For many years, I’ve looked back on my life and reflected on what I did differently from most other addicts to not only get clean but to have a recovery in such stark contrast with that of my friends.
I’ll certainly delve into this method throughout a series of blog posts, and eventually a book, but in the meantime, I can offer a brief summary.
Do whatever it takes to get out. Just go. Right now.
My first observation was that successful recovery efforts began when a drastic decision was made. It seems to me like many addicts sit on the fence for too long about what exactly to do or wait to make a decision. Recently, my dear friend Sarah passed away from an overdose and on her Facebook wall another one of her close friends posted about how the two of them had been planning to move to Florida to start a new life. They didn’t make it. They didn’t make it because they didn’t act fast. There just isn’t time- when you’re gripped by addiction you need to go away and go right now. How far away? I would recommend having at least an entire state or two between you and your home state, but the further away you go, the better.
No, there is nothing wrong with you that is going to require a lifetime of prescription drugs to cure. Get that thought out of your head. Addiction is a temporary disease which can be treated and put behind you. You don’t see people who’ve overcome other diseases sitting around on medication for the rest of their lives. Addiction is no different. This is one of the reasons why many people still don’t consider addiction to be a disease in the first place.
There are some really great prescriptions out there to help people get through their withdrawal symptoms. I personally recommend Suboxone, as that’s the one I used. However, these drugs are there to allow you to withdraw comfortably, which decrease the likelihood that one will relapse to cure sickness. It has happened. I’ve seen it too many times in my life to write about without getting nauseous myself.
Just in case you thought Step 1 was only a temporary solution before you came back home and hang out with all of your old friends again. Nay. The fact of the matter is that as soon as you start using hard drugs, you’ve lost. You’ve lost at life to be specific. And with complete failure, one must start anew. There is no going back, ever. This is the most crucial step in all of my thinking.
“Relocation” doesn’t include just moving to a new city or state by the way. You’ve got to relocate within society as well. You’re currently a degenerate, yes, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to stay this way. You’re going to get back to school and get a good job. Don’t bother with small, unranked schools or for-profit universities. Get into the biggest and best school that you can and if you can’t afford it (you can) then file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.gov) and get the money you need to head on off to college. Meet with career counselors there, determine what you’ve always wanted to do in life, but make sure it’s something that pays. You’ll thank me later. Don’t worry about making friends- worry about making yourself.
If you didn’t graduate high school, get a GED. If you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, get one. If you have one, get a master’s degree. And if you have a Ph.D., get some certifications. Your mind has been weak for some time- it’s time to get it strong again.
And if you can, relocate socially in terms of the crowd you hang out with. It can be quite entertaining actually. You need to completely erase the person you were before. That project clearly failed as that person ended up an addict. I can’t even begin to tell you how funny it was to me a metalhead hanging out with preppy kids. To have grown up an “uneducated redneck” as my (Argentinean roommate used to call me) and later turn into Mr. International surrounded by all foreign exchange students as my closest comrades. I always felt like some sort of undercover agent trying to blend in, but eventually, you realize we all have more in common than we do differently. The ability to be friends with anyone will take you very far in life.
Note for the addict on living in a new city: Stay the hell out of the bad areas in town. You know exactly what I mean and exactly what I’m talking about. When you move you go back to only playing in the nicer parts of town. You have no business as a former addict walking around or living in neighborhoods where drug dealers are present. This is common sense to a normal human being when they can help it. When one first relocates, it’s best to stay isolated for as long as possible. Don’t ever feel lonely- you’re the coolest friend you’ll ever have. Take this time to really get to know yourself a bit.
You need to cut contact from every single person who does drugs or upsets you in any way.
Addicts are surrounded by people they hold dear to them for one reason or another. We feel like we owe them our friendship/loyalty for a variety of reasons. All are false. Some people may get upset by this way of thinking, but the bottom line is this: if your friends really care about you, they’ll let you go do what you need to do to get better. And there’s not much more to it than that.
I was amazed by how many of my “best friends” still maintained contact with me after I got sober. I’ll give you a hint- it’s less than one. These people like you because you do drugs. If drugs are required for their friendship, then you can’t keep them around and be sober at the same time. They won’t allow it.
Don’t let them fool you- they’ll eventually pressure you to relapse, either directly or indirectly, or they’ll find other friends who they don’t find “boring”, etc.
Cut contact. When you’re doing better years down the road you can always reconnect. Chances are, however, that you’ll realize you won’t want to.
I’ll let you decide if you need to stop drinking forever. I recommend nothing for at least three years. Not only is this a relatively easy task to help you practice self-control, it also allows you to practice just being a normal person again with no chemical dependency.
Believe me, I’m half German, I enjoy beer like Brits enjoy tea or Turks enjoy coffee, but just like your mind, your will is weak and needs to be built up once again.
Remember the feeling the first time you did drugs? You broke down
that will. Re-build it.
Education or not, you were once on a path to success in life. Even if that trailed off in the third grade, you need to get back on. It’s never too late- I only graduated college at the age of 30 instead of 22, but man is there a lot of time left. Everyone needs a purpose in life, which is why I feel that so many self-help books focus on purpose. It gives your life a spine. Chase those goals- chase something.
Self-explanatory: you can never return to your hometown. Maybe for family visits once you’re a few years down the road, but only if you don’t see any “old friends”. If they truly want to see you, they’ll come visit when you’re ready to see them. They won’t though- because you don’t have any drugs for them. One must vow to never return to one’s hometown. If you can pull off this painful vow, you can pull off your vow to never relapse, plain and simple.
This one is self-explanatory. It just doesn’t work. I know other systems such as Narcotics Anonymous are based largely on having a “sponsor” to run to every time you feel like relapsing, and I have no problem with having a friend to confide in should you ever need emotional support in the start of your new life, but two people with a taste for the same bad things should never be left unsupervised.
My best friend used to be addicted to cocaine. When he starts to go off on some story about cocaine it doesn’t affect me. It was never my drug of choice. Likewise, he’s got no idea what it’s like to do heroin. You don’t need that sort of temptation in your life. Don’t associate with people who’ve done the same drugs as you have. It’s not worth the risk.
The most important part of overcoming addiction is realizing that there is an end to the road. Eventually, you will have been sober for a few years and will have become a better person. You need to move on with your life. Find love, travel, eat great food, whatever makes humans happy in general. There is no need to dwell on your past. When it’s done, it’s done. Knowing what you overcame builds up your confidence to overcome anything.
This method is ever evolving based on my research, so be forewarned that it may become even more effective than it is right now.
Thank you for reading. Please contact me right now if you have any questions.