In this industry everyone is always looking for the next best thing, the easy fix, the quick fix, new medication, holistic approaches, vitamins and therapies- those are all well and good, and it is important to move forward with treatments as we progress and learn more. What they seem to be missing is the core of what recovery was years ago, the basics.
That’s where the ABCs of Recovery come into play. They are Acceptance, Believe, and Change.
It all starts with acceptance. Many addicts say “I am an addict.” They admit it, but it’s only lip service. They don’t really accept it down in their soul. They don’t accept it wholeheartedly, and so somewhere down the road there will be doubt, a moment when they think “I can do just one hit” or “I can have just one drink.” The problem is, they never really accepted that they can’t do just one. They think, “I’m a drug addict so I can have alcohol and smoke some weed,” but it leads them to the same place they were before. I know, because I’ve been there. Just because you’re a drug addict doesn’t mean you can drink, and vice versa- if you substitute your drug of choice for another, all you are really doing is switching seats on the Titanic.
The key is to accept who you are, and what your limits are. Look at how you use and compare it to “normal” people- you will notice a difference. Be honest with yourself too. The goal is to be sober and clean, while living a happy and productive life, but that can’t happen until you can be honest with yourself.
That leads right into the next step, and that is to believe.
Be honest, look at your life while using, something is lacking, right? It could your job, relationships, or happiness in general. You need to have the genuine belief that life can and will get better or else it will never happen. It’s less of a religious idea and more of a spiritual one. Believing in a power greater than one’s self, and knowing things can get better.
The number one argument for this step is “if I can’t see it, how can I know it’s real?” Well, you may not be able to physically see it, but you can see the results. Just like the wind, you can’t see it blowing but you can see the trees move when it does. Think about the times when you were using, when things were out of your control. Think about how someone can overdose once and die and others can overdose multiple times and live. There is a higher power or a power greater than one’s self.
There are levels to addiction. You will hear people say things like “functioning addicts,” but is that the way you want to live? Functioning. Every level of addiction eventually gets worse. Addiction is like an elevator, you can get on at any floor. You might be at the top floor, with a family, a good job, and a successful life. You could also be at the bottom with nothing, or anywhere in between. It’s not until people lose something that they realize they have a problem. You need to believe that there is a better way to live.
Once you accept your problem and believe that there is a better way to live, the final step is to make the necessary changes to obtain that better life. This is by far the hardest to accomplish. Humans by nature are creatures of habit, and that’s the case even more so for addicts. Changing is not only a lot of work, it is also a trip into the unknown. Sometimes it’s just the fear of the unknown that keeps addicts using. It’s common to think along the lines of, “Yes I have an addiction, and yes it is bad, but this is a bad that I know. I know what could happen and I know how I feel. I know where this road leads. If I change, I won’t know anything.”
Change is hard, although some may seem easy. If you’re addicted to crack, stay out of crack houses. If you’re an alcoholic, stay out of bars, and so on and so forth. But there are other things that need to change that aren’t so simple. What if you live in a house with an active addict? Or if you have a job that enables you? For example, if you are addicted to pain pills, you can’t be a pharmacist. It would be like giving a five year old the keys to Toys-R-Us.
Opening up to new things is scary, but it’s needed to really heal and change. Once you go out and do the “new” things though, they aren’t new anymore and it becomes easier. Doing new things can be uncomfortable because they are new but it’s something that is needed. In recovery they basically take away your best friend. Your needle, your drug- that was your best friend. Now you have to find something else to fill the void deep inside you, the void in your soul. Once you accomplish this you have a chance to become who you want to be. You are on a good plain, in a good place, and your life becomes more than your next hit.
Ira Levy is the National Marketing Director for Sunrise Detox in Florida. He previously was admission coordinator for the National Recovery Institute. In 1996 he became the National Marketing Director for Focus Healthcare overseeing four hospitals throughout the country. After leaving Focus in 2001 he worked as a consultant for various treatment centers. In 2004 he joined Sunrise Detox where he is today. They have multiple locations throughout the country. He has worked with numerous treatment centers all over the country, and has become a resource for many treatment providers and employee assistance professionals. He began his career in 1992 working as a mental health tech.