Written by Patrick

Posted on: spiritualriver.com

If you are going to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol then you need serious life changing ideas.

And you can’t just have great ideas. I think all of us had dozens of ideas when we were trapped in the cycle of addiction, but did we really execute on those ideas? Did we implement those ideas? Did we follow through on them?

When I was stuck in my addiction, I most certainly did NOT.

I tried to switch from liquor to beer. I tried to limit the number of days on which I drank or used drugs. I tried to control how much I used at a given time. I tried to limit myself so that I would not lose control and face heavy consequences.

And every time that I tried to limit or control my intake, I felt miserable. I wasn’t happy.

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t happy no matter what I did. I was just plain miserable. I was miserable when I was drinking and drugging, and I was miserable when I was sober.

I needed to reboot my life somehow. I needed new direction.

I needed new ideas. And perhaps most importantly, I had to follow through on these new ideas.

The recovery program–or the ideas themselves–are only one small piece of the puzzle. The other big part of the puzzle is the follow through. The execution. Whether or not you truly implement the new ideas and make use of them.

So what you find here are the ideas that worked for me in my own particular journey. But I would also caution you to realize that my ideas about getting clean and sober are perhaps not as important as what we all might believe. My specific ideas and the specific actions that I took in early recovery may not actually be all that important.

What is much more important, perhaps, is the fact that I actually followed through. That I took some ideas–any ideas–and ran with them. I started walking the walk. I listened to advice and I put the ideas into action.

This, perhaps, is more important than the ideas themselves. Perhaps much more important.

Just consider, for a moment, the fact that a person can go to AA, listen to the advice, work through the steps, and recover. They can live an awesome new life in recovery by doing this.

Now consider the fact that someone else can find a completely different program of recovery, one that has nothing at all to do with the 12 steps, and they can also put the ideas into action and find an awesome new life in recovery.

Clearly, the actual ideas themselves are not the entire story. I think some people in various recovery programs believe that the ideas themselves are magical, or that they hold secret power, and that anyone who is still struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction simply hasn’t learned about these powerful and secret ideas to sobriety.

I don’t believe that is true. I don’t believe that there are secret ideas (or even specific ideas) that are totally necessary for recovery. Perhaps more important than these specific ideas is the willingness to execute them.

In other words, it all probably comes back to the basics: “Honesty, open mindedness, and willingness.” Those are not thought experiments that you can just dip your toe into and get results. If you want to truly recover and turn your life around, you actually have to be honest. You have to be willing. And you have to be open to new ideas. You can’t just pay lip service to those concepts and try to convince others that you are open and willing. Either you are, or you aren’t. And that will ultimately make all the difference in your outcome.

That said, I think it is still worth exploring the various paths to sobriety. While not every path is the same, sharing the ideas can help us to uncover some of the fundamental concepts. For example, who would say that they have recovered from addiction without first surrendering? Very few people I would imagine. Surrender is fundamental to sobriety. Therefore it is an important idea and one that is well worth exploring.

We need big ideas to change our lives, because addiction is a very big problem. Making small changes is not going to cut it. So let’s talk about big ideas.

Overcoming addiction is likely the biggest challenge you have ever faced

I can look back at my entire life and I can look at my battle with addiction, and I can honestly say that getting clean and sober was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. It has been–so far–my greatest challenge.

And I think that this is an important idea to share with people. Because I also worked in a treatment center for several years, and I had the opportunity to see a lot of people come into rehab and try to get sober. I watched thousands of people do this over half a decade. And in observing those people I learned a great deal.

One thing that I noticed is that there are a large group of people (not sure on the exact percentage but it would be interesting to know for sure) that are coming into rehab and treating it with a very casual attitude. In other words, they do not realize that they are facing the greatest challenge of their life. They are clueless in this regard. They do not understand that getting sober would likely be the most difficult thing they have ever attempted in their entire life.

