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How Did You Get Here?

You’re at a place where you never expected to be. From childhood, we all form some vague idea of what our future lives will include. As adolescents, we develop plans for the career we’d like to have—realistic or not—and the mate that suits our ideal dream. We think about our future home and the kids we’ll fill it with. So, if you’re reading this because you’re thinking of checking into a residential alcohol rehab center, you’re probably wondering: How did I get here?

Life throws surprises at each of us. You never wake up thinking this is the day that I’ll fight with my spouse or receive an ultimatum from my boss or get a ticket for DUI or find out that my liver enzymes are all whacked out—all because of drinking or drugs.

Nobody wakes up knowing that this is the day when they will face the truth that they have a disabling medical condition known as addiction. Finding that you have reached a crossroads in life faced with this particular crisis, you have to be wondering how and why this happened to you. So, now that you’ve arrived at this point, how will you handle it?

You’ve probably heard about the five stages of grief—denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When you see and hear the evidence that your life has gone way off track and you feel that it may never be the same again, you go through those same five stages.

Denial and Isolation. The first obvious reaction is to think that this isn’t fair. Certainly you can’t be an alcoholic, one of those people who act out of control whenever he has a drink. Maybe you drank too much last night, but you won’t let that happen again—and then it does. You also feel a sense of shame. Drug or alcohol addiction brings with it some really negative behaviors that embarrass you, and you don’t know who you can trust, so you are isolating yourself from others.

Anger. Even if you meet a counselor or someone at a 12-step meeting who tells you that addiction is a medical disorder and it’s not your fault, you will struggle with some level of anger that this is happening to you. But you most likely haven’t met that counselor or support person yet, so you have nowhere to go with that anger.  Even when you enter into treatment at a residential alcohol rehab center, you will uncover other sources of anger—maybe the triggers that provoked you to drink in the first place.

Bargaining. As you begin to work on recovery, you can’t imagine a future social life when you can’t drink or get high with others. Maybe you can’t drink whiskey, but beer will do the trick. Right? Wrong.

Depression. You will feel sadness at the loss of your life as you knew it. Right now you can’t envision that your life is going to become easier, better, happier—because you’re struggling with emotions and behaviors that are still foreign to you. You don’t know if things will ever be right again, and you are depressed about the possibility of relapse.

Acceptance. At some point, most likely after you’ve got a few 12-step meetings under your belt, you are going to see some light at the end of the tunnel. You will hear other people’s stories, and your counselor will help you recognize your triggers for what they are and face the emotional upheaval that usually accompanies addiction.

So the question changes:  Instead of “How did I get here?” you can think about “Where am I going?” You didn’t plan on stopping at this crossroads, but now that you’ve arrived, you’re going to keep moving forward. Even if you don’t believe it now, you will find joy in life again. 

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