success. More on this later.
3) You cannot solve your problem with compromise and moderation. If you make a commitment to yourself it has to be black and white. That means an abstinence based program. If you want to learn how to control your drinking then you will have to look elsewhere.
My recovery is somewhat unique in that I have very little social support in the traditional sense (such as daily meetings). I don’t call my sponsor very often and I don’t attend 12 step meetings. And the bottom line is that I am still growing in my recovery and living an awesome life, without depending on other people to help keep me sober. I have also observed this happening in other people that I know in recovery, and of course we share some similarities in our approach.
On the other hand, I am not a complete island and I do have connections with others in recovery. But, these are not dependencies.
So here are some of the details on “recovering on your own”:
Establishing a baseline of sobriety
Can you get sober and detox on your own? Yes and no.
Your first step in recovery is to get detoxed. You have to get clean from all drugs and alcohol before you can start on your path of recovery. I mentioned before that this is an abstinence based approach. The idea is that you are going to stay drug and alcohol free. There are other approaches but I have not had any success with them so if you want to learn to moderate you are on your own! My technique is to abstain entirely.
So can you stop drinking without any help at all and get sober? Yes it is possible, but you have to be careful. For one thing, realize that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. This will depend on how physically addicted to alcohol you are and how long you’ve been drinking and so on. If you shake badly when you stop drinking suddenly then you probably need medical supervision for this leg of your journey.
If this is the case then do not try and taper yourself down from alcohol….instead, go check into a detox center. It will only take 3 to 5 days at the most and you can walk out of there being completely detoxed and drug free. If your goal is really to quit on your own then you can still do so, but you might need help in order to get through the medical portion of detox. There is no shame in going to rehab and you will not have to go to any groups or meetings while you are in detox. Get in, get sober, and get out.
Now obviously if you go home after a few days in a detox center and start drinking again, even just a little, then it was all for nothing and you will be right back on the roller coaster. Remember that this is an abstinence based plan. You are trying to establish a baseline of sobriety and that means you need to abstain from alcohol and other drugs.
Now if you really want to do this on your own then you need to take action during this first week or two of sobriety. Essentially you need to figure out how to live a new life without drinking. There are a number of things you should consider, such as:
1) Avoiding old hangouts where you drank or used drugs.
2) Avoiding certain people who you drank or used drugs with.
3) Establishing some new healthy routines of distraction, such as exercise, long walks each day, and so on.
4) Keeping busy and being responsible, for example by working a new job, or picking up your hours at an old job. Being reliable, dependable, and on time.
5) If you have any religious background, you might try reconnecting with that. This works for some people and not for others. It is just another option.
6) Find a method of meditation – this can be really broad and open. For example, I run long distances several times each week, and this is absolutely a meditative experience for me. You might sit on the couch and do breathing exercises. It really does not matter much, as long as you find something that works for you. A method of de-stressing your mind.
7) Finding a way to help others – this is especially helpful if the people you are helping are in recovery. Now this does not mean that you still cannot “quit on your own.” You can reach out without becoming dependent on others.
8) Forgive yourself and forgive others. This is a critical component, one that is basically borrowed right from a 12 step program. If you are constantly beating yourself up over your past and over your addiction, then it is difficult to move forward in recovery. Likewise, if you resent others in your past and hang on to massive anger towards them, then this will poison your efforts at recovery. The only way to move forward is to make peace with this idea and forgive others. There are many ways to do this but they deserve their own article.
Transitioning to long term recovery and healthy living
If you do all of those suggestions listed above, and do them every day for the first few months of your recovery, then you can slowly start to build a new life for yourself. Do not expect miracles at first and do not expect it to happen fast. It will come slowly over time. This is a good thing. If it happened over night then it would not be stable. You are building a long term, stable life in recovery. It takes time. It takes work. Expect this.
I personally believe that networking with others and helping others in recovery is a lot more important in early recovery than it is in long term sobriety. If you are going to help other people, then do it right off the bat when you first get sober. As you stay sober for longer, it becomes less critical as the focus shifts to personal growth.
