Moving Past Addiction Doesn’t Have to be a Struggle
I remember a time when I kept trying to stop drinking (and drugging) and I yo-yoed back and forth between using and not using with depressing regularity. It was my last 3 month bender in the fall of 1988, and this rollercoaster left me feeling like I was an “alcoholic of the hopeless variety”; a common label carelessly tossed around in the AA meetings I’d been subjected to throughout my earlier youth. The emptiness of that label inspired me to begin thinking that there had to be a better way to beat this drinking thing than the tired slogan therapy so commonly doled out in the 12 step world. Even as a young naïve teenager with a very serious drinking problem, I could see through the nonsense of the 12 step message, but not enough to let go of it completely. There was certainly enough half truth to what these people were saying that I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself with my thoughts of impending freedom. I kept these heretical thoughts to myself as I drank myself silly in those last few months. With no real viable alternative to the disease-concept, I knew it was just a matter of time before I was pigeonholed into the 12 step abyss just like all the others in my family before me. Yet, the thought of being stuck in AA just fueled my drinking – it didn’t help it.
You see, I’d been immersed in AA since I was a young child; being dragged to meetings with my mom who was an active member from as far back as my first memories. Weekend visitations to my various siblings who were in long-term rehabs was a common occurrence too. I sat there, a small insecure kid, absorbing the cult into my consciousness like a dry sponge under a dripping faucet. All that was needed now was a good dose of alcohol and all the mythology that was being fed to me would blossom – and did it ever. Unlike my teenage friends, I never had the guiltless freedom of youth’s experimentation with drugs and alcohol. I’d been warped and “prepared” for addiction by my well meaning mother. She’d filled my head with, “Better be careful Mark, you’ll be an alcoholic if you ever drink.” “It’s in your gene’s Mark.” “Maybe you might want to go to Alateen meetings, this might help you understand what’s going on.” Not knowing any better, I followed that advice. By the time I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs at 12 years old, to the time I nearly died 6 years later, all those myths and fearful thoughts of the powers of drugs ran amuck through my mind. I felt it inevitable that I’d end up in AA meetings for the rest of my life and at 18 and after a serious DUI car accident I made the decision to quit for good.
But here is the weird part – when I finally did quit on that cold December night in 1988 – it wasn’t difficult. Yes, I’d been a daily heavy drinker by that point and had withdrawal. Yes I detoxed in a dorm room bathroom for three days when I returned to college after the arrest. Yes, I was scared and lonely because all my friends partied heavily and I hadn’t a clue on how to live substance free. Yes, I went to AA meetings immediately. But for the first time, I didn’t go to them because I couldn’t stop drinking. I went because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought I was supposed to go. I didn’t know I was allowed to simply stop and change my life – I’d never actually heard anyone say that you could just “move on”, yet that’s what I wanted to do. And because I didn’t know that I’d actually already solved the drinking issue on my own, I began to rewrite my own history while in the AA meetings. With every meeting I began to hear about “the struggle for daily sobriety”; “the battle with addiction”; “the need for daily medicine – your meetings!”; or “it’s so hard to stay sober.” I began to reframe my moving past addiction as a struggle to maintain it. Sadder still, six months into this unfortunate conversion I was mandated by the courts to attend treatment for a year because of the pending legal charges against me. This “treatment” just fortified the myths I was learning.
Here’s the reality – EVERYONE WHO STOPS DRINKING OR DRUGGING DOES SO ON THEIR OWN. While people may give credit to meetings, to their support network, to therapy, to treatment, to a sponsor, to whatever; in the end they themselves saw not using substances (regardless of the method used) as a happier state than using them. And that my friend is an inside job that no one else, and no other “method” can take credit for.
Here’s the point- It’s OK to move on. It’s OK to let go of therapy and let the past be the past. It’s OK to know that treatment didn’t give you any “tools” to stay sober; we all left treatment shaking our heads and wondering what the hell just happened. You’re not crazy and you’re not alone. It’s OK to let go of you’re trauma. It’s OK to look forward and smile. Let the “battle with addiction” go! Let it all go! Shift your mental gaze forward as I did that first night in 1988; as so many thousands do every year. Don’t let yourself get caught in the trap like I did.
I wasted years immersed in 12 step/treatment indoctrination. I volunteered to rewrite my history in those silly meetings, and built a lie inside myself that drinking was difficult to stop. Make no mistake, when I saw drinking as the better option complete with perceived benefits, it was hard to stop. Of course it was. No one stops doing what they like. But they do stop doing what they don’t perceive serves them in some way. And when you get there, allow yourself the opportunity to move on.
Many of you are on the fence. Some of you are in the recovery trap. Some of you are still in the addiction or even the treatment trap. If you are there, and you know what I’m saying makes sense, but you cannot seem to break free and make the move to move past all of it, read The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap. We wrote it for you. And if you want someone to walk you through the chapters and lessons together, go to www.leaveaddictionbehind.com and sign up for one-on-one Freedom Model Private Instruction classes. We will help you dispel the myths that are keeping you trapped, and you can do it from the comfort of your home. It’s time to move on! You don’t need recovery; you need the facts that can set you free!