No one ever starts out with the intention of being a drug addict. “Mom and Dad, I want to be an addict or alcoholic, yoked to alcohol or other drugs. I want to be unemployable, destitute, at death’s doorstep.” That’s not how substance abuse (AKA “substance use disorder”) is born.
Instead, it usually begins with playful experimentation that has no harmful consequences. It may begin with a drink that lubricates the wheels of conversation or helps squash anxiety or depression. It may begin with doctor-prescribed pain pills after an injury or surgery. But pretty soon, as if the switch is flipped, drinking to excess or drugging is not by choice anymore. When you’ve turned that corner, you need to drink or take drugs so you can merely make it through the day without getting physically sick or mentally anguished. Then the other dominoes fall: jail, dishonesty, car accidents, child neglect, job loss…the list goes on and on.
People only get sober when life stops working for them, and the consequences of their drug or alcohol abuse become overwhelming. I stopped drinking initially because I was on the verge of losing my job. And when I gave up alcohol, I couldn’t visualize how my life would work. Where would I be without my alcohol and a social life built around a bar and a bottle? (Guess what? The drinking buddies vaporize when you don’t share their obsession with alcohol because that was the only thing you ever had in common.) So I filled that social gap with the camaraderie and support found in three or four AA meetings a day.
People don’t become chemically dependent on drugs or alcohol overnight. By the same token, they don’t achieve sobriety overnight or even in 28 days, as insurance policies would have us believe. There is no quick fix here. No counselor can wave a magic wand to make substance use disorder disappear. Recovery requires a complete social and cultural reboot. People have to be engaged in the world of recovery for at least a year before it begins to make any sense. That takes time, it takes practice, and it takes role models of recovery. That’s why Clean & Sober Transitional Living exists.
People will only seek sobriety when faced with devastating consequences like a ruined marriage, death from liver disease or spending precious time in jail or prison. I had one reason to stop drinking: the threat of losing my job. Now, with a sober window on life, I can see a million reasons to never drink again.