Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction can be explained entirely in terms of one thing:
That is the one fundamental concept on which all of addiction recovery hinges.
With total and complete surrender, a new life in recovery becomes possible for the struggling addict or alcoholic.
Without real surrender, no meaningful change is possible.
It is just that simple.
So let’s break it down a bit and take a closer look at this concept.
We are all well aware at this point that most of addiction is connected to denial. We know that people who are stuck in active addiction are, by default, also in denial.
But why is this? Can’t a person be willing to admit and accept that they have a problem, but still be stuck in a pattern of abuse? Why can’t a practicing alcoholic admit to their problem, and thus not be in denial any more?
The reason is this: Because such people are actually in denial of the solution. They know that they have a problem. They know darn well that they are miserable because of their addiction. They just don’t know any other way to live, and they cannot imagine ever being happy and free in sobriety. Therefore they have not tried to achieve it. The prospect of facing life sober is just too scary, too overwhelming.
The typical alcoholic or drug addict will realize that their life is slipping out of control, and they therefore fight back against this. They attempt to regain some control over their drug or alcohol intake. This of course is just more denial, more tactics for managing our disease as best we can, even as we spiral further and further out of control. The addict can always convince themselves that they don’t have a serious problem because they can, for brief periods of time, sort of control their intake. They fail to realize that when they eventually lose total control and go off the deep end again that this is their addiction being in control and that they truly do have a serious problem.
Now the addict or alcoholic that keeps facing this up and down cycle of madness is in denial. When they decide that they are actually not a “real” alcoholic or drug addict and attempt to regain control yet again, that is serious denial. They are fooling themselves into believing that maybe this time things will be different. Maybe this time they will figure out how to control their intake and enjoy it at the same time. You see, when the alcoholic is going all out with drinking, they cannot control it, but that is when they enjoy it. And if they are trying desperately to control it for an evening you can see that they are not enjoying themselves in the least–they may as well be completely sober if they cannot get good and properly sauced like they prefer.
So this is the struggle that every alcoholic and drug addict engages in eventually–they fight to control their substance intake while somehow still managing to enjoy themselves. This proves to be impossible, so they ultimately get to choose between being completely miserable and un-medicated versus being completely out of control. The great fantasy and the biggest illusion in denial is that they might somehow find a sweet spot in the middle between these two–being out of control or being able to enjoy themselves. They fail to realize that for them, for the true addict or alcoholic, they have to choose one or the other. They are either fully tanked and dangerous or they are sober and miserable.
So what is surrender, and where exactly does it come into the picture?
At some point, the struggling addict or alcoholic gets this glimpse into their future. I know this because I got this glimpse of clarity myself one day. I realized that if I continued to drink alcohol and take drugs that I would never truly be happy. I realized that I would just always sort of be chasing my own tail, struggling to reach that next high, and yet all the while I would be miserable nearly all of the time.
And one day I just glimpsed the future, and I could see so clearly that it was never going to change. I was never going to suddenly figure out how to drink just the right amount of booze while smoking just the right amount of marijuana to have the perfect evening, all the while maintaining happiness and some semblance of health and functional relationships around me. That was never going to happen for me if I continued down this path. And I clearly saw that for the first time on the day that I finally surrendered.
Real surrender is when you realize that the only life that you know how to live is a miserable one.
At that moment you become willing to ask for help, to ask for direction. If you are not willing to take advice from other people, if you are not willing to be told how to live your life, then you are not yet at the point of true surrender.
True surrender means that you are humble. You become willing to do whatever it takes.
Real surrender means that you are thoroughly defeated. Your addiction won. It conquered you. Time to stop fighting, time to stop struggling for control. Your happiness was all an illusion.
And suddenly you may realize this, and become willing to seek help. To seek recovery. To seek treatment or therapy or counseling or AA meetings.
I am not convinced that it is possible to induce surrender on a whim. I think you have to earn surrender with years of chaos and misery.
But obviously the number of years it takes varies greatly from person to person. And I believe that you can speed up the process if you are willing to get honest with yourself.
Start keeping track.
Keep track of your happiness. If you are stuck in addiction and stuck in denial then your goal is to break through your denial and see the truth.
Your brain is busy telling you every single day that addiction is what makes you happy, even though it is actually making you miserable.
So, start measuring. Get a notebook and write down today’s date and then write about how happy you are today.
Do this every single day of your life. Every day. Don’t skip any days.
Every day, write down how happy you are.
Keep doing this, over and over again.
Over time, you will have built a case against denial. Because your brain is trying to convince itself that it is actually happy while you are stuck in addiction.
The truth will shine through if you do this exercise long enough.
And then eventually your brain will wake up to the fact that you are, in fact, miserable in your addiction.
And the last ingredient you need is to have just a tiny shred of hope. If you have a tiny bit of hope then you can transform that hope into a single step: Picking up the phone and calling a treatment center.
This is how you use the domino effect. Call a treatment center and make an appointment to check in. That single decision could change the next several decades of your life from being miserable and chaotic to being full of peace, serenity, and happiness.
And it all starts with a single moment of surrender. You must let go of your old life, let go of the need to control everything, and let go of the idea that you should be in charge of your own life.
Instead, surrender, and let someone else drive the bus for a while.
You won’t believe how much happier you will be in the end.