What does it take to overcome a serious drug or alcohol addiction? What is it that separates those who succeed in addiction recovery versus those who continuously relapse and fail?
In order to beat any serious drug or alcohol addiction the person must first surrender completely to the fact that they have a real problem.
But it is actually more than that. The person must admit that they do not know how to solve their own problems. They have to accept and admit that they do not have all of the answers.
Furthermore, they must admit that they need a new solution in their life. Essentially they have to throw up their hands and say “I don’t know how to live any more. Please show me.”
This is what it takes to beat addiction–total and complete surrender. Without total surrender you will just be wasting your time if you dabble in the world of recovery.
Once the individual has made the decision to surrender completely, my next suggestion for that person would be to ask for help. In order to beat any serious addiction you are going to need some professional help. Ask for help and then take some advice.
In most cases this will mean checking into an inpatient rehab facility.
Now it is true that certain individuals have overcome their addiction without going to inpatient rehab. While that may true, it is also true that some individuals have survived just fine without ever wearing a seat belt in a vehicle. Does that mean that we should avoid using our safety belts?
Of course not. And it also means that you should be open to the idea of going to inpatient rehab. If a person is not willing to attend inpatient treatment then it is generally a very good indicator that the person is still hanging on to some denial. Of course they may admit that they have a problem, but that is only one half of denial. The other half of denial is the denial of the solution, of saying “I know that inpatient treatment potentially helps addicts and alcoholics, but I know that it won’t help me, therefore I am not going.” That is still denial, and it is denial of the solution rather than of the problem. Still denial!
So after the struggling alcoholic or drug addict accepts the fact that may need help in order to overcome their problem, they become willing to attend inpatient rehab. This is just the beginning of their journey in recovery, however, and there is a lot more to “the solution” than just the willingness to walk into a treatment center.
In order to overcome an addiction you have to learn how to live in the real world and deal with reality without resorting to drugs or alcohol as your solution.
That means doing a whole lot more than just going to rehab for 28 days.
In a lifetime of sobriety, the inpatient stay for 28 days is nothing but I tiny blip on the radar. The rest of your life is going to last for a long time, and you have to be actively seeking recovery long after you leave the safety of inpatient treatment.
Getting to rehab is tough, and I get that. It is scary to make the leap of faith and dive head first into recovery. But once you are checked into a facility, staying clean and sober is a breeze–at least while you are in the safety and security of the inpatient rehab. Quite honestly, anyone can stay clean and sober at rehab without any real issue. It is not that difficult or challenging once you are there.
The day you get out, however, is a different story entirely. Once you check out of rehab you are going to have to get to work on your recovery, and fast. You cannot leave treatment and take a casual attitude towards your sobriety and expect to do well.
Instead, you must dedicate every minute of your life to the goal of addiction recovery.
The key is personal growth. You have to be pushing yourself to become a better person, each and every day, or you risk sliding back into the chaos and misery of addiction.
Personal growth is the only thing that can sustain a person in recovery. If you are not improving your life then you are, by default, spiraling down towards a relapse. You cannot just be idle and sit still in recovery, you are always moving in one direction or the other.
And you get to choose: Work on personal growth and self improvement today? Or slide back towards relapse? Which direction would you like to go?
If you choose the route of personal growth then there are many people who are willing to help you on this journey: The staff at rehab, counselors, therapists, peers in AA or NA, and so on. If you want to succeed in recovery then you need to tap into these people and take their advice and do what they suggest for you to do.
If you go to AA or NA meetings you will hear them talk about humility, as it is mentioned in the 12 steps. They say you need to be humble in order to recover. How does this work in the real world though?
To be humble in recovery means that you need to listen to other people and take their advice. It means that you do not always know the best path for yourself in life. True humility means that you must listen to others and take their suggestions and put them into action.
On the path to personal growth, you can only see about half of the stuff that you need to do in order to be successful. But what about the other half? Who can see that?
Other people around you can see the blocks that you cannot see, because you are too close to some of your own problems. For example, maybe you are feeling sorry for yourself all time, and making yourself out to be a victim. And without even realizing it, your brain is using these old thought patterns to help justify a relapse.
You cannot see this pattern because you honestly believe you are the victim of crummy circumstances, or that the world has it out for you, or that everyone else would feel upset if they had been dealt your hand. But your sponsor and your therapist and your peers in recovery start to see it, and one of them pulls you aside and says “hey, why are you playing the victim role lately? You are stronger than that.” And so you realize that they are right after hearing it from multiple people, and you decide to do something about it. So you ask for help and you learn about gratitude and you learn how to overcome this defect of yours that is causing self pity.
This is how the program works–we help each other with our experiences. So other people have been in self pity mode in their own past, and they noticed it in you, and they warned you about it. Then your sponsor was able to teach you about gratitude so that you could correct the problem before it led you to relapse.
This is the sort of work that you have to do in order to remain clean and sober in the long run. But in order to get to this point you have to be willing to dive into recovery head first, to go to treatment, to go to meetings, to do some therapy and some counseling, and so on. You have to go “all in” on your recovery efforts if you want to have a real chance at overcoming your addiction. And you have to be willing to do the work that will lead you to personal growth.