Maybe you are still using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.
Maybe you cannot imagine your life without your drug of choice in it.
Perhaps you have had brief periods of time where you went without your drug of choice, and during those times you were miserable. So you have made the conclusion that your drug of choice is the only thing that can make you happy, and that without it you will be hopelessly miserable for the rest of your life.
This is how denial works. We convince ourselves that have to rely on self medicating in order to feel good. Our denial is so powerful that we convince ourselves that we are totally unique, and that we are the only human being that absolutely loves our particular drug of choice, and that even though OTHER people might be able to become clean and sober and live some sort of normal life and find happiness, that surely we could never do that, because we are unique and we really, really love our drug of choice.
We’re not like other people. Somehow we are different. We’re not sure why, but for some reason we are just totally in love with getting drunk or high, and we were built to depend on it for some reason. Our denial tries to convince us that we unique, that we are a special case, and that we are the only person in the world who really does need our drug of choice in order to function and be happy. Of course all the while we are completely miserable 99% of the time while using our drug, but our denial clouds us from seeing that truth too.
So we stay stuck in addiction. We bang our head against the wall for years, sometimes decades. We continue to chase happiness through medicating with our drug of choice, all the while complaining that if things were just a little different, if we just had more money, if we just had more drugs, THEN we would be truly happy. Our happiness in addiction is always elusive, always right around the corner. We never really arrive there because all we have is the memory of the perfect high, when we were once properly medicated and everything was right in our world. We chase after that state of being for years and years without ever finding it again, always believing that true happiness is right around the corner, but all the while being pretty much miserable in our addiction. This is pure denial, and it is the mechanism by which we stay stuck in our disease.
Breaking through denial
The way to break through this denial is to honestly assess your happiness.
This is not difficult to do but you have to have the guts to actually do it.
Start measuring your overall happiness. Stop making excuses for why you will be happy in the future, and start measuring how happy you are RIGHT NOW.
Start a 90 day journal. Get a notebook and commit to writing a brief note in it once per day, explaining how happy you are that day and why or why not.
Commit to making 90 entries in this journal over the next 90 days.
We often cannot see our own misery until we document, until it smacks us in the face, until we are sitting in a jail cell wondering how it all got so bad.
Writing down how you feel each day will at least show you the truth. After 90 days you can look back through your notebook and see just how miserable you really are in your addiction.
Then if you really have guts you can take a flying leap of faith and give recovery a try. Go ask for help, go find a rehab, go find a detox, and commit to doing 90 days of sobriety. Do the journal thing again, just taking a moment each day to jot down a brief note about how happy you are in your recovery.
During your first week or two of detox you are not going to have very happy notes for the most part. But it will not take long before something painfully obvious is revealed to you.
You will start making some “happy entries” in your notebook. This will happen long before the 90 days is up and probably before you even get to the 30 day mark. Your ego will not want to admit it at first but you will start having some amazing experiences in recovery and your ego will be forced to admit that you are, in fact, finding happiness in recovery.
Now I know that this experiment probably sounds ridiculous and trite to anyone who is still using drugs and alcohol. I know it would have sounded lame to me when I was still getting drunk and high in my addiction. This is mostly because I did not believe that recovery was possible for me.
Sorry, but you are NOT unique. There are other addicts and alcoholics in this world
My denial had convinced me that I could not possibly be happy again in this life without drugs. I believed that I was unique, and that I was just wired differently from other people. My parents could not convince me to quit using drugs because they simply did not understand. They thought that I could be happy again if I was sober and my denial had convinced me that I would be completely miserable if I was sober. I really believed that it would be impossible for me to be happy again in my life if I could not use my drug of choice every day. So when people tried to convince me to change or to seek recovery it just sort of fell on deaf ears because they were not getting it, they were not listening to me, they did not realize how desperately I believed that I need drugs in order to be happy.
