“I only had one drink. Was it just one? No, I had two drinks. That was like an hour ago. That should be enough time. I’ll be fine. I can’t be over the limit. Crack the window. Was it a double vodka in just the first drink or both?” In panic these were the questions running through my mind, the night I received my second DUI. Was I in control? Was my life manageable? Was I reaching the goals I’d set for myself years ago? Of course I justified all I could. I didn’t think I had a problem. I was just a normal 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 year old adolescent who liked to party. I just needed to stop using substances, obviously this is what was getting me into trouble. Could I stop on my own? In this instructable I’ll explain steps for struggling addicts to consider and acknowledge towards sobriety.
Step 1: Are You an Addict?
First of all what was partying to me? I knew I wasn’t going to have a good time if Xanax, marijuana, and alcohol weren’t involved. Having those substances at hand was always at the top of my list of priorities. Then all you need is some friends and friends of friends to be there. I mean I would only party every Friday and Saturday night. After work maybe two or three nights a week, I would have a fun chill night. Which would always include those substances and maybe a friend or two, but being by myself would not stop me from having a good time. Being alone would not stop me from using.
I had a problem. According to the judge I was an addict. I was ordered to seek treatment including frequent drug screenings as part of my probationary terms. Immediately I felt powerless. The stress of all to do for my probationary terms just gave me even more reason to take the edge off. To take just one Xanax. Swallow it down with just one beer. What would a little bowel of weed hurt? It would hurt my drug screen. I couldn’t stop thinking about not using. In fact that’s all I did think about. It drove me mad. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I was so cold but why was I sweating? I wished so badly I could’ve used. It would’ve made me feel better physically and emotionally. I couldn’t though. I was being controlled and not just by the system of the courts. I was being controlled by addiction.
According to the article, “What Addicts Need” by Jeneen, Interlandi, she states briefly what it means to be an addict. “…; someone addicted to alcohol or drugs is powerless over his or her fate in some way--…” Do you feel powerless? This is a question you should ask yourself. Are you powerless to your substance use?
Step 2: Reach Out for Help
At this point you still may be on the fence of labeling yourself as an addict. In a lot of circumstances you still don’t think you’ve lost control and that you have a problem. These users are usually ones who are court ordered into treatment and counseling. Hence why you’re this far into seeking help or even considering it due to force. Then there are a handful of you that acknowledge you may have a problem and are curious what you should do since you clearly aren’t being forced into helping yourself. In either circumstances you should start with reaching out for help. Reach out to someone who is close to you that cares a lot about you and your well-being. Particularly someone you wouldn’t want to let down or disappoint.
If you can’t think of someone along those lines I would try calling a local treatment facility. In most cases they will have staff on hand to talk to you and discuss your concerns and options usually free of charge. Get online and print out local listings of AA (Alcohol Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) groups. These support groups are open to the public, anonymous and free of charge. They will include all kinds of addicts. Addicts that are currently using outside of group and seeking help to stop. Some recovering addicts dealing with relapse, when they had maintained some time of sobriety for a while but then had given in to temptation and used. There will be recovering addicts who have maintained years of sobriety. These groups are full of emotion and some recovering addict’s only life line. These groups are good places to get out what you’re feeling as well. If you choose not to share out loud you can always listen to others and see if you can relate to how they feel. After these groups, people usually hang around to talk to new comers and catch up with friends there. This is a great time where you could talk one on one with other recovering addicts. If you are one that is waiting to get into a treatment facility/group due to groups being too full and a spot needing to open up. I recommend you attend AA or NA meetings in the meantime, to receive help and support by fellow recovering addicts.
Step 3: Decide If You’re Ready to Get Sober
Once you have received incite from professionals, loved ones, and/or fellow addicts it’s good to start weighing out the pros and cons of your addiction. What was your substance fulfilling in your life? For myself as I referred to earlier, it was to take the edge off. It was an instant temporary fix for my problems for only a short period of time. In return using would potentially and usually did cause more problems for myself. It would cause me to spend money on the substance that should’ve went to bills. Leading me to financial stress. Stress I would want to take the edge off for. It would lead me to a hangover for work the next day. Creating work stress for myself. Or it would lead me to legal trouble that would cost a lot more money and damper my record making it difficult applying for future job opportunities. Using was holding me back in goals I had set for myself. Like attending school and holding down a stable apartment and job. It was keeping me from getting started on the future I wanted for myself. Every time I weighed the pros and cons of my addiction, I would always have a longer list of the bad it inflicted on my life. Still the thought of using and what it made me feel like was always so much more powerful, that looking at the list of the bad was easier to justify.
