How Do I Start On My Addiction Recovery Journey?

Most of the enquiries I get are not from folks already in recovery, but from those at the start of the journey. In fact, they’re not even off the starting blocks yet. Which is fine.

 

That’s where the bulk of people are with addiction, when they start reading about the possibility of getting better, before getting treatment. I believe they call it ‘pre-contemplation’.

 

The most common query is ‘how do I start’?

 

I think what they’re really asking is “How do *I* start?”

 

In other words, I’m unable to get started in recovery due to multiple factors that are personal to me, how do I do it with all the factors going in my life?

 

Sadly I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this sort of question, as it is so unique.

 

I would say, that to get into treatment, or get well some other way, there needs to be an appropriate balance in your life of pain .v. reward, before you’ll get off those starting blocks.

 

What I mean to say is, we’re all motivated in different ways. Addiction recovery is no different.

 

A sponsor I had, who went to private rehab clinic Abbeycare pointed this out to me a long time ago:

 

Some find greater encouragement from seeing what could go right in recovery, how life could be turned around without the alcohol, the support we might get, the encouraging words and glances as we make our way.

 

Others are less motivated positively, and more motivated by what they’re trying to avoid, or get away from.

 

In this case, it’s a case of, how much (emotional) pain is too much? Before you throw in the towel and allow others to help?

 

I’ve seen some truly tragic results of alcoholism in my time. Accidents, relationships broken, families lost entirely, hospital admissions, and yes, death.

 

If we don’t learn the lessons in time, we can pay a very dear price indeed.

 

 


 

 

I would say, especially at the start of the journey, and being as affected by the chemistry of alcohol as much as anything else, I’ve yet to witness a positive, affirmative, and assertive alcoholic going into treatment.

 

Usually, we’re a depressed bunch, running the gamut of anxiety, sadness, and everything in between.

 

And sadly, there’s often a history of loss and trauma there too.

 

But the moral to this story is – use this to your advantage. Understand that when the pain becomes overwhelming, it may be the most useful mechanism to get you better that you could possibly find.

 

You don’t or won’t know that initially of course. It’s difficult to see the learnings from something you’ve not been through yet.

 

But when you think of the other issues in life, when you think back, can you think of an overwhelming pain, that caused you to make significant changes, that you couldn’t otherwise have achieved? There must be one.

 

This is how to tends to work at the start of addiction treatment.

 

It’s not always going to be this hard. It does get easier.

 

And if acknowledging the pain that’s been caused, the relationships hurt and lost, the catastrophes unfolded, the physical and emotional harm caused by drug or alcohol addiction, is the only way to get the help and move forward, then use it to your advantage.

 

There’s a huge difference between using pain as a motivator in this way, knowing that you’re using it for a positive good, and simply experiencing the pain without this knowledge.

 

It’s easier to handle, easier to understand, and will make the start of your journey just a little easier.

 

 

Navigating the first days after alcohol treatment

I always pick the easy topics…right? lol

 

When I went into treatment  I was surrounded by folks desperate for me to go. I eventually had to get an alcohol intervention.

 

When I left treatment, I wasn’t surrounded by so much encouragement. Interesting eh?

 

You’re expected to get on with it.

You’re expected to know what to do.

 

 

Many of us, fresh in recovery, developed our addiction from a background of…..beliefs that don’t serve us, is the best way I can put it.

 

What I mean is, there is always some mal-adaption built into alcoholism, that’s different for every individual, that has to be remedied. It’s always different, but…it’s there.

 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have raised it, and worked through some of it whilst in alcohol treatment.

 

For me, I had some dependence and co-dependency issues that I’d developed from childhood, as a result of various separations along the way.

 

Nobody tells you, at the time, that you’re not responsible for those.

 

But later, everyone is quick to point out that you are responsible for your alcoholism.

 

In recovery, I learned that taking responsibility does not automatically equate to work. We sometimes make that mistake.

 

 

I’ll never forget my first meeting.

