The thing that makes it so hard for people to break free of alcohol or drug abuse is the belief that there is some type of choice to be made. This is because the person is still ambivalent about recovery, continuing to hold onto the futile hope that things will improve if they just keep on with the substance abuse. Only when the person accepts that sobriety is the only way will things start to improve; they become ready to make the necessary changes for this to happen.
It is unlikely that you have to spend much time worrying about whether you should walk in the middle of a busy road or choose to walk on the pavement. The fact that one of these options is likely to get you killed, or at least injured, means it does not feel like a choice. It’s the exact same with addiction; if you continue with the behaviour then it will lead to further suffering and eventually your death, so what exactly is there for you to choose?
It might not always be obvious, but addiction involves a downward spiral. This means that, generally speaking, your life will be getting worse the longer you continue with the behaviour. This is not to say that you will not still have the occasional good day but, overall, your situation will be deteriorating. Eventually, you will cross a line after which a full recovery from addiction will no longer be an option for you – for example, you could develop severe alcoholic dementia.
The problem with seeing addiction recovery as a choice is that it leads to ambivalence and the belief of having time to sort out the problem. It takes full-commitment in order to overcome this type of problem, but the fact that you are still at the ‘choosing’ stage means you will probably not be sufficiently committed. It also means that even if you do manage to stop the behaviour, you will still view relapse as one of the options on the table.
Those caught up in addiction will frequently say that they intend to stop the behaviour once the conditions are right. This is a dangerous way of thinking because it means the person fails to appreciate the danger they are in; even somebody with a modest heroin habit could die today from an accidental drug overdose. The best time to give up an addiction is right now and waiting any longer than this is always going to be a huge risk.
The secret to no longer seeing recovery as a choice is to appreciate the reality of your situation. It means accepting that your life will not significantly improve until you escape from this behaviour. Life is short, so is wasting it on alcohol or drugs really a choice at all? Here are some of the steps to help you develop the insight of how little choice there is involved:
- spend time with an addiction therapist or counsellor, as this professional can help you develop insights into the seriousness of your current situation
- join a recovery fellowship and hear about the huge positive changes people experienced once they broke free of alcohol or drugs
- make use of the available online resources to get the support and encouragement you need
- spend time with those who have managed to achieve successful sobriety as this can inspire you to make similar changes
- think about your future and understand how much better it would be if you are not using alcohol or drugs
- take solid action right now to end your addiction; for example, arrange to enter a rehab programme.