How can you take back control of your life in sobriety, especially after the chaos and misery of addiction has taken you so far away from sanity and happiness?
I think that any struggling alcoholic can restore their sanity and get back to a place where they are in control of themselves again, so long as they have reached a point of surrender and they are willing to do whatever it takes.
There is a definite line when it comes to addiction recovery, and a person has either reached that line or they have not. This is all about the concept of surrender.
In my opinion, partial surrender occurs very frequently when it comes to addiction and alcoholism. A person will often want for their life to change, they want the benefits of sobriety and recovery, but they are not yet willing to put in the effort to make it happen. And so what happens is that many alcoholics will have a string of false starts in their life. They will reach a certain point and say “never again will I go overboard and lose control and drink way too much.” And then they vow to quit forever, and they might even succeed for a little while, but eventually they are right back at it.
So they only regain control of their life for a short while, and then it all falls apart when they inevitably relapse again. So the question becomes, how do we make it stick? How do we actually make that leap of faith into long term sobriety, and live our lives in such a way that we do not fall victim to relapse over and over again?
There are a couple of key elements to this which I want to review with you.
First of all, as mentioned, is the concept of surrender. The line that needs to be reached could best be described as being “absolute surrender.” As in, total and complete surrender. If you want to recover from alcoholism then you have to go all in when it comes to getting help for it. If you are hedging and trying to maintain some sort of dignity by, say, not having to attend AA, or not having to attend treatment, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Or rather, if you are saying “I am too good for rehab” or “I am too good for AA” then what you are really saying is that you don’t have that big of a problem that would warrant rehab or AA. So you are still in denial.
People get confused at this because they argue that they are not in denial because they admit that they have a problem–but they still don’t want to go to AA or rehab. So which is it? How can an alcoholic admit to having a problem but still be in denial?
Make no mistake here, because this is an important distinction: You can admit to your problem but still be in denial. The alcoholic who refuses to seek help is not in denial of the problem–they are in denial of the solution. They are saying “I am alcoholic and I am hopeless and rehab cannot possibly help me.” They deny the solution.
And of course we all know that this is wrong, that anyone in denial of treatment or AA or rehab is just kidding themselves, because those solutions can and do work for anyone who earnestly seeks them.
So the key starting point for taking back control of your life is to admit that your life is out of control. That is the first level of denial–admitting to the problem.
The second key point is to admit that you cannot fix it yourself, that you have tried over and over to fix it yourself, and you have failed repeatedly.
Third key point would be in accepting a new solution into your life. Taking advice and following directions. And knowing that this is the only hope for you. Total and complete acceptance of the fact that someone or something else has to show you how to live your life, that you cannot figure it out for yourself.
This is the key acceptance that breaks the alcoholic through that last bit of denial: Accepting a new solution. Saying to the world “yes, I will go to rehab.” Yes, I will go to AA meetings. Yes, I will do whatever they tell me to do in order to find a better life for myself. Anything but the misery I have been stuck in.
This is the bar for entry into real sobriety.
Now after an alcoholic has reached this point of ultimate surrender and therefore “ultimate acceptance” they still have to follow through.
Which means that they now have to go to rehab, go to AA, go to any recovery program they are directed towards–and completely dedicate their life to it.
This is not like dipping your toe into the pool. This is diving in head first. If you are to succeed in sobriety and turn your life around, you have to go “all in” with recovery. If you hold anything back, even the slightest bit, you will relapse and be right back to the misery and chaos of your addiction.
The starting point, at least for me, was when my family got on the phone and called a rehab center and made an appointment for me to check into that rehab center. That was how my new life really started, at the moment of my surrender, when I declared out loud “yes, I will go to rehab again. And this time I am serious.”
Of course, alcoholics have said that before, and they were lying to themselves and to others. They thought they were serious, they believed that this time would be different, and yet they still managed to relapse.
But then again, there are lots of sober alcoholics who have regained control of their lives, living in recovery, some going to AA meetings, and they all said that at one point too: “This time it will be different.” And it actually was different, and they turned things around, and today they have happiness and freedom.
So if you want to gain control of yourself again then you have to start with the point of surrender. You need to ask for help and go get professional help at an inpatient rehab. From there, you can begin to build a new life for yourself, one in which you maintain your sanity and you maintain control of your actions.
The key is that you don’t just go to rehab and then walk out and expect to be cured. You have to keep working at it, you have to keep making an effort at this thing called sobriety, and as you do the hard work of recovery you will note that your life just keeps getting better and better.
Not only do you regain control of yourself, but you also regain control over yourself emotionally. So while things will still happen and you might get upset, you will have far more control over the extent of your reaction.
Something happens and you get angry. That is still the case in recovery. However, in sobriety, you learn how to temper your reaction, how to control, how to respond to the emotions in a healthier way rather than to self medicate over everything.
This is how sobriety empowers you–because you get control over yourself even when others might believe that the world has dealt you an unfair hand. Not only do you regain control but you also regain your sanity, and your freedom.