Is it possible to stop quickly if you are addicted to alcohol?
Yes and no.
Yes, because it is possible to make a decision and have your entire life change from that point forward.
No, because it is actually dangerous to for some individuals to stop drinking cold turkey. That said, there are steps that you can take to be safer during alcohol withdrawal.
Ultimately, anyone who has been struggling with alcohol addiction can stop right now at this very moment, and never take another drink their entire life. But in order to do that they have to reach a level of surrender that they have never reached before. They must truly turn their life over to a new solution. This takes guts because you have to completely ignore your ego in order to do it. You must face your fear of the unknown rather than to continue to endure the pain of addiction. This is the choice that everyone in denial must eventually conquer. While we are in denial we are denying our misery rather than accepting it fully. We are telling ourselves that “it is not so bad” and that we are happy when actually we are miserable. This is the denial that you have to break through if you want to get started on a new life in recovery.
What to do if you have been struggling with alcoholism for a long time
If you have been struggling with alcoholism for a very long time then this is actually an opportunity. Some people in this situation believe that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and therefore there is no point in trying to sober up.
This is not true, however. Most people who get sober only do so after they have finally had enough pain and misery. The longer you have been drinking, the more likely it is that you have finally “had enough.” So if you have been drinking for years or decades then this is actually an opportunity in disguise. You are ready to change! Take advantage of that situation.
What you need to do is to surrender to your disease. This is a process, but at the end of that surrender process some specific things will happen. One of those things it that you will finally ask for help and be willing to take direction from other people. Secondly you will actually follow through on the advice that people give you after you have asked for help. This is obviously different from the past when you were not able to maintain sobriety no matter what you did. Things will be different this time based on your surrender.
The process of surrender can take a single moment or it can take several decades. Every alcoholic who is struggling with their disease is constantly moving closer and closer to surrender each day. Obviously some alcoholics die drunk and they never get to the point of “total surrender” where they become willing to ask for help. Other people may reach the point of total surrender much sooner, even before they turn 21 years old in some cases.
So what is the difference? What do the younger people know that the older struggling alcoholic is lacking? Is there some secret to surrender?
Unfortunately the answer would seem to be “no,” there is no secret to surrender. It is all based on your threshold of pain and misery, combined with your willingness to face the fear of the unknown.
When you overcome alcoholism you are making a trade off. You are trading your pain and misery that you are very familiar with in addiction for the fear of facing a complete unknown in getting sober. In order to overcome the misery you must be willing to face the fear. And there is fear. Many alcoholics (or people in general) do not like to admit that they are afraid, or that fear is holding them back in any way. But every struggling alcoholic who refuses to stop drinking is wrestling with a great deal of fear. They are afraid to be sober, among other things. And it is this fear that prevents them from taking action.
At some point in their journey they will get sick and tired of being miserable all the time. And they may also grow weary of the fear in their life as well. I can distinctly remember that I was sick and tired of being afraid, and I was also tired of being miserable. So both of these things had to come to a head. I had to be so sick and tired that I became willing to face my fear. This is how to break through denial.
In order to break through denial you have to realize and embrace the fact that you are completely miserable while trying to self medicate with alcohol. This is a realization that every person must come to on their own. It is not likely that they can be convinced of this with logical arguments. Instead, the alcoholic has to slowly realize that they are no longer happy while drinking every day. And this was their entire purpose, to self medicate with alcohol in order to be happy. This is what drove their fear for so many years–“don’t take away my alcohol because that is the only thing that makes me happy any more!” But at some point they will come to the realization that they are not happy while drinking, and that they have not been happy for a long time.
This is the turning point, where they break through denial. They take a step back and they look at their whole life and they realize “I am really not making myself happy with alcohol any more. It used to work in the past, it used to work quite well. But now when I drink it no longer makes me happy. And I can clearly see that in the future it will not be any different. Alcohol is not going to suddenly start doing its job again and making me happy every day like it used to do. That time is over, and I can never go back to it. Addiction has changed me, permanently.”
