Should I go to treatment?
While drinking the alcoholic has very little concern for family, friends, neighbors or work associates. This was not true in the beginning when drinking meant “good times”, a “time to relax”, “special moments shared with a loved one” but the alcoholic takes a drink and later another and then the drink takes the alcoholic. Few alcoholics, while drinking, can pinpoint exactly when that happened. And yet later, in sobriety, many will be able to tell you with certainty that when the event, often referred to as “Crossing the invisible line” from social, fun drinking to alcoholic, fun with problems drinking, occurred. It would be safe to say, along with the physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady; the drinker also displays a faulty perception. “I’m not hurting anyone, if they would just leave me alone, if they would just do what I ask, if I just had that job, if my husband just was more loving, if the children could just get along”. The perception is, if these things just fell into place for me, I would be happy, life would be good and I would be enough. The sad truth, many of those things did fall into place and it still wasn’t enough, or the right kind. A chronic malcontent, the alcoholic is filled with a knowing, in spite of the evidence contradicting the thoughts, and hears a perpetual mantra, “I am not enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. I will always be alone. There’s something terribly wrong with me.”
I am reminded of a day in college when my roommate, a friend of hers, and I were sitting at the dining room table. The friend said to my roommate, talking about me, (it’s not unusual for people to talk about the alcoholic as if the alcoholic is not even there), “What’s wrong with her? What does she want?” I turned quickly to my roommate so as not to miss the answer. People have been asking me those questions for years and the honest answer, always, was “I don’t know”. I was glad someone else was being asked and my roommate replied, in what sounded like a sad voice, “I don’t know. I just don’t know”. I remember that afternoon as if it were this evening, the pain I felt in my soul. Now I knew, no one knows. I wanted to scream but I didn’t know the words. I would learn the words many, many years later.
But now, unable to scream, I went to the kitchen to get a drink. Alcohol did something for the selfish, self-centered “I’m not good enough”, “There’s something terribly wrong with me”, “If you knew me, you wouldn’t like me” messages I gave to myself. It was a litany of negative self talk and always with me as the focus of everyone’s attention. Alcohol went in and changed something. It was almost as if alcohol tuned the radio to a different station.
With a bottle of Jack Daniels in my hand, I looked back at my roommate and her friend sitting at the dining room table and wondered why I was so dependent on what my roommate had to say. I knew what was wrong, it was my job. The job really wasn’t suited to my talents; I should be promoted or go find another position. Another drink and I’m ready to go out to see what the world has in store for me. I went from pathetic to grandiose for the price of two shots of whiskey. If alcohol did this for you, I thought looking back at my roommate and her friend, you would be drinking it too. I took a drink and I took another drink and now the drink has taken me.
That brief interaction with my roommate, her friend, and a bottle of Jack Daniels was a defining moment for me. I no longer had a choice. I would drink until the world delivered what I deserved and when people provided what I needed.
Fueled by alcohol, food, other drugs, other people, gambling, shopping, work, anger, exercise; an endless list of “soothing” substances and behaviors, I charged through lives and situations, sometimes with the brute force of a monster truck and occasionally as docile as a saintly grandparent but always with the same goal, getting my way. Hearts were broken, people were hurt, things were damaged but my focus was “me” and “you and they and them” were simply in my way and if you would just behave per my instructions this restlessness I feel would go away.
“If everyone would just leave me alone”, and then you did leave me alone and I was still not content. None of the madness in my life is coming from the outside of me, it’s all coming from inside. Now alcohol could no longer quiet the voices, I really wasn’t enough or the right kind. There really was something terribly wrong with me and the alcohol no longer had the power to alter that self obsession. My life is unmanageable and I am powerless. This is the first of the 12 in the 12 step recovery process. We arrive at it through listening to others tell their stories until we can been begin to tell ours. We must surrender here in order to begin to find healthy soothing strategies. People generally gather and begin to tell these intimate stories in two places; treatment centers and 12 step programs.
12 step programs and the ability to access them are very well known. Research shows that almost everyone knows at least one person active in a 12-step program. It is imperative, however, to find a group whose primary purpose focuses on your “soother”. You are going to share stories and experiences. You’re going to gain hope and strategies for making healthy choices. You wouldn’t make a salad with green colored tissue paper.
The question that prompted this blog was, “Should I go to treatment?” I have a bias. I have worked in treatment for 34 years. My immediate answer is simple, “yes”. Yes, that if your “soother” is one that comes with the physical withdrawal when stopped, go to your doctor or an emergency room to determine an appropriate detox protocol but detox isn’t treatment. Treatment comes in many modalities and will require some research to find a program best suited for your needs. I view treatment as a booster rocket to get you into orbit, a spiritual kickstart and should be started simultaneously with treatment. And, although you didn’t ask, a second outpatient program is often an appropriate solution for the person in recovery for several months or even years who may be losing some enthusiasm.
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