If there is a single, simple trick to success in sobriety, it is this:
Surrender totally and completely.
Now by itself, that advice is not really all that useful, because it is not clear to a person how exactly they are supposed to “just surrender.”
I know this because at one time I was in an alcohol treatment center and I was struggling to find my way to sobriety, and I was being told that I had to surrender.
I can remember thinking to myself: “I want to surrender, I want to be sober, but I am I really doing it right? How do I force myself to surrender? How do I do this?”
And the truth was that there was nothing that I could really do at the time. I had gone to treatment because my family wanted me to go. I had a drinking problem for sure, and I could admit that out loud, and I could even admit to myself and really believe it. However, at the time I was convinced that other drugs were not my problem, and that even if I gave up alcohol I would continue to use marijuana and other drugs. I was still in denial. The people in treatment warned me about “cross addiction,” but I somehow dismissed those ideas and just secretly hoped that I was the exception to this rule.
What I ultimately had to do at that time was to go back out into the world and fall on my face and eventually relapse on alcohol. It wasn’t a true relapse because I never stopped abusing drugs, but I did try to abstain from alcohol for a short while. After this failed, I sank to an even lower and more miserable point in my addiction, and I eventually wound up back in treatment again.
This second time my denial was a bit different. This time I knew that alcohol and addictive drugs were really all in the same category, and that I could not pick and choose and somehow skirt the problems of one addiction by abusing a different substance. I had learned that lesson very thoroughly last time around.
However, I was still in denial at this point. How, you ask?
The problem now was that, even though I fully admitted that I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I also did not really believe that traditional treatment could help me. I had been to rehab twice before and I felt like I was a hopeless case, a person that was just doomed to die from alcoholism or drug addiction. I honestly did not think that AA or NA could possible work for me, and I felt no real hope that rehab could help me. I had tried and failed.
So it is possible to be in denial of your addiction, but it is also possible to be in denial of the solution. At first I was in denial that I had a real disease, and later I accepted this and was in denial of the solution. Finally, after a few more years of struggle and misery, I came to believe that I might just be able to give recovery another chance, and that maybe something good could come of it.
So the trick for me was to surrender. In order to surrender I had to see through my own denial. At first this was blatant denial in which I did not even admit that I had a serious problem. There was no way for me to really sidestep that level of denial, and instead I had to rack up enough consequences and live through more misery so that I naturally came to admit that I was a “real alcoholic.” This took time and I just had to “pay my dues” by living through the misery of addiction, and eventually I broke through this first level of denial.
Now the second level of denial is the part about not believing that rehab could ever work for me, having been there in the past and having failed at it. I had to somehow come up with a new level of hope that I might go back to rehab some day and things might be different. In the meantime I believed that the only way that I could possibly find any happiness in the world was by getting drunk or high, and I also believed that I was totally clean and sober that I would be miserable.
So in order to break through this second level of denial I had to admit to myself that I really was miserable in my addiction and that using drugs and alcohol was not making me “happy.” This was actually very difficult for me to do because for some reason I held on to the belief that if I had gotten high or drunk once and was deliriously happy while doing so that I could conceivably do so at any given time. I believed that I had a magic wand when it came to drugs and booze, and that I could create instant happiness for myself any time that I desired. For some reason this lie persisted in my mind and I think it was the core of my denial. I really thought that if I were sober I would be bored and sad forever, whereas with drugs and alcohol I could recreate those “peak experiences” that I had in the past when I was first getting addicted to my drug of choice.
In other words, I was living in “the good old days” in my mind when it came to drugs and alcohol, yet the reality was that I was miserable while self medicating nearly 99 percent of the time. Yet my mind clung to that 1 percent of the time when drinking and drugs were actually “fun” for me.
Getting past this denial was not easy. My suggestion to you if you are stuck at this point of denial is that you should force yourself to write down your feelings every day in a journal. That may seem like it does not help directly with getting you sober, but if you journal every day then you are forcing your mind to realize the truth of your emotions. Another way to push yourself to do this is to talk with a therapist in counseling on a weekly basis. If you force yourself to open up about your true feelings then you will begin to see that taking drugs and alcohol as a lifestyle has not led you to be any happier.
So the trick is to surrender completely and by doing so break through your denial. Once you work through your denial you will be in a position to ask for help and to actually mean it when you ask for help. Go to treatment, go to meetings, and do what is suggested to you in terms of addiction treatment. Of course none of this will work unless you have worked through your denial and are in a position to be receptive to the ideas.
If you have struggled to achieve real sobriety and you failed, then the issue was a lack of surrender. You must work through your denial more thoroughly, surrender completely, and devote yourself absolutely to a recovery program. This is the solution. Good luck!