If you are trapped in drug or alcohol addiction then this is probably what has happened for you:
First, you fall in love with your drug of choice. It is so good and you never want to lose the high, you never want to have to be without your drug of choice. So you obsess over it and you use it more and more and it becomes a full time habit for you. This is where it all begins.
Over time, you become addicted to the substance, and you basically use it every single day. You are hooked on your drug of choice and you feel as if you need it in order to function, in order to be productive, in order to have fun, and in order to manage the stress of daily living. It has become your solution for nearly everything.
So at some point you realize that your drug of choice has taken over your life and that you are starting to suffer some consequences from this. So you feel as if you might be better off without this crutch; this dependency. So you make the decision that you are going to try to quit your drug of choice.
So at this point you make an attempt to quit on your own. Using your own ideas and your own best judgment, you stop taking your drug of choice or you attempt to cut down slowly. Either way, no matter what your approach is in trying to quit or cut back, you fail at it.
In the long run, you fail miserably in this attempt, and you get right back to the point of being out of control and suffering consequences.
For the alcoholic, they will find that if they are struggling to control their drinking then they cannot really enjoy it. Conversely, if they allow themselves to really enjoy their drinking, then they cannot control themselves, and they get into trouble and face consequences. So ultimately they have to choose between being miserable or facing the consequences of out-of-control drinking.
So what happens at this point is that the alcoholic is starting to sense the truth of these two extremes–that they can choose between being miserable and not drinking enough, or drinking too much and losing all control. And so they get the idea in their mind that they can find the sweet spot that is in between these two extremes: Just enough alcohol to enjoy themselves and to have a nice buzz for the evening, but not so much that they go overboard and fall face first through their glass coffee table (as I have done in my own past!).
This is classic denial. The alcoholic really believes that achieving this sweet spot is possible.
Why do they believe this?
Because they have experienced it before.
Yes, it’s true. This is why alcoholics live in denial: Because there is a shred of truth to the lies that they are telling themselves.
I can remember–even after 17 years of sobriety–a day in which I was drinking alcohol and I had a nice and pleasant buzz and nothing went wrong and nobody got hurt. I can remember that day. It was perfect. I was consuming just the right amount of alcohol and I was at this really fun gathering and everything was going perfectly. Nobody got hurt. I continued to drink fairly casually and we even smoked a little marijuana and we all sat around and we laughed and it was so much fun. It was the perfect night of drinking and partying and I wanted it to last forever.
I am not making that up. I can actually remember that night. It really was the perfect night of drinking, and it happened over 18 years ago.
Now what you need to realize is that every alcoholic and every drug addict has the same memory for themselves.
Sure, their party is different than the party I was at. Their special memory is not exactly the same as the one I had. But the concept remains true, in that every addict and alcoholic has a memory like this from their past in which they had the perfect high, or the perfect night of drinking.
This is what creates denial. This is why our denial persists, even after we continue to rack up more and more negative consequences from our drug or alcohol use.
So it doesn’t matter if we drank last weekend and landed in the county jail because we got so messed up. Our diseased little brain can overlook that result because we are clinging to that perfect memory of the perfect night. The cop had it in for us, and we got unlucky last weekend, and if we could just drink the perfect amount of booze throughout the night then nothing bad would happen. Why is that so hard for other people to understand? It’s not the alcohol or the drugs, it is all of those outside factors that are aligned against us! We just had some bad luck, things did not go our way, and we suffered the consequences for it. But that doesn’t mean that we should eliminate our drug of choice forever, right?
So that mindset is the drugs and alcohol outsmarting us. That is denial. We are stuck because we think that the drugs and the booze are innocent, and that our problems are caused by anything other than the chemical addiction. If we believe this then we are the ones who are being outsmarted.
So turning this around requires a moment of clarity, followed by real surrender.
For me it was seeing that if I continued to drink and take drugs that I would always be chasing happiness in between long periods of misery. For whatever reason, I could finally see that I was miserable most of the time in my life, and that I only became “happy” every once in a while by getting drunk and high. It no longer worked every day like it did when I first started using. And for whatever reason, I could finally see the truth in that–that the party was over, and that it just wasn’t fun any more.
So then I had to play a trick on myself. The trick was essentially the third step in AA and NA, which is to “turn our will and our live over…”
There are many ways to do this. For me, it meant that I had to make an agreement with myself. The agreement was this:
“I will not allow myself to make my own decisions for the following year. I will only listen to advice from trusted individuals like my sponsor, my therapist, and my family.”
So I did that. That was essentially how I worked the third step, and how I was able to outsmart my addiction.
I sidestepped the addiction entirely by taking my own brain out of the decision making process. I did not allow myself to make any decisions for the first year of recovery, which allowed me to be directed towards a more positive future.
Within the first few months I could tell that this was working far better than I ever could have expected it to work. I was actually happy without needing drugs or alcohol, and I could not even take any credit for this happiness! It came to me only because I listened to other people. This is how I “outsmarted” my addiction…..by admitting that I was too “dumb” to make my own decisions, and allowing other people to do that for me. Not very glamorous, but it gets the results that you want. Try it yourself and see!