This is the sort of realization that has to happen before the alcoholic can fully surrender. Until they have this realization that their drug of choice no longer makes them happy, then they are going to continue to try to chase happiness in the bottle.
The only important part of surrender is that it be total and complete
Surrender to addiction is a very tricky thing.
Many times we have thought that we surrendered. Many people believe that they have finally given up, that they have moved past their denial.
So we get people who come to rehab all the time who then later relapse. Many of them relapse shortly after leaving treatment.
So what was the problem? Was the treatment inadequate?
No. That is almost never the problem. Instead, the problem is always that they have not surrendered fully to their disease.
They thought they were ready to change their life, but they were only fooling themselves. They had not surrendered fully.
Why would this happen? How could someone go into treatment if they were not in a state of full surrender?
Lots of reasons. One big one is that they just want a break, they are exhausted from addiction and they just want their roller coaster of a life to calm down for a moment. So they check into rehab and catch a little breather. But they may have no intention of really stopping yet.
Another reason may be family and friends who have pushed them there. They may be in treatment due to pressure from friends or family. Or there may have been some consequences that prompted them to go into rehab (such as a drunk driving).
But none of those reasons are necessarily valid reasons for total surrender. Some people crash their car, lose their home, lose their family and friends, and they are still not in a state of total surrender. They may still be hanging on to denial, blaming others, and doing everything that they can in order to NOT blame alcohol. They are not ready to change. They may end up in rehab, but unless they have surrendered fully and completely, then they are not ready to recover.
So all that really matters is the depth of your surrender. Have you surrendered totally and completely to your disease?
And what does it really mean to surrender fully? How does a person even do that? What is the mechanism of total surrender?
It is difficult to describe, and it is easily mistaken. But once you have reached the point of full surrender you will probably know it for yourself. Note that you will not be able to convince friends or family of it at that point, because they have heard you “cry wolf” far too many times already.
So if you have reached the point of full surrender then all you have to do is ask for help, and then follow through and go change your life. That’s it. Leave your addiction behind forever and be done with it. You can do this by asking for help and then following directions.
Why following directions? Because other people will have no problem telling you what to do and how to live. You just have to be willing to accept their help and follow through on their advice. It is not hard to tell someone else how to live sober. Therefore all you need to do is to ask for this guidance and then be willing to follow it. No one would possibly do this unless they were at that state of total surrender, where they are totally fed up with their own miserable life, and are willing to do anything in order to escape the misery of addiction.
When you surrender, something slides away from you. Your need for control is what evaporates. It is simply lifted, in an instant. Perhaps it is a spiritual act. But suddenly your will to fight, to struggle, to control things just suddenly melts away. You realize that your need for control and the struggle to stay happy (through self medicating) is not really working. You let go of the need to control and manufacture your own happiness. You let go of everything. You’re totally done. You give up. But not just the idea of alcohol, you give up everything, your whole life, all of it. You give it all up at once and become willing to turn yourself and your life over to something, anything else. You are saying in that moment of total surrender: “I don’t know how to live anymore, please show me.” If you can say that with complete abandon, if you can say that and sincerely mean it, hold nothing back and really want to change and embrace some new way of living, then you are at the point of total surrender.
If you have never even considered the idea of quitting drinking before then it is highly unlikely that you are at this point of total and complete surrender. Most of us have to go through the process of trying and failing a few times before we are thoroughly beaten enough to be at this point of desperation. You have to be desperate. You have to be so fed up and miserable with your addiction that you are truly desperate for change.
Once you reach this point of total and complete surrender–that is when you ask for help and go to rehab. That is the point at which you try to change. Up until that point you are not in a position to follow through with the intense amount of action that it will take in order to change your life. Overcoming addiction requires a certain amount of “escape velocity,” and you will not be able to build up enough effort unless you have reached the point of total and complete surrender.
How to embrace alcoholism treatment in order to have a breakthrough
If you go to rehab in order to overcome alcoholism then you are on the right path. If you have not surrendered fully at this point then you may relapse after leaving treatment, but if you have broken through your denial then you will be able to remain clean and sober. Treatment will show you how.