And so one problem is: How do we communicate this to people? How do you wake them up and force them to realize that this is not just some stroll through the park?

The problem is that people are going to make a certain effort in anything that they are trying to do. How hard do they try? How much do they push themselves? What is a reasonable amount of effort? Do they have to dedicate every waking moment of their life to the goal of sobriety? How much do they push?

When I went to treatment for the first time, I simply wasn’t ready to get sober. I had not surrendered. And therefore I did not push myself at all. Not even a little bit. I figured that if sobriety was easy enough and if it was convenient and fun and took no work at all then I would just let sobriety fall into my lap. But I certainly wasn’t going to make some huge effort or get uncomfortable by going to AA meetings and all of that jazz. So you can guess how that turned out. I relapsed immediately and went right back to the chaos and misery of addiction.

When I finally surrendered to my disease and became willing to do whatever it took to get sober, it was a total transformation. I completely let go of everything. I squashed my ego and I asked for help. And I was willing to do anything, even to live in rehab for almost 2 full years.

I realized that if I was going to pull this off and actually get sober, I was going to need a massive amount of help and support. I realized that it could not be some little casual change. And so I was finally treating the problem of addiction and recovery with the proper amount of respect. This is the biggest challenge I have ever faced, therefore I need to approach this problem with more energy and more dedication than I have ever had in my entire past.

I realized that I was going to have to try harder at this than I had ever tried at anything in my life, ever. Period.

And so that was when everything changed for me. I had to change my attitude. I had to rewire my brain and completely change my approach.

One way of thinking about this is to look at in terms of priorities.

In the past, I went to rehab and I was not yet ready to be sober and I had not surrendered. And so I saw my life as totally separate from any recovery efforts. I was trying to compartmentalize my recovery. I was saying “OK, here is my life over here, and I might try to hit a few AA meetings and also stop drinking and using drugs over here, and that will eat up a few hours out of each week, but I want to leave the rest of my life intact without making any waves.” I was trying to separate my recovery efforts from the rest of my life.

This is silly. It will never work. You cannot compartmentalize your recovery from addiction.

Repeat: You cannot compartmentalize your recovery.

In other words, you can’t just put your recovery in a box. You can’t cordon it off in a corner somewhere and then leave the rest of your life untouched by recovery. That will never work.

No, when you get clean and sober it is like jumping into swimming pool when you are completely dry.

The first time I went to rehab, what I was doing was tip toeing into the shallow end, one agonizing minute at a time. That was how I was approaching the idea of getting sober.

That would never work. It can’t work. You either jump in all at once, or you go back to drinking. There is no in between.

When I actually got sober successfully, I dove in head first. I asked for help, I surrendered, then I went to rehab and started listening and taking suggestions. I asked for help and then I followed through. I completely removed my ego from the equation and instead I listened to advice from others.

This is how you get sober. Not by tip toeing into the shallow end a tiny bit at a time. You do it by diving into recovery head first, and immersing yourself completely in it.

So when I was working at the treatment center and I would see struggling alcoholics and addicts come in, I wanted to grab them by the shoulders sometimes and shake them violently and somehow communicate these ideas to them. The idea that this is the fight of their life, and they cannot just approach it casually and expect to get decent results. If they want to stay sober then they are going to have try harder than they have ever tried before in their life, and they are going to have to dive in head first and make a supreme effort at it.

How did I learn this myself? By going to rehab three times, and failing twice. I had to try and fail, try and fail. It was only through those first two failures that I began to wake up to the idea that maybe I need to get serious. Maybe I need to dive in head first rather than just dipping my toe into the recovery pool.

And perhaps this is the path with every alcoholic and drug addict. Maybe everyone has to experience a few failures before they realize just how big the challenge of sobriety is. Maybe we all have to struggle a certain amount before we are willing to truly surrender.

My hope is that I can convince a few people that there is a shortcut. And the shortcut is to surrender. To accept and acknowledge your misery. And to ask for help and seek a better path.

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