Stepping onto the path of sobriety is the biggest decision that an addict will ever make. We don’t choose recovery lightly; there is simply too much at stake. Active addicts are in a position similar to that of an abused child: the child doesn’t dare leave home because it knows it can’t care for itself, and the addict can’t imagine living without the drug that was at first her friend and support, but is now a ravening beast that she doesn’t believe she can escape.
To begin with, it seems to us that there is nowhere to go. Most of us tried quitting, but found that the compulsion to use was too strong. Because our addictions occur in a portion of the brain that is unreachable by logic or “willpower,” our increasing realization that we needed to change our behavior didn’t help a whole lot.
We didn’t know how to remain abstinent, and we didn’t know how to fit in with sober people. Although we wanted to stop, the drugs and/or other acting out were dependable. In a way, it was a safe place for us. It was familiar. We knew how to be addicts, and the idea of changing who we were was frightening. It meant going through the discomfort of withdrawal (with which most of us were all too familiar), and facing the old fears and feelings that most likely contributed to our using drugs to begin with. Giving up the known for the unknown was terrifying.
Then, in some way, our lives hit the fan and we ended up in a program of recovery. Folks told us that in order to remain sober we had to face the demons and unpleasantness that we we’d been running away from for so long. Most of us resisted, but we had three new things going for us. First of all, we had decided (sort of) to do something! That was a big step. Second, we had the support of people who understood us. Instead of people telling us what we had to do, or what we should do, we had folks who had been where we had been, done what we had done, and who told us what had worked for them. They were willing to offer suggestions about things that might help us.
The third thing was hope. We looked at all those people, living lives that we could only dream about, and we began to believe that what they had done to get sober might work for us too. That was the beginning of our willingness to do the necessary work. As we began, and as we moved forward, we started to feel better. The farther we progressed, and the more honestly we worked, the better things got. And so it went.
We don’t have to be convinced in order to work a program of recovery. All we need is hope — and the willingness to try, one day at a time.