I think it’s important for you to really be ready to quit. Sobriety takes a lot of work and giving the bare minimum might keep you clean enough to get off charges but will only lead you back to your use. Using is what caused you to get those charges. It lead you to this point of seeking help. Sobriety is a serious commitment you have to make with yourself. You need to give it your all in order to maintain success. Sobriety takes a lot of effort and dedication. So ask yourself if you are ready to recover.
A lot of addicts usually hit a rock bottom when they decide they are ready to commit to sobriety. Everyone’s bottom is different. Once you hit bottom you will ultimately know. You will be ready to give recovery your all. My bottom was getting my second DUI and stopping and envisioning my life and where I stood at that point. My idea of success was always being educated and in a good paying career to support my family I decide to have one day. Realizing how far behind I was on that dream coming true was really a slap in my face. I was living in misery that I continued to put myself through every day. I am so thankful that was bottom for me. For some bottom could be them taking someone’s life from a drinking and driving accident. It could be going to prison, or losing custody of their kids. It’s important to know what really is important to you, and what will it take to be your bottom.
Step 4: You’ve Made Your Commitment to Sobriety
Once you have decided you’re ready to give it your all. You need to start pin pointing your support group. This can be very difficult at first. You should be done using alcohol/substances at this point. When you are done using and you’re serious about your sobriety you’re going to want to stop hanging around all the people you used with. People you thought were your friends. You may think they are your friends but more times than none, once you quit using they aren’t going to want to hang out as much. Due to the fact that they are still under the influence. Also do you honestly think you’re ready or want to even put yourself around that lifestyle? Being sober at first and for a while is so uncomfortable and miserable. You have to try hard every day to stay sober. Putting yourself in and around that lifestyle is like putting cat in a room full of mice and telling the cat to leave the mice alone. Using is a part of your nature now. You have created this habit for yourself and it took a long time to create that habit. So it is going to take a long time to break that habit.
In pin pointing your support group this is going to be people you didn’t use with. People that love you and care about you deeply. The ones that are there to help and are in full support of your sobriety. People you can confide in and they will be there to listen to your struggles through your recovery. For me I eventually figured who my support group all consisted of and was confident about that support group around 6 months into my recovery. My mother, my father, my brother, his wife and one of my best friends were all my main supporters. Of course I always had my treatment group and counselor. I also did have many good talks with other people as well about sobriety but their support wasn’t as consistent as my main support group.
You will have your group and counselor to open up to but it is important to have people on the outside of group be there for you too. People that are going to be in your life for a long time. Eventually you’re going to graduate treatment and go your separate ways. Although it is good to get phone numbers from people you meet in group and to stay in contact with them. You could potentially become good friends and support each other outside of group as well. Just be cautious who you do decide to trust in group or get close to because some are there because they have to be and aren’t ready to commit to sobriety. You don’t want them to affect your recovery process negatively. Same goes for AA and NA meetings as well. If treatment groups and/or AA and NA is the route you choose for recovery both places should touch on the importance of figuring out your support group.
Step 5: Seek Guidance and Educate Yourself
I recommend getting into a treatment facility. Treatment is going to have trained educated licensed drug and alcohol counselors/psychologists there guiding you. This can be tricky if you aren’t court ordered, you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover much of your treatment or any of it at all. Treatment is not free. Someone has to pay those licensed counselors to help you. A lot of places will work with you and set up payment plans for you to get the help you need. All treatment centers are different so don’t let the price of one discourage you. Look into others and what they can offer.
The other route you could take is attending AA or NA meetings. In article, “How Do People Recover From Alcohol Dependence? A systematic review of the research on mechanisms of behavior change in Alcoholics Anonymous” authors, John Francis Kelly, Molly Magill, and Robert Lauren Stout state the positive effects of Alcohol Anonymous: “… Rather, its chief strength may lie in its ability to provide free, long-term, easy access and exposure to recovery-related common therapeutic elements, the dose of which, can be adaptively self-regulated according to perceived need.” There is a lot these meetings have to offer and can be very empowering to an addict in recovery. Seeking personal guidance from an AA or NA meeting you must announce you are seeking a sponsor. Usually at the start of the meeting they will have available sponsors identify themselves and/or let you announce you are seeking sponsorship. A sponsor will usually link up with you after the meeting but it is your job and responsibility to make it known you’re there seeking help! A sponsor is usually someone who has multiple years in their sobriety. Recovering addicts who has completed their step work and feels confident enough to offer their guidance to new recovering addicts. Picking a sponsor can be difficult. You want to feel comfortable with this person and be able to connect with them on some sort of trust level. It might take you getting a few different sponsors in the beginning in order for you to find the one that is most helpful to you and your recovery. The sponsor you choose is going to guide you through your recovery. They are going to work 12 steps with you and involve you reading from the AA or NA book outside of meetings on your personal time and times you set up to meet with your sponsor. Your sponsor is going to help educate you on your addiction more so in a spiritual and hands on kind of way. These steps are not easy and can take a long time to complete one step. Each step is different and a struggle for everyone and one could take you months to complete one step, where another could take you a year to complete. It is encouraged for recovering addicts to do both treatment and step work with a sponsor. I personally did treatment and attended and still do attend AA and NA meetings. I learned about the 12 steps but I never did follow through with getting a sponsor and working the steps. This is your recovery and it is important that you do what is best for you!
