Obstacles to lasting sobriety
What is it, that enables certain alcoholics and addicts to thrive in recovery, while others struggle for years – unable to establish any meaningful sobriety?
Anyone familiar with recovery knows the biggest battle for alcoholics and addicts – is the battle with our own minds. The way our disease affects the way we think and interpret the world, is the largest obstacle to lasting sobriety. The sick, troubled mind causes some to drink or use destructively for years. The alcoholic or addict will repeatedly fall victim to the mind’s tricks, as their disease relentlessly destroys them physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I’ve seen people with ten or fifteen years of sobriety, seeming to work a great program, always in meetings, and able to quote AA literature like scripture; suddenly start drinking or using again, lose everything they’ve gained – and die drunk or loaded. As if they never had any sobriety at all.
There are others who appear to take the program lightly, with little struggle, and live year after year in healthy sobriety. They seem to possess an inner strength that their recovery is built on. But what is it that gives them this strength? What’s the key that enables some to obtain healthy, long term sobriety, while others are stuck in a revolving door?
The alcoholic mind convinces us that it’s within our power to conquer our disease. We exhibit textbook cases of insanity, as we try the same methods that fail repeatedly – sometimes for years. Our diseased minds blind us to the futility of our efforts. We must reach a point of tremendous pain before we finally accept defeat. And when defeat is finally accepted, we can discover the key to real, healthy, long term sobriety – that key is complete surrender.
Admit we can’t conquer the disease on our own
For the alcoholic and addict; we can think all we want, gain all the knowledge there is, and work the most perfect recovery program possible. But the only way to achieve long lasting, meaningful sobriety, is to finally give up the fight, admit we can’t conquer our disease on our own – and surrender the fight to God. Without complete surrender; long term, happy sobriety isn’t possible. We may be able to quit drinking, but our disease will still control of our minds.
When I was growing up, my family had a friend who suffered from one of the worst cases of alcoholism I’ve ever seen. He battled everything in life, terrorized his family, and finally ended up in utter despair. After years of suffering, he finally reached a point where he admitted he had a problem, and decided to stop drinking – which he did. He was adamant that he could remain sober on his own, and refused to attend any type of recovery program, or accept outside help from anyone.
He managed to stay dry for quite a few years. But as time went by, he grew sicker, and more miserable – he lived in a dazed state of depression. Finally, one day, his pain became unbearable – so he went into his backyard, wrapped a towel around his head, put a pistol in his mouth, and gave his disease it’s final victory. He refused to surrender.
This man’s memory was clearly in mind when I decided I’d had enough of fighting my own disease. His example helped me realize how powerless I was in trying to recover on my own.
During my first year of sobriety, I was told there were certain things I should avoid doing. I was told not to make any drastic life changes that could cause stress, and to avoid any geographical changes that would take me away from my support group. It was recommended that I keep everything as low stress and easy going as possible for the first year or so.
Now, I don’t recommend this to anyone new to sobriety, but I didn’t follow some of the direction I was given. In my first year; I moved to another state, got divorced, and then moved to another country. My life was about as unstable as it could get. Based on the way I lived and worked my program – my chances of staying sober looked pretty slim.
But there is one thing that I did completely, from the beginning of my sobriety – I surrendered. I knew without a doubt that I was powerless over my disease – I’d tried for years and failed. The biggest relief for me, was to give up the fight, turn it all over to God, and pray for his help and guidance every day.
My own program for sobriety
For me, surrendering is my program. There are other aspects to my program, but they all center around ongoing surrender. My program doesn’t keep me sober – I wear it like a loose jacket, and it adds to the quality of my sobriety. Without surrender to God, the rest would be a waste of time.
If you’re new to sobriety, or in the midst of drinking and using – please don’t be afraid to admit your powerlessness to fight your disease. Finally turning the battle over to God completely, will give you the relief, guidance, and strength you need to start life over. You’ll find that life holds more promise than you ever dreamed possible.
Chad blogs over at The Effective Spirit. In recovery since 1992, .Chad writes about a variety of topics centered around recovery, Christianity, personal growth, overcoming adversity, and effective living.