Recovery means becoming someone entirely different from the person the addict knows himself to be. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons recovery is so scary for addicts to face.
Imagine this: You are moving to a new country that has a culture and value system entirely different from your own, and you don’t really know the language. In this place, the only ways you know how to relax and have fun are absolutely forbidden, and you’ll have to give them up. You can work, eat, go online, read, learn, etc. But what are YOUR favorite things to do – the ones that really help you relax or have fun? Forget any of those – not allowed anymore. You can’t even talk about the fact that you miss them because people will not trust you and will look down on you, or worry.
On top of it, imagine yourself in the worst mood you can be in, feeling anger, despair, loneliness, frustration, fear, shame, sometimes all at once. You know that on arrival in this place you will be in this mood continually, with no escape, for a long time. No one can tell you how long, but some say 2 years. It will last until you figure out the culture and learn to relax and have fun in their ways. But on arrival, the things that people are allowed to do in this new culture to have fun or relax sound absolutely boring and tedious and to you, actually kind of like chores. Add to that, there will be some of your old friends and support system are very nearby, but you won’t be allowed to talk to them or see them anymore. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will still have the people you love and value, because they’ll still be there, but you won’t be able to feel the love from them, and being with them won’t be fun anymore. Not for a long time. And they won’t understand what you’re going through – you can’t even talk to them about it. Sound like fun?
The only other option for you is to stay in the addiction, in a kind of prison where you can continue to do the things you enjoy, but you’ll loose everything else you care about in life. The choice is between a life of no pleasure or joy – a harsh, cold, black and white world – for the rest of your life, or a colorful, familiar one, but without the things that really matter to you. Easy choice, huh?
People may tell you “oh, I used to live where you did, but if you go through hell for awhile and live in this new culture, you’ll eventually adjust and things will look better.” It is very, very, hard to believe. It seems impossible. All you can see of this new place is very grey, like a world covered in ashes. And people are telling you you’ll learn to like it. Could you believe it?
When drugs have taken over, addicts become unable to truly enjoy the things they value. Deciding to maintain what you really value feels like leaving behind . . . well. . . like leaving love behind. That is not to say that addicts don’t love, even when in their addiction, but the truth is, they have been seduced by their addiction and have had that affair for a long time. Every day life has become very dull, sometimes intolerable, like a prison from which they can only escape by indulging in the addiction.
Ok, so you make that leap of faith because you are not willing to give up what you value. You’ve been in this grey, ashy, cold world for a few weeks, and everyone is expecting you to be happy and to be comfortable there. But you can’t, and the people who you are doing this for are pulling away, angry and mistrustful of you. They have these great expectations that now it’s all supposed to be better and you can’t live up to that nor can you explain to them why you can’t. Not to mention, you know that warm comfortable, familiar world is just a phone call or short drive away, but you can’t go there. Everyone you love who is happy in this grey ashy world looks down on the place you came from, so you can’t talk about what you’re going through. Welcome to your new life. Why are you in such a bad mood?
So, where do people go from here? Some stay in the new place and after a lot of struggle and what seems like a long time, make it through to the point where they see color and warmth in it and can enjoy the life there 99% of the time. Others stay there, but never get comfortable (these are the people society calls “dry drunks.”) Even if they don’t drink or use, they haven’t adjusted and are always in that bad mood. Some try to go there but can’t take the pain and loneliness and find that even after enduring it for a long time, they still can’t find hope of ever getting comfortable there. They see no option but to give up and go back to their prison, which at least has color and warmth on a regular basis. Not all the time, a lot of it is miserable, but they know that they can escape to that warmth when they need to.
Which way will it go? Someone who has decided to take the real leap of faith and has started treatment is in that gray place, quite unable to imagine it will ever get better. He has to try to find hope, and just grit his teeth and hang on, with no reprieve, for however long it takes. He can’t feel warmth right now, just shame and anger and real fear. There is no comfortable place, even his most valuable resources, the people he loves, often can’t be happy with him and support him in early stages of recovery. They may have been here with this person before, maybe many times.
If this describes you or someone you love, please do whatever you can to find compassion, for yourself, for your loved one. It takes and incredible amount of faith to get beyond this place. “Faith in what” you may be asking. That is a question only you can answer, and maybe you can’t anser it yet. A miracle happens every day an addict gets or stays clean. Have faith in the transformative power that miracle can have every day that it happens. Today can be one of those days.