What would my life be without happiness, contentment, or the pursuit of happiness? What is the point of living if you cannot be allowed to chase your own happiness and freedom? What is the point of living like that? This is the mindset of denial, this is what I was thinking when people asked me to get sober and give up the drugs. I thought to myself: “Why would these people want me to be miserable? How can they be so cruel as to want me to become miserable? Don’t they realize that I would surely kill myself or die of frustration if I was forced to be clean and sober for the rest of my life?”
So that was my mindset when I was still stuck in addiction and that was how my logic worked. I “knew” that I needed drugs and booze in order to be happy, and I felt threatened when people suggested that I give them up. Never mind that I was presented with evidence that OTHER drug addicts and alcoholics had at various times sobered up, quit using drugs, and learned how to be happy again in sobriety. Never mind that other addicts and alcoholics had found recovery at some point and learned to enjoy life again without self medicating. Never mind those examples.
Because I was different. I was unique. For some reason, the powers that be had created me to be happy only with drugs and alcohol. I am not sure why this was the case, but I am afraid that I can only be happy in this life when I am self medicating with drugs or alcohol. I am unique in this way, and those other addicts and alcoholics who sobered up and found happiness, they must not have been like I am. They were not as hooked as I am. They did not like drugs and alcohol as much as I do.
Or so I believed. When I finally got clean and sober, I realized of course that my denial had me fooled all along. There were other drug addicts and alcoholics in this world who loved drugs and alcohol just as much as I did, and they managed to sober up at some point and find happiness in recovery. I was just being stubborn, and stuck in my denial, to not admit that other addicts and alcoholics existed.
Can I really quit drugs forever? Won’t I just be miserable forever, and settling for misery rather than chasing the happiness I get when I am high?
The addict or alcoholic who is stuck in addiction cannot see past their first few months of recovery.
You might be able to accurately predict what you will feel like during the first week of your recovery. That much is true. The reason that you can predict this accurately is because you have likely done it before. Chances are good that you have experienced a few days of abstinence here and there, or maybe even a few weeks. Maybe you went to rehab before, maybe you went to jail for a while, or whatever. Something has forced you to experience abstinence during your addiction when in fact you would have preferred to keep using your drug of choice instead.
So as an addict or an alcoholic who is stuck in the trap of addiction, you cannot accurately see past the first week or two of your recovery. You cannot guess on this because you have never been there and you have never done it yet. You have only gone through the first few days or the first week or two when you are in detox from your drug of choice and you are mostly miserable. You did not plan to stop using your drug of choice at that time and you wanted desperately to keep using. So you were miserable and you were hoping to get high or drunk again during those brief periods of abstinence that you may have experienced.
Now realize this:
Recovery is not like that. Sobriety is not like that.
When you get clean and sober with the intention of staying clean and finding a new life and a new happiness in recovery, you are NOT going to stay miserable for very long. You may have a rough week or so of detox but things will turn around very quickly.
The truth is that life will become interesting again. Life in recovery will become worth living again if you give it a chance and make the decision to stick it out in recovery.
We cannot see this truth when we are still using drugs and alcohol. All we can see is that our happiness clearly comes from getting drunk or high, and that if we are not getting drunk or high then we cannot possibly be happy.
But this is an illusion. If you remove all of the chemicals for a week then we get back to a normal baseline. We may not be jumping for joy at the end of our detox but at least we are not as miserable as we thought we would be. We are probably content and maybe just slightly depressed at that point.
However, the truth is that our happiness, contentment, and joy in life starts to build from there. As we remain clean and sober in recovery, stuff that used to be boring to us in our addiction becomes important and meaningful again. We take an interest in people again, people we actually care about. Life becomes interesting again in recovery after we are clean and sober for a little while. Then it becomes downright exciting. You will actually wake up, clean and sober, and be excited about the day that lies ahead of you.
But you have to make that leap of faith, you have to allow yourself to go through the process of detox, and to learn a new way of living that does not depend on self medicating. This is a learning process and it takes some time for you to get through the clunky beginning. It is not going to be a perfect transition, and there will probably be a bump or two along the way. This is understandable. Detox is not supposed to be fun and exciting.
