Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to recovery. It is subtle, it masquerades as other things, and often we don’t realize that it is there at all. What is there to fear about recovery?
First of all, most folks fear losing their best friend (their drug or drugs*) and their identity. When we begin using, the chemicals give us everything we think we need. Naturally we come to think of them fondly. Then, as our addiction progresses, the drugs become the only thing we can really count on. No matter how badly our lives are going, no matter how unmanageable they have become, the drugs are always there for us. After a while they become the only things we can depend on.
In addition to becoming our best friend, the drugs and booze re-shape our identities. They control where we go and how long we can stay there, the things we do, the things we are able to do, who we do them with, and on and on. They reshape our ethics. They steal our friends and families — or change them, too. They teach us to lie — about our using, our relationships, our finances — about most of the facets of our daily lives, to one degree or another. They steal our courage, and replace it with aggression and bravado.
Most of all, they teach us to lie to ourselves. “I’m OK. I don’t use all that much. Look at Al there, he drinks twice as much as I do! It makes me more creative. The kind of job I’ve got, I need (insert drug here) to relax. If I’m gonna stay married to that s.o.b., I HAVE to drink!!” And the biggest addict lie of all — the one that eventually brings us to our knees — “I can quit any time!”
Finally they dump us on our butts, with a world of problems and failing health, and we still think they are the only friends we can count on. Only when it becomes painfully clear that we’ve been led down the garden path and are now in the compost heap does it begin to look as though maybe they aren’t doing what we need done. Now the pain never goes away, but we go on hoping that they’ll be our friends again. We keep on trying.
So we end up in jail, or detox, or treatment, or someplace else that we don’t want to be. The folks there tell us that we can’t have our best friend, and we’d better not hang out with our other friends either, unless they get clean and sober. They tell us that we have to change our lives. That we have to admit all the ways we screwed up. That we have to do our best to repair — or at least say we’re sorry for — all the stuff that we brought down on other people’s heads. Sometimes they tell us that we have to change relationships of many years’ standing. Good grief! Why shouldn’t we be afraid?
And that’s OK. Fear is a great motivator, properly directed. What if I told you that you could accomplish those things and get most of the important things you lost back? What if I told you that millions of people have done it successfully? What if I told you that you can walk right through all that fear? Would you believe it — just a little bit? Enough to buckle down and give the same amount of time to getting clean that you gave to getting messed up? A few months for the years you gave away? A little bit of trust in a proven process?
What if I told you that you don’t have to die?
*When I use the term “drugs,” I’m also referring to alcohol, which is simply one of the legal ones.