In order to succeed in addiction recovery you are going to have to forgive yourself.
The problem that many struggling alcoholics and addicts face in the early recovery process is that they never even forgive themselves enough to start trying to get clean and sober.
This is a pretty neat (but somewhat stupid!) trick that we alcoholics play on ourselves.
We get down on ourselves because of our drinking and drug use, so then we feel bad about ourselves, and then we feel even worse and we decide to self medicate with more drinking and drug use. The cycle perpetuates itself, and we are stuck in a negative loop.
Some of us have at least some religion on our background, and we feel as if we have done so much wrong and we have “lived wrong” for so long that we are now bad people. We equate our addiction and our behavior in addiction as being morally wrong, and we beat ourselves up for it.
Then we play another trick on ourselves when we argue in our own mind: “Well, I have been pretty bad due to my addiction, and I have done some horrible things. It doesn’t make sense to try to straighten up and fly right now, because I can never repair all of the damage. I may as well just keep drinking my way down into oblivion, chaos, and eventually complete and utter self destruction.”
That seems pretty stupid when you say out loud, but believe it or not, this is the kind of logic that keeps an alcoholic stuck in a cycle of abusive drinking or drug use. We beat ourselves, we feel bad about it, and then we attempt to drown our sorrows all over again.
So the key to leaving this cycle behind is that of self forgiveness. Now you might believe that this is some sort of religious rite of passage but it can be a simple decision that you make in your mind. All you really have to do is come to the realization that you have been playing the best hand that you could with the cards that you were dealt in life, and that meant that you attempted to self medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Really when you boil it all down, human beings have some fairly basic needs. We all want to feel loved. We all want to feel safe. We all want peace.
And so all of us are struggling and thrashing about, trying to get those things for ourselves in various ways. Sometimes that means experimenting with drugs or alcohol, and if you happen to be alcoholic, then you think that you have struck gold when you first discover your drug of choice. It fills that void and it ends your search for purpose and meaning. Getting drunk and high became my purpose. I actually said out loud the first time I got lit up: “This is what I was put on earth to do; this is what I was born for.” I said that the first time I got high. I wanted to party forever and ever, because it filled that void and it made me feel like I belonged, like my life had meaning.
So when I finally reached a point several years later when I was sick and tired of the addiction merry-go-round, and I desperately wanted it all to just go away, I was ready to try just about anything. This was important because they wanted me to go to inpatient treatment for 28 days, and that felt like a huge commitment to me at the time. Looking back it should have been no big deal, but of course I was afraid of being clean and sober, so I was very nervous to attend rehab.
I am glad that I finally went though because it saved my life. Going to treatment also taught me something else: All of these other addicts and alcoholics were struggling just like I was, and they were all beating themselves up as well, believing that they were just “bad” and selfish people.
The truth was, we were acting selfishly in our addiction, but we were not morally bad people because we were addicts. We were just sick people who needed to treat our disease. I know the truth of this today because I have been clean and sober for many years now, and I have many peers who have made this journey with me, and we all thought that we were just a bunch of selfish jerks who really liked to get drunk all the time. It turns out that we are a decent group of people who really like to reach out and help other people to recover, and we try to do good things in the world, and we try to give back to the world now that we are clean and sober. This group of people that I am referring to–they are not jerks. And now that they are sober, they are not selfish either. They are very giving, and they try to help out in any way that they can.
The problem is that when you are stuck in active addiction you really believe that you are unique, that you are the first person who has truly fallen in absolute and total love with their specific drug of choice. You think “I am absolutely crazy because of my drug of choice, and I think I must be far crazier than any other person who has abused drugs or alcohol before, and there is no way that anyone or any program could possibly help me.”
Everyone thinks that. Everyone believes that they are unique, that they are the craziest addict ever.
Relax. You are unique in certain ways, but not because you are an addict or alcoholic. There are lots of us, and we can all relate to you when you say that you feel as if you are insane due to your addiction.
There is help for you. You just have to give yourself a chance, you have to allow yourself to go to treatment and give yourself that time to heal.
And you deserve this chance. I cannot convince you to magically forgive yourself this instant, but I can tell you that when I forgave myself and allowed myself to seek help, everything got a thousand times better, and it did so in a hurry. Once I gave myself a break and said “I deserve to go to rehab and see what this sobriety stuff is all about” then my life just kept getting better and better on a daily basis. I can remember feeling guilty during the first six months at some point because it was almost too easy to be true, I was just showing up to rehab, going to AA meetings, doing what people told me to do, and everything was getting so much better. It was almost too easy once I reached that point of surrender.
And that is how you must forgive yourself–with surrender to the fact that you don’t know how to live, that you don’t know what is best for you, that you need advice and help.
Say something to yourself like: “I have tried my best in life and it got me to addiction, and now I am miserable and I am stuck. In order to move forward I have to let go of my old ideas, I have to let go of the idea that I can make myself instantly happy with my drug of choice, because that isn’t working any longer. I need new ideas and I know that I can get those by seeking treatment, by seeking meetings, by seeking advice and suggestions from others in recovery.”
That is the kind of surrender and the kind of “break” that you need to give yourself if you want to succeed. In order to do well in recovery you have to let go of all the control that you have been hanging on to for so long and just allow yourself to take suggestions from other people.
Pick up the phone and call a rehab center. Ask them what you need to do in order to get into rehab at their facility. Then start making stuff happen and figure out how to get yourself into a 28 day program.
This is how you give yourself a break and start building a foundation for a new life. This is how you will break free from your old life and finally experience some peace.
You are worth it, and you deserve it. Make the call today!