The day your family asks you to go to treatment is a hard day. In anger, through tears, or steeped in quiet resignation you agree to go, promising you’ll try. But you also secretly, privately, promise your addiction that this will just be a temporary set-back. That after treatment you can still have a little, that you don’t have to let your life unravel, that this doesn’t mean the end.
Most of us go to treatment with an idea of how we’re going to beat the system, find a loophole, or be an exception to the rule. Just that idea feels like a glimmer of hope, something to look forward to; after weeks or months of discomfort, we can go back to the way things were—only better.
When you’ve spent your young life with addiction as a constant companion, when alcohol and drugs are as much a reward or a celebration as they are an escape, as much a cause of problems as a salve for them, it can be hard letting go.
Giving these up feels like a real loss, and we mourn their loss.
Some of us are willing to admit that the consequences of how we’ve been living in addiction are too intense to continue, and that we can’t change our course alone.
And at least in treatment, we can get away from the world, away from regular life, away from all the fears and stressors that kept us stuck in the cycle of addiction, right? Isn’t that the point of going to treatment, that you’ll be so busy trouble won’t find you?
Spending weeks and months in group working with other guys, forging friendships, testing your mettle on experiential adventures, learning about yourself in individual sessions with a counselor, so much change can happen.
We start to see ourselves in a new light. We become aware of the things we ignored that were our responsibility, and the things we obsessed over that were never within our control. We develop honesty, accountability and some self-care habits that were missing.
The dark cloud of grief and fear you live under in the first few weeks of treatment starts to dissipate and you can finally see the light. You start thinking in terms of your recovery rather than how to get away with using.
You feel a change in yourself.
This is usually when it all comes crashing down.
The gifts of recovery that you hear about so much are true. But in early recovery? They’re too good to be true.
How many years did you spend buried under your addiction? We feel like we’ve got so much catching up to do now that we’re healthy and sane. We want to be the star athlete, at the top of our class, father of the year, or the best boyfriend. We know we’ve had it in us to be awesome, and now is the time to shine.
These are great goals to have, no doubt. But in early recovery, we try to blast through without maintaining proper self-care. We take it for granted that we’re recovered, we’re cured, we’re stronger than our disease. That moment of thinking “I got this, I can handle this” is a bright red flag.
This is called the Crisis of the Good.
Self-sabotage is common when it feels like your life is the best it’s ever been. We do things, usually totally subconsciously, that derail our forward progress and send us crashing backwards into old behaviors. The habits, attitudes and behaviors we thought in our rear-view weren’t as far behind us as we thought.
A few weeks or months of learning new habits and behaviors are helpful, but they’re no match for years of practice in active addiction.
We might be getting better at being good sons, good friends, good men—but we’re still better addicts, and those habits are deeply ingrained. Habits we developed over years can’t be eradicated in a few weeks.
So even when it seems like things couldn’t be going any better, suddenly life nose-dives. Like a knee-jerk, we reach for alcohol or drugs before the decision even registers. And it feels cataclysmic. Like you’ve blown everything, and let everyone down. A few months ago, this would have seemed like totally normal behavior, but with a bit of recovery under your belt it feels awful.
The truth is, as men in early recovery, we need new crises to deal with so we can re-learn how to cope.
Crises arise naturally and organically in treatment, and at Voyage we don’t shield our men from them, but we do stand with them and give them support and encouragement to face those crises head-on.
A period of crisis highlights where and how we feel undeserving of recovery and all the gifts that come with it. We get clean, feel clear-headed, start thinking about who we want to be and are suddenly brought to our knees wondering how we could possibly think ourselves worthy of anything better than the isolation and self-abuse we’ve inflicted on ourselves for years.
Treatment is an interruption of the cycle of addiction, but it’s not life in a vacuum. The world keeps spinning, and so does your head. So when something happens that disrupts the rhythm of daily life—maybe a long-lost love seeks you out and wants to try again, or the job of a lifetime drops on your lap—you’re forced to cope. We drink and use to reward and celebrate as much as we do to escape or numb; but in treatment, we have to find other ways of coping.
The very nature of treatment is to learn new behaviors in a social setting.
Guys come together—in group, on the water, at meetings—and come to learn what their fears are made of, and that they don’t have to face them alone.
The traditional refuge of addiction is isolation, dishonesty and manipulation. But being in a group with only a dozen or so other men for three months at a time means you can’t hide weird behavior like you used to. Your surrounded by men who are deeply attuned to isolating and dishonest behavior because those are the same behaviors they’re teaching themselves to overcome. Our guys learn to counteract self-sabotaging behaviors with honesty, accountability, and brotherhood.
In a lot of ways, making mistakes in early recovery is so helpful—we get a chance to practice the things we’re learning. And to identify all the ways we’re becoming different men from the ones previously stuck in a chaotic cycle of addiction.
What happens when the going gets rough? You cope. We help our men access and use the tools of recovery—to lean on your brothers, to talk to your counselor, to call your sponsor, to share at your home group.
What happens when you experience crisis in early recovery? You come away with hope.
This is similar to the hope you felt at the beginning, that you'd be able to live your old life only better. But this new hope is informed by compassion and respect for the hard work of recovery. You can feel free to hope for health, safety, stability, freedom and the ability to be present with the ones you love.
The journey to recovery isn't easy. Everyone wants to give up -- especially in the middle of a crisis. Everyone.
The journey is always longer and more difficult than you imagine it will be. Questioning it, doubting it and even challenging it are all important aspects of the process.
Recovery is always harder than you think it will be. And it's always worth it.
One of the first gifts of recovery? Learning you’re not alone. You can experience that one today by calling us at (772) 245-8345 or use our call scheduler and we’ll get in touch with you!
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