What AA do really well, if you find the right meeting, is the fellowship part.

 

It’s the realisation that “I am ok” “there are others the same” “it’s ok to reach out when I do need help”.

 

The thing is, when you combine a co-dependence issue, with a conditioned fear from childhood around asking for help – that’s a pretty potent combination that has a high likelihood of resulting in addiction, you know?

 

So it took a while (read: years) for me to de-condition that out of me – that the criticism, or judgement, I thought I saw in others, when I asked for help – simply wasn’t there in the outside world. I thank my CBT addiction therapist for helping me with that.

 

Once I gave myself permission to reach out – was when things became so much easier. It was like a release valve.

 

Suddenly, in so many situations in life where I would previously have isolated myself to seek solace in my “friend” alcohol, I saw other possibilities. They’d been there all along.

 

It’s ok to miss appointments sometimes. No-one will die because I was 15 minutes late one time.

 

It’s fine to not know where you’re going in life, and let the current sweep you along for a bit. That’s fine too.

 

And most importantly, it’s ok to say “I need help – can you help?”

 

It’s hard to explain how encouraging getting a win like this is. It helps you see beyond the addiction, no matter how dysfunctional your past.

 

And it provides huge motivation for moving forward – what other internal switches can I flip?

 

In what other situations are my conclusions skewed – and how are they holding me back, in ways that I can release?

 

When I get stressed these days, it’s more likely about much more mundane elements of day to day life, instead of a previous trigger for self-esteem or dependence issues.

 

Day by day I’m learning to be ok with things, no matter how they look. From this perspective, being an alcoholic in recovery doesn’t look or feel so bad.

 

I’m beginning to see, what we all eventually come to realise – it was never about the alcohol – it was about me.

 

Alcohol & Toxic Relationships

My Romantic Partner – was an ex-alcoholic who relapsed while with me.

…but not because of me(!)

 

Of course, we never intended for it to happen, and in many ways we were good for each other, but in the most important ways, we enabled each other’s alcoholism, if I’m honest.

 

He’d been in treatment before.

 

We met in treatment, him for the third time, me for the second, but we didn’t get together til after. I think that’s when the loneliness kicks in more, and you feel the loss of your coping substance more.

 

I knew what I *should* be doing, but never did. Never worked out why. I told myself our relationship would last, it was enough, I was enough, even if I did relapse now and again…

 

– My Family –

Clearly had good intentions, but didn’t truly help me.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great upbringing, none of the usual hardships. Life when I was young was easy.

 

But later, I was involved in a hugely traumatic event, that shook me to the core.

 

At that point, you have nothing left, no matter how much you started with. I had catastrophic losses in my life that……I’m not ready to share just yet.

 

Getting past it and staying alive was a miracle.

 

So the bottle didn’t feel like such a sin at the time.

 

My parents never really saw me at my worst. They knew I was having issues with drink. So bailing me out financially was the right thing to do for them.

 

Well, once I got that money, I think you know what I did with it.

 

My Friends

Knew what was going on, and got too close to it. Some of them were affected too.

 

I told them, in my sober flashes, to get some boundaries, and some self-respect, and stay the hell away from me.

 

The truth is, I believe I came as close to the edge of life as I believe it’s possible to come.

 

Going through withdrawal and detox, looking down the barrel of the worst version of me, all the memories came back, too quickly.

 

I needed to make a change. No matter the pain.

Look at meeeeee

It feels maybe a bit self-indulgent, or “look at meeeeee” to start posting my life after alcohol on the web – yet another sober story – who needs it, right?

 

At meetings every one would compliment me on how I explained my story, and how relatable they found it.

 

It didn’t occur to me to begin sharing my own story with the big wide web until after a holiday in Costa Rica, my wife helped me see I could channel much of the expression from my daily life in it – and I do that a lot lol.

 

I hope to connect with you more soon.

 

PS – I’m a writer – if you need content or articles on sobriety and addiction recovery – get in touch via the contact page. 🙂