But living in recovery IS fun and exciting, and within just a few weeks your life can be totally transformed. If you keep a journal and try hard to log your happiness in both addiction and in recovery, you will realize that you are happier without the drugs and alcohol in less than 30 days time. It is almost impossible to see this or to believe it when you are still getting drunk and high but if you care to document your feelings you will see the real truth. We are happier in recovery than we were in active addiction.
Why is it selfish that I use drugs or alcohol in order to be happy for myself? That is the only thing that gives me happiness any more!
It is not necessarily an issue of being selfish. The problem is that you are in denial and you do not realize how miserable you are in active addiction.
You are probably also not counting on the fact that it is going to get worse over time.
When we first start using our drug of choice, it is fun nearly 100% of the time. It is all fun, all good times, and very little consequences. Using our drug of choice makes sense in the beginning because it provides use with a good time, happy feelings, and there is very little downside.
As time goes on and we become dependent on our drug of choice, the percentage of time that we are happy starts to go down. We may only have a “peak experience” with our drug where we really are happy and content a few times each week now. But we brush this aside as being no big deal, we still focus on the good times we have had, and we minimize the consequences that are starting to creep into our lives due to our addiction.
As the madness and chaos continues, our addiction takes over our entire lives. We depend entirely on our drug of choice and we need it every day. Now if we get honest with ourselves the percentage of time that we are happy is much less than 50 percent of the time. In fact we may only get really “happy” while being drunk or high like once a month or even less at this point. But we still stubbornly cling to the idea that our drug of choice is what can make us happy.
And even further down the road you will come to a point where you are happy nearly zero percent of the time. You will pretty much never be happy while getting drunk or high any more, at all. But you will still cling to the memories of when you were properly medicated and everything was groovy.
So it is not selfish that you continue to use your drug of choice in search of your own happiness. The problem is not that you are being selfish. The problem is that you are being inefficient. The people who are sober and trying to convince you to quit are only trying to help you, because they can see so clearly that which you can NOT see:
That you are miserable in your addiction.
It becomes so easy for the outsider to see that you would be so much happier if you would just sober up.
The problem is not that you are selfish. The problem is that you refuse to see the truth about how miserable you really are in addiction.
How will I find happiness in the long run?
You have to give yourself a chance in recovery. You have to give yourself a chance to become clean and sober.
Simply quitting for a few days is not a fair trial. You need to give yourself a chance to get fully detoxed and stable in your new life before you judge your happiness.
Recovery becomes an amazing journey because you will start to care again about things that used to bore you in your active addiction.
When you are stuck in addiction everything becomes meaningless except for seeking your next high.
After being clean and sober for a while the simple things in life become exciting again for you. But you have to give yourself a chance in order to experience this. It will not happen during the first day or even the first week of recovery. Getting your life back is a process.
One of the things that I learned while working in a drug rehab center about recovery was that we are all responsible for creating our own happiness. The people in recovery who do not take any action or make any positive changes will tend to be less happy and have all the excuses that they need to relapse.
But the people in recovery who allow themselves to get excited about life again and start to take massive action and make positive changes will have a natural “insurance” against relapse. If you are enjoying life and seeking out new challenges and getting excited about your own personal growth in recovery then you are not going to be in a position where you say “screw it” and pick up your drug of choice again.
Happiness in long term recovery is a process, and it has to be discovered by each person as part of the journey itself, part of the learning process, and part of their own personal growth. We find happiness when we realize that we are going to keep facing new challenges in recovery, learning from them, and growing as a person–and we are OK with that. We learn to like the idea that recovery is a process and we are never going to be finished with our journey.
If you are still stuck in active addiction then you likely will not believe that this happiness is even possible for you.
I can assure you that it IS possible though, and all you have to do is ask for help, let go of your struggle to find happiness with drugs, and become open to a different way of life.
For me, this process started with the decision to ask for help and go to rehab. If you are interested in changing your life then call us today at (866) 575-5378.
You can be happy again. But you have to take action and get the process of change started.