“I personally believe this: we have only today; yesterday’s gone and tomorrow is uncertain. That’s why they call it the present. And sobriety really is a gift… For those who are willing to receive it.”
~ Ace Frehley, member of KISS, and author of No Regrets: a Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir
Many people who enter an addiction recovery center do so because they are at their own personal “rock bottom” – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They have finally reached the point where the consequences of their substance-abuse have made their life unmanageable.
Making that admission of unmanageability is the first, most important step on the road to recovery from addiction. Now – finally – the suffering addict/alcoholic is ready to ask for help.
There are some truths about sobriety that person needs to know. Some of the truths are joyful news and some are brutally honest. Knowing what to expect can help a person experiencing new-found sobriety adequately meet the challenges ahead.
1. Recovery from Addiction Isn’t Easy
This is probably the one truth that everybody knows but hopes won’t apply to them. On an intellectual level, the average person entering a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program already knows that quitting drinking/using is going to be tough, because they have probably tried to stop before:
- unpleasant withdrawal symptoms
- alienation from drug and drinking “friends”
- consequences for addictive behaviors
2. Recovery from Addiction Isn’t Quick
This is a hard truth for many recovering alcoholics and addicts – they will be an addict/alcoholic for the rest of their life. Recovery is a lifelong practice since there is no cure for the disease of addiction. A person who is on a successful journey of sobriety will make behavioral changes and the mental adjustments on a daily basis to safeguard their hard-won sobriety. They learn to manage their disease in order to escape from the worst consequences.
Even after successful completion of the best addiction recovery programs, a person will still have a new, fragile grasp on their sobriety. Months and months of work may be necessary before that person has a strong foundation.
3. Recovery from Addiction Isn’t Magic
Many people enter alcohol or drug addiction facility with the idea that the professional staff is going to “fix” them. That thought is far from the truth. In reality, the best addiction rehab specialists only give their clients the tools and information they need to affect their own personal changes.
Recovery from addiction does not mean simply signing up and going to meetings and everything will be okay. It means putting in a lot of work, having patience, and eventually, or enjoying the fruits of one’s labors. In this case, the “fruit” is serenity and happiness.
4. Recovery from Addiction Doesn’t Fix the Rest of Your Life
Actions have consequences, especially actions performed when drunk or high. When a person abuses drugs or alcohol, all they are doing is postponing dealing with their problems, and in many cases, they’re making those problems worse. When that person gets sober, the problems are still there.
Some of the typical problems faced by a newly-sober person are:
- legal issues – DUIs, for example
- relationship woes – infidelity, separation, divorce, etc.
- difficulties at work – demotion or termination
- financial problems
- other mental conditions that contributed to/resulted from addiction – depression, anxiety, etc.
All of these are serious life issues that need to be addressed. Quitting drugs and/or alcohol will improve the chances that these can be resolved successfully, but it will take effort above and beyond mere sobriety.
5. Not Everyone in Your Circle Will Understand Your Recovery from Addiction
Every person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol has people in their life who either enable or actively contribute to their addiction. This can be a spouse who “cleans up” all of their addict’s messes and protects them from real consequences, or it can be a so-called “friend” who normally is their drinking/drugging partner.
If that spouse doesn’t get help for their own enabling/co-dependency issues, they won’t “get” the changes in their newly-sober husband/wife. They may not understand the lifestyle changes that have to be made.
That friend was always quick to share in the drinking and driving may not fully understand why the person in recovery can’t have “just one”. They won’t respect the need for total abstinence. In some cases – in many cases – it may be necessary to separate from that friend who is still actively drinking/using.
That’s okay. If someone can’t support the recovery from addiction that is saving your life, then losing them is not really a loss.
6. Recovery from Addiction Is a Sign of Strength
The first step is admitting one’s powerlessness over alcohol and drugs – that life has become unmanageable due to addiction. Then a person is ready to ask for help and actually be receptive to that help.
Far too many people think that asking for help is a sign of weakness because they could not overcome their addiction on their own. On the contrary, addiction is a disease, and no one overcomes the disease without help.
It is a real, tangible sign of strength and self-knowledge to know when a problem – in this case, addiction – is beyond one’s personal capabilities. Finding the right physician, counselor, or professional addiction recovery program demonstrates the strength of character.
7. Recovery from Addiction DOES Get Better
A journey to sobriety is long, and early on, it can be hard to see the road ahead. The key thing to focus on is the word recovery – getting back was lost. This can mean different things – regaining a job, repairing a relationship, rebuilding a life, restoring one’s physical and mental health – and it will take time.
When the ongoing recovery is successful, a person can regain or replace everything that addiction took away. Eventually, a recovering alcoholic/addict can again have everything they lost or gave up – except the drinking/drugging.
8. The Best High Is Recovery from Addiction
One of the first things that addiction steals from a person is their ability to experience joy. That’s not an exaggeration – the addicted brain often doesn’t have the natural ability to produce hormones that promote pleasure.
Over time and after proper addiction treatment, a person can heal enough to where they slowly return to normal. When that happens, that person will begin to experience life in a whole new way – from a sober perspective. Everything will look bright and fresh and miraculous.
And those feelings of joy and wonder and appreciation are better than anything produced artificially by drugs or alcohol.
In the end, the journey of recovery won’t be simple – there will be twists and turns and bumps and potholes and obstacles along the way. Despite all that, it will all be worth it.
The biggest thing that is recovered is YOU.