The importance of attending treatment and/or AA and NA is for the guidance and the knowledge of your recovery. You are at a vulnerable state that you need someone to help push you in the right direction. That person is going to be your counselor and/or sponsor. I will say a counselor is going to have a lot more factual knowledge to provide to you. Usually more so than a sponsor would/could. A sponsor is not a licensed professional. A sponsor is usually trained by their own personal recovery. They’re help is free and helping you is also helping them in their recovery. Sponsors are more likely going to be able to relate to what you’re feeling. A counselor can provide a lot more depth as to why you are feeling a certain way in your recovery. The counselor can show you how your brain is functioning differently. They are trained professionals whose paying job is to work with recovering addicts. The down side to some counselors, is they aren’t addicts and the cant first hand personally relate to exactly what you’re feeling, the way a sponsor can.
Getting educated about addiction is very important. If you don’t understand what is happening to you. How are you going to be able to pin point the problem and fix it? It is important for you to get all the tools and coping mechanisms shared with you as well. You need to know how to get through stressful times without being able to turn to your drug of choice. Coping mechanisms were very difficult for me to grasp. I resulted a lot to sleeping and isolation. By staying in my bedroom and not facing many triggers or temptations of wanting to use. Knowledge, tips, and tools are going to be your confidence in your recovery. It’s important for you to keep learning more and learn new tools that could be helpful to you.
Step 6: Emotional Rollercoaster
Your emotions pretty much run wild as soon as you stop using and have decided you’re going to recover. I didn’t start getting my emotions under control until I was at my first year of sobriety. You’re going to feel an abundant amount of feelings. Feelings that you have been masking with your substance for a long time. You might have a week or two that are going good and you feel confident about your sobriety. Only to follow that week up with a whole month of negative thoughts and temptations.
Once I had stopped using I first experienced around a week and a half of withdrawal. In the article Bedside Nurse–Driven Protocol for Management of Alcohol/Polysubstance Abuse Withdrawal, by authors, Maria Christina Ycaza-Gutierrez, Laurie Wilson, and Maria Altman, it states and shows in figure 1 some basic symptoms a recovering alcoholic or addict may experience right after quitting their substance of choice. Listed was; “Agitation, Restlessness, Insomnia, Tachycardia, Diaphoresis, Anxiety, Hand tremors, Confusion, Headache, and Hallucinations.” (74) If you are a recovering addict facing withdrawal or experiencing beginning stages of any of these symptoms I would recommend you seek a treatment facility to withdrawal at. It can be a painful and very uncomfortable state you could be in. Something your loved ones are not educated on well enough, to provide you the help you need.
Isolation is what next followed for me. I did not want to go out with friends or family. I lacked all motivation to do anything and just wanted to sleep. Sleeping is where I didn’t have to face the hardships of my recovery. I experienced a mass amount of agitation and anger. I had moments of sadness where I would cry a lot just because I couldn’t get my hair to curl just right. I never felt comfortable. This was consistent the first 6 months into my recovery. Slowly it lead to a point where I felt strong enough to go out with family and friends. To places or events where alcohol would be involved. I wanted to prove to them and mostly myself that I could say no. That I could still have a fun time while everyone else was getting drunk. I carried on with this for about 2 months. Which only built up more agitation for myself. Hanging out with drunk people while I remained sober was not something I enjoyed. It was miserable. I found myself asking, why do I have to prove that I can hang out with drunk people? I don’t, and nobody should. So going out where mass drinking was involved was something I no longer attended. Eventually I figured out hobbies I enjoyed for myself and started expressing myself a lot more in groups. I became more comfortable as a recovering addict. Comfortable in a sense that I talked about my recovery to anyone and it was no longer a secret I once made it. It wasn’t something I was embarrassed or ashamed of, that I used to feel in the beginning. Once I got to this point this is when the positive days started outweighing the negative days. This was roughly around my 9th month of sobriety.
