Congratulations if you have just completed a substance abuse treatment program. I know that the journey to get to treatment can be a painful one. Detox and first few weeks can be very scary. The thought of being without your drug of choice is terrifying and the actual detox will shake you to your core. Making a decision to get help and completing the program is a big deal.
There is, however, something more difficult than getting sober, and that is staying sober. Every Alcoholic/Addict feels unique and special and that their case is different from others. However, it may be quite humbling to know, that the behavior and attitude is almost always the same whether you came off the street or out of a penthouse.
Alcoholism is a mental illness. It is the only disease I know of that makes you think you don’t have it. In fact, it is very similar to other mental illnesses. It is a very common occurence for someone being treated for mental illness, once properly diagnosed, to stop taking their prescribed medication after a short period of time because they feel better. They think they don’t need it anymore, that they are well. It is the same with Alcoholism.
Addiction treatment is not a cure. Inpatient treatment is a way to interrupt the disease. It is a way to safely separate the user from the substance and help clear the fog and familiarize the addict/alcoholic with how to treat the illness, one day at a time, after they leave the facility. In my experience 80% of people who leave treatment after 30 days do not ever attend a 12 step meeting as advised. 15% will go for a few weeks or months and stop. 5% will stay in meetings and continue on with their lives making meetings a part of thier life. The main part of thier life.
What I mean by that, is that your program of recovery must come first and everything else is secondary. Everything. If that seems extreme, let’s put it in perspective. How much of your life was spent drinking and using? Finding it, buying it, hiding it, recovering from it, as well as all the consequences surrounding it. DUI classes, missed work, court appearances, hospital visits, medical bills? When you look at it that way going to a meeting for 1 hour a day is not that bad.
Personally, when I got sober I didn’t have the means to go to a treatment center I had to get sober in AA. A woman was kind enough to detox me in her home as I was homeless, unemployed and uninsured at the time. Not the ideal way to detox but I was desperate. Once detoxed I went to 3 meeting a day for a year. I went to a 7am meeting before work, a noon meeting at lunch and a 5:30 meeting right after work, before I went home. It became a routine, it was my treatment center.
Even today, after many years of sobriety, I go to 2 meetings a day (7am and 5:30 pm). I have a full life due to that commitment. It’s like going to the gym or anything else. If I have dinner plans I make them at 6:30 after the meeting. It’s become so routine now that friends and family know I am busy during those times of the day. I don’t go to meeting now for the same reasons I went when I was new. When I was new I went because I needed help, now I go so I can be helpful. That right there is the shift of perception you are looking for. go from the one needing help to the one giving help.
So many people go to treatment and get help and then leave. Done. Never giving back what was freely given them. You see that is how the program works. It is why hundreds of thousands of people have gotten and stayed sober for over 80 years now. You must be of service and help the next poor sot coming through the doors. Of course you will need to know how to help and that is why it is suggested you go through the steps, so that you have something to pass on to the next guy. You see, it’s not all about you.
When I look back on all of the people I have helped through the years the ones that have adopted this new way of life have stayed to help others. Even though their first thought was just like so many others, I must get a job, I must make up the time with my family, I must go to school ( the list goes on ad infinitum). The truth of the matter is, if you don’t put your sobriety first, you soon won’t have any of those things anyway.
My advise is simple. if you are newly sober and want to stay sober and you don’t want to live the way you were or have to go through another gruelling detox, than just stay. Get an answer to your Alcoholism and then stay to pass it on. Even if you’re not a people person, you can make this answer available to people by just attending meetings, keeping the doors open for your kids, your grandkids, your brother, sister or some one elses. Being available, greeting someone, being kind when they come in sick and scared like you were, can be the difference between their success and failure. And it will keep you sober.
I’m not sure when that shift happened. From when I came in “mock five, hair on fire” to being the person who poured coffee and welcomed the newcomer. It happened without me knowing it. It happened by going to meetings, doing the steps and helping others at home at work and socially.
Simply put: Meeting Makers Make It!
God Bless 🙂