One of the prime goals of treatment is to give us confidence in our ability to overcome our addiction. We need to be careful, however, to insure that we’re not overconfident. Confidence in our ability to work a program of recovery successfully is essential, but overconfidence is a free ticket back to where we came from.
Overconfidence is perfectly understandable. After we get the alcohol and/or other drugs out of our system, get a little exercise, some rest and a few square meals under our belts, we’re probably going to feel better than we’ve felt in years. We may begin to think, if we’re not careful, that we’re cured and ready to head back out into the “real world.” At that point, the insistence of therapists and other staff that we need more time is likely to fall on at least partially deaf ears. After all, don’t we know our own bodies? Don’t we know how we feel?
Probably not. We spent a long time interfering with the chemistry of our brains. We changed our thinking, ethics and lifestyle to accommodate a life of living from one fix, one drink, one line to the next. In many cases, if not most, we’ve never lived what most people would think of as a “normal” life. The chances are very good that we don’t even remember what that is any more, if we ever knew.
So how do we know we’re ready to go out and live one? Where’s the proof that we really do know how we feel and how to take care of our bodies and minds? What experience have we really had? It’s an absolute fact that the longer an addict/alcoholic stays in treatment, the greater are their chances of avoiding relapse. That is not only a matter of learning, it’s a matter of giving ourselves a chance to practice healthy living in a safe environment.
Time in treatment is golden. If we spend a month longer in house and avoid another few years of using — or death — isn’t that a good trade? If we spend a few months in a halfway house while we hone our sober living skills with aftercare, meetings and slow movement back into mainstream society, isn’t that better than finding out that we really don’t have the skills and ability we thought we had — the hard way?
If we were going to climb Mt. Everest, we’d get in shape over a period of months. We’d get a guide, follow his or her directions, buy the right equipment, learn the necessary skills, and finally work our way up to higher and higher altitudes gradually, so that we were sure that we were ready to head for the summit when the weather was right.
Why should we pay less attention to the rest of our lives?