The transition to long term recovery is about holistic growth. In the early stages of sobriety, your goal is simply to not drink each day. That is your daily goal. “I will make it through today without drinking or using drugs.” At first, that is enough. If you can conquer each day sober then you are doing good.
But after a while, that is no longer enough. Why? Because you start to take it for granted. Everyone will do this after a certain amount of time. Maybe it will take 90 days, or maybe it will take 9 years. But at some point, you will become used to not drinking and it will no longer be the miracle for you that it once was. It is at this point that you need to have something more in your recovery in order to keep you sober. That “something more” is holistic growth. It is personal growth. It is you, challenging yourself to keep growing as a person. Without this element, you will eventually relapse back to drinking.
Now for some people this “something else” is a reliance on a higher power and building a relationship with that higher power. If so then that is fine….realize that this is another possible path to a life of holistic growth. If you have a strong relationship with God then you will naturally push yourself to grow in a holistic manner. You will take better care of yourself, you will emphasize your talents in order to better serve God, and so on. You can reach the same success in recovery via different paths. You can push yourself to grow holistically and do great in recovery. You could also cultivate that relationship with a higher power and achieve the same results.
In particular, I would emphasize these things in your transition to long term recovery:
1) Holistic growth – look for multiple areas of your life in which you can grow. In other words, don’t neglect exercise and fitness. Also, consider relationships and emotional health too. Holistic means you are looking at the whole of your life. There are multiple areas in which you can become a better person. Find them and work on them.
2) Self esteem – if you can boost your “real” self esteem through accomplishing goals and taking good care of yourself, then this will help your recovery immensely. You will not relapse if you value yourself and your life highly enough.
3) Personal growth & learning – if you push yourself to grow further, make sure there is an emphasis on learning. Without this you will tend to stagnate. Always be learning….always be in “growth” mode.
Reaching out to help others but still “on your own”
You want to quit drinking on your own. Is it possible to interact with other people and still be independent?
Of course it is. You don’t have to go to 20 AA meetings each week and have a sponsor and become a sponsor yourself in order to stay sober. Some people will of course do that, and this is fine if that works for you. But just understand that you can have an awesome recovery by simply reaching out to just one or two other people on a regular basis. There is meaning in nearly any interaction. If you can help someone else consistently, then it will really enhance your recovery.
For example, I work in a detox center, and I also interact with readers here on the Spiritual River on a daily basis. Neither of these things involves the 12 step programs. I am interacting with others, helping them in some cases, and in other cases I am receiving help from them as well. These are “recovery related” interactions.
You need these interactions in order to be successful in recovery. You will not depend on them, and they will become less important the longer you stay sober. But I think early on, you need some interaction with others in recovery.
You don’t necessarily have to find them in 12 step programs, but you have to find these connections somewhere. Also, you do not need a lot of them. Quality over quantity in this case. You can still recover on your own without becoming dependent on meetings or a fellowship.
Establishing a solid foundation of recovery that is not dependent on social networking
So what is important in early recovery is establishing the foundation. This takes action.
Really it is all about action. If you want to quit drinking then you have to take massive action, and it also has to be sustainable action.
Take some of the suggestions from this article and apply them in your life. If you do so every single day then you are on the right track. Even then, some will relapse. It is a tough road. And, you are increasing the difficulty slightly by insisting that you quit drinking by yourself. But it can still be done, you just have to put in the footwork.
Remember that in order to get results you need to make a massive effort. If you just try “pretty hard” you are going to fail for sure. This requires a massive effort on your part. It will likely be the hardest thing you have ever done, actually. So make a commitment to yourself that you will not drink today, no matter what. You have to make that commitment over and over again, every single day. Then, you have to follow through with the suggestions and take action every day to make it happen. Sitting on the couch won’t cut it. Get active, do the work, and find some new healthy routines in your life. Push yourself to grow holistically and challenge yourself to do more and more each day. It is only through this momentum and this positive action that you can recover on your own.
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