Tidbits About Addiction & Recovery
I went to treatment for the first time when I was a senior in college. It was for cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. I didn’t want to go, nor did I have the intention of staying clean, I went because at the time it sounded like a good idea. My motivation was not getting sober and staying that way; My motivation was to make others happy. I said all the right things, made all the right moves, and then I got out. That night I smoked pot and used cocaine three days later. What a waste of everyone’s time!
The priority was not long term sobriety. I went to treatment for outside reasons. One of the most important concepts for addicts to grasp is the need for sobriety for themselves. Their motivation needs to be internal, meaning it comes from a place of “want,” not “have to.” My intention was to get through the 21 days and then move on. In theory, this would please everyone, right? And it did for awhile. I was getting “good jobs,” and “we’re proud of you,” from my family and girlfriend. Life was good.
When using came back into the picture, it was all over. My addict behaviors started to show; My habits resurfaced, and before you knew it, I was off and running. It happened that quick. It just shows that doing things for other people, even when they’re not forcing you to, doesn’t help much. Addiction especially is such a personal journey, that motivation needs to come from the inside.
Over and over I hear people saying they want sobriety for their family, for their employer, for their kids, etc.. And then I see them back in treatment a few months later. When you say those things, it sounds good to everyone, but actions trump all words. You can tell people you’re getting sober for this or that, but your actions tell a different story. If your family, kids, and job meant so much, then why weren’t you getting sober sooner? Why the continued use and destruction that followed?
When I bring this up to patients, they look at me puzzled because I’m not challenging the importance of their family, but I’m bringing to light the power of their disease. You can’t say you’re committed to recovery and then not do what is recommended by the treatment center. You can’t tell me your family is important and then spend all night at the bar. Your words and behaviors don’t match.
The cool thing about recovery, and it’s different for everyone, is you start acting upon your words. You start becoming a trustworthy person, and that feels good. I hear clients talk about the joy it gives them telling a loved one they’re going to do something or be somewhere, and they follow through. For addicts and alcoholics, who’ve spent considerable amounts of time lying, delivering on their words is enormous.
The family is important, no doubt, but If I relapse tomorrow, it’s a matter of when, not if, that they become less important. Drugs and alcohol slowly (sometimes quickly) start creeping up the list of priorities and family won’t matter as much. Think about that. How dominant is a disease when it takes the individual away from all they hold dear, from kids, from family, from living normally? It’s powerful.
There are many different reasons to get sober, and getting sober is hard. But please, don’t tell me you want to get sober for them. I cringe when I hear that. When I hear someone say they’re getting clean for themselves, it makes me smile.
Things outside the person are not enough. Long term sobriety starts with the realization that recovery is for them alone. Everyone else just benefits from it.