This is the Year! (I swear…)
New Years Resolutions. The idea has almost become cliché. We joke about our resolutions and the fact that we are probably going to break them anyway. Stuck in the cycle of addiction, I would resolve each year, on January 1st, that I was going to stop using drugs and alcohol. I was going to get my life together. I was going to change. ‘This is the year. I swear!’ And I meant it. For about two hours until the craving and obsession took over.
My problem was one in which I wanted to believe that I had the ability to quit without help. My willpower, which worked so well in other areas of my life, would give me the strength to stop. I had not come to the understanding that alone, I was powerless over my addiction. This is the baffling fact for many of us suffering from this disease. I want to stop, I just don’t want to admit that I cannot do it on my own. I do not want to be perceived as weak, incapable, or unable to manage my life. And I would stick to my resolve. All the way to the dealer or the liquor store.
In the past, when I had been asked if I wanted help by those who could already see that I had a problem, I of course said that I didn’t have a problem, and resolved that I would stop on my own to prove that. Until the craving and obsession took over and all bets were off. Once the consequences snowballed to the point where I could not hide them, and my life was complete chaos, the resolutions stopped. I gave up believing that I could stop. I accepted that there was no way I was going to change – and I gave up caring as well. At that point my life seemed hopeless.
Then, something changed. I was offered help again after another consequence that seemed would end me in jail for a long time. At that point I gave up resisting and accepted the help. It has been explained to me that when I truly gave up in my own mind, and came to terms with the fact that I could not stop on my own, that I became open to the idea of assistance. In recovery circles we refer to this as ‘surrender’. It is the point in which I accept help and the recovery process begins. No amount of singular effort or the resolutions to do such have worked for me and most other people who suffer this affliction. The willpower that is required is TO ASK FOR HELP AND ACCEPT IT.
Accepting help, and helping others, is the foundation of the addiction recovery process. Together we are capable of overcoming that which we cannot alone. No resolution, willpower, personal goal, or level of determination has ever allowed me control over my addiction. I have to resolve to allow others to assist me in the process of stopping. That is where the true effort comes into play. Can I swallow my pride, my embarrassment and my humility and admit that I need help and cannot quit on my own?
A small suggestion based on my experience; stop resolving to quit, and instead, resolve to ask others for help. You might just find that you do stop this time.
Paul L. Scudo is the Executive Director of Step Denver and is in recovery from the disease of addiction.