There are various treatment centers and some of them have different methodologies. For example some rehabs are based on a religious programs, while the majority are based on the 12 step program of AA. Some are even based on a behavioral approach that does not depend on spirituality or religion at all (though those are fairly rare). In other words, there is some variety out there in the world of addiction treatment.
But at the same time, treatment is basically all the same. You go through detox, they get the chemicals safely detoxed from your body, and then you start going to group meetings. They may be based on AA or they may be based on something else but the basic structure remains the same. You learn how to live a sober life, how to deal with triggers and urges, how to get help and support from other people, and so on. The basic mechanics of sobriety are the same no matter what program you are following. Only the details differ, but sobriety is sobriety no matter how you slice it. Most treatment centers teach total abstinence as the way to overcome addiction (a few rehabs are starting to teach moderation, with very limited success).
You may think that picking the perfect rehab is a very important step in your recovery process. It is but it isn’t. What is much more significant is that you agree to go to rehab–any rehab–and simply go. That is about 100 times more important than choosing the perfect recovery model.
Because treatment is basically treatment–they don’t differ so much really. Sobriety is sobriety. What is more important is that you embrace what they are teaching you and follow through with it. What is most important is that you commit to change in your life, that you commit to a life of sobriety. The depth of your surrender and the corresponding depth of your commitment to sobriety is about 100 times more important than which rehab you choose to go to. But that does not mean that rehab is not important, because it is. It just means that you don’t need to pick the perfect place. Just choose one and go, and then embrace sobriety. This is the path to success in recovery.
Why you need a proper detox
Alcoholism can be dangerous. Detoxing from alcohol can be extremely dangerous as well.
Most people understand that drinking too much involves serious risk. But most people do not realize just how dangerous it can be to stop drinking.
Cold turkey withdrawal can be fatal. Seriously, you can die from NOT taking a drink. That is how serious alcohol detox can be.
And until you stop drinking, there is no way to really know how serious your withdrawal will be. Most people will not be in a life threatening situation from quitting drinking. But a small percentage will have seizures and an even smaller percentage will die from their withdrawal (if they are not medically supervised).
Now if you are medically supervised in a rehab or a detox center then there should be no reason for anyone to die from withdrawal. But realize that even with a medicated detox, some people will have dangerous seizures anyway. The longer you have been drinking for and the greater the quantity you consume the more likely there are to be dangerous complications.
Really it is just crazy to try to overcome alcohol addiction without any help at all. If you go to detox then you are putting the right foot forward and setting yourself up for success. At least when you go to treatment you know that you will be much safer during this withdrawal process, and that they will attempt to give you medication to minimize the withdrawal symptoms.
After detox you can go right into residential treatment and start learning how to live a life without alcohol. While you are in residential treatment you will be protected from the threat of relapse. It is easy to stay sober while you are in rehab. Take advantage of this fact, and go to rehab! If you can stay sober for a few weeks in rehab following your detox then this gives you a much better chance of staying sober after you get out. Put as much time as you possibly can in between your present moment and your last drink. Treatment allows you to do this.
Can you leave alcohol forever based on a snap decision?
Every alcoholic who is now sober today made a decision at some point in the past. There was a moment, a split second, where they finally surrendered completely and said “No more. I am done with this drinking stuff, I am going to change my life even if it kills me.” Every recovering alcoholic has gone through that moment and made that decision.
Therefore you can make the same decision as well. You can decide right now, today, that you are done with alcohol for good. All you have to do is surrender to your disease, embrace the misery that it has created, and face your fear of the unknown. Ask for help, follow through.
There is always a lower bottom out there
Have you reached your true bottom yet?
That is a decision that you can make. There is always another bottom out there waiting for us, if we are foolish enough to give our addiction another chance.
Or you can put your foot down, right now, and say “never again. I am done with this madness, and I am going to face my fear and go get the help that I need.”