Fake It ‘Til You Make It

It’s easy to dream. To close your eyes and imagine yourself in another place, doing other things, breaking your bad habits and making the life you really want. Everyone can dream. It takes almost no effort.

It’s actually getting out there and doing something to achieve those dreams that’s the hard part. It’s hard work, and nobody likes hard work. But, you have to put in the work to get what you want.

Achieving sobriety is no different. You must want it badly enough to put in the hard work, to stay motivated and to be successful. And although you’re resistant to the change and feeling like you’re not up to the challenge, it’s what you need, so you just get out there and do it anyway. And eventually you will see your progress, or reach your goal, and be so glad you did all that hard work. Today’s safe coping strategy is:

Actions first, and feelings will follow. Don’t wait until you feel motivated, just start now.

If you sit around, waiting for motivation to hit you, you’ll sit forever. Motivation isn’t something that comes to you, it’s something that you create inside of yourself. You might not feel particularly motivated to tackle a particular goal, but if you start creating a world for yourself where that goal is possible, eventually the motivation will come. Few people can put in a good deal of hard work and then turn their back on a project. Motivation builds as progress builds.

Getting sober is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And in the beginning, I didn’t really want to do it. And I didn’t know how to do it. And I didn’t want to put in the effort. And I didn’t think it was possible. But, I knew it was what I needed.

When I first arrived at rehab, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and doing all the things they asked me to do. Eventually, I started to feel better, I started to feel like I was making progress, and I started to feel like sobriety was achievable.

It’s always hard to make a big change or begin a large project, but in order to get anywhere, you just have to start. Take the first step, and the second will follow. Make the first move, and something will happen. You don’t need some big, elaborate plan, and you don’t need to get everything done in one day. You just have to start.

Doing it for Me

There are a number of major things that have changed since my second stay at rehab. I’m now taking an anti-depressant and when I need it, an anti-anxiety medication as well. This is the first time in my life giving these kinds of medications a try, and they’ve made a major difference.

When I left after my initial 30 day stay, I was prepared to be sober, I knew how to be sober. What I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t now how to do was to work on my depression and manage my anxiety. That, paired with some life events that popped up, I feel are the reason I so quickly and easily fell into my old patterns and relapsed.

I’m also taking Antabuse, a medication that will make me violently ill if I have any alcohol. So, psychologically, it’s a lot easier for me to accept that I just can’t drink. Can’t do it. Not even a sip. Previously it was more like, nope, I can’t drink. Can’t have a drink. Can’t do it. Well…just this once will be ok, right? But, with the Antabuse, it’s a reality. I am not going to put myself in the position of the horrific reaction it will give me. So, no more “just this once.” And it’s actually kind of liberating. That little voice in my head has totally shut up.

And I’m also in the midst of cleaning up the mess I made with this past relapse. I disappointed a lot of people, and flat out humiliated myself in front of other people. There are a lot of people I need to make things up to and I need to earn back a colossal amount of trust. All of it, really.

But, there’s something different going on with my recovery right now, above and beyond all the changes that have happened. I think the biggest change is a shift in motivation. At some time in the last month or so, my motivation to change and to get and stay sober changed directions.

In the beginning, I was doing it because I thought it was something I should do. Something I was supposed to do. I was doing it for my husband, for my children, for my friends and family. Because society looked down on it. Because my doctor told me to just knock it off already.

But, I realized yesterday when I spoke with my counselor, these days I’m doing it for myself. Because I want it. Because it’s important to me. Of course I’m still doing it for the other people in my life, but the main thing is I’m doing it because I want to. I finally want it for me.

My counselor and I talked about internal vs. external motivation for sobriety. It’s ok to have both. In fact, it’s a very good thing to have both. The more reasons you have to be sober, the greater your likelihood that you will succeed. But, your internal motivation should come first. The reasons for getting clean, staying clean, finding positive things to do with your life, creating a positive future for yourself, those should come from within.

It’s still a good thing to want to accomplish all of that to satisfy others in your life. That will help you build and maintain good relationships and friendships, and help you have a meaningful family life. But ultimately, your loved ones are not in charge of you. They can’t force you to stay sober, only you are in complete control of your sobriety.

I’ve learned after my relapse that I need to be doing this for me, before all else. Because if I don’t want it and if I don’t believe it can happen, then my chances of success are slim. And I truly want to succeed.