Step 7: Establish New Goals and Hobbies
Establishing new goals and hobbies for yourself is also going to be difficult at first but through your recovery it will only get easier. When you are using, your goals and hobbies you once had for yourself go on the back burner. You set them aside because the only thing in your addiction that genuinely made you happy was using. Nothing else could amount to the pleasure that your drug of choice was tapping into. The path down recovery is very lonely and very boring. You forget what even interests you anymore. That’s why trying new things such as drawing, rock climbing, or swimming will get you moving in the right direction to figuring out what entertains you enough to make time pass. I say this in such a dull way because that’s literally how it felt to me at times. I felt as if time was passing more so than I was thinking about time passing, life was better. Like I said earlier, discovering hobbies may be a struggle as it was for me. Everything is going to feel boring because it will not provide you the feeling that substance once gave you. Eventually that pleasure will come back, but it takes time. A lot of agitating, depressing, and doubtful time. This is when you need to involve people from your support group. They will help you from overthinking everything. Explain to them how you’re feeling always. Especially in treatment/meetings because they can always have uplifting advice and new ideas of hobbies to endure. Also you could be helping someone who might be experiencing the same feelings or struggles you are and being able to relate is such a good feeling to share together in recovery. You’re not alone.
Hobbies will lead to be great coping skills for yourself as well whenever you’re feeling a trigger of temptation to use. It is important to set goals for yourself. It gives you something to work towards and reminds yourself of the purpose you have, what fighting for the life of sobriety could and will offer you. As much as you’re struggling it’s important to keep working on yourself. It will all tie together.
Step 8: Understanding Relapse
Although I don’t want you to dwell on relapse too much. It is important to know that relapsing can happen at any given time in your recovery. Relapse is after you’ve maintained any certain amount of time of sobriety for yourself. It could be a week, 3 months or 4 years and you give in to temptation and use. Treatment will discuss a lot more into detail the experience of relapse. It’s important to know the odds aren’t in your favor of not relapsing. Just know not to get overly confident in your recovery. You never will have a full handle on things. Sobriety is a lifestyle choice. It’s a journey that doesn’t end for an addict. Just know that if you do relapse it’s not game over. You fell down, you can get back up. Don’t throw in the towel. Turn to your support group, councilor, and/or sponsor for guidance they are there for times like relapse especially!
Step 9: Always Be Prepared
Do not stop learning about addiction. Your knowledge is the key to addiction and recovery and it is your most powerful tool. It is important to keep that updated. So keep attending AA and NA meetings and stay involved in your sobriety. You can always learn from new recovering addicts and those new recovering addicts need you to learn from. Keep your tools at hand; coping skills, support group, plan of action to leave and hobbies/goals. It’s always important to have healthy coping skills ready at any time of temptation or craving. This could be counting to 30, meditating for 10 minutes, or listening to music. If you do decide to go somewhere with heavy drinking or use of narcotics happen to appear. Always be prepared. Have a friend stay sober with you. Say you’re mom called and you have to go pick your sick little sister up from a sleep over. Just be ready to leave and don’t hesitate. Keep engaging in different hobbies to keep your mind flowing and build back up the natural pleasures of life.
Addiction is so hard to overcome but it is possible. Sobriety is a life journey one must prepare and fight for. I know it sounds cliché but sobriety is worth it in the end. Recovery will get easier! You just have to keep working on it. Keep trying to figure out who you once were and who you want to become. Getting past the hardships of recovery is one of the best feelings. I’ve been sober since July 14th, 2014 and I feel it’s important to know that eventually you won’t have to feel so powerless to your fate.
Step 10: Recourses
All article titles can be searched on www.ebscohost.com
Addiction As Accomplishment: The Discursive Construction of Disease
Addiction and Spirituality
Bedside Nurse–Driven Protocol for Management of Alcohol/Polysubstance Abuse Withdrawal
Counseling a Client with Addiction: Tough Love Is Not the Answer
How Much Does Outpatient Drug Treatment Cost
Love, Hate and The Emergence Of Self In Addiction Recovery
Neurobiology of Addiction
People Recover From Alcohol Dependence? A systematic review of the research on mechanisms of behavior change in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Relationship Between Forgiveness, Spirituality, Traumatic Guilt and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among People with Addiction
The Attachment Relationship in Recovery from Addiction. Part 1: Relationship Mediation
Truth or Consequences in the Diagnosis of Substance Use Disorders
The Role of Meditation in Addiction and Recovery
The 10 most important things known about addiction.
What Addicts Need
What Member's of Alcoholics Anonymous Really Believe
What Neurobiology Tells Us About Addiction