“He’s not going to stop unless he really wants to.” I’ve heard that statement far too many times to count. Lately, I have been seeing it on online message boards. The spouse or sibling of a suffering alcoholic or addict seeks direction from a Facebook group that was created to help families in their community. The person posts details about their loved one’s behavior and asks for suggestions. Inevitably, someone responds with something like this: “Unfortunately, until your husband wants to stop drinking, there is little hope for recovery.” Every time I hear someone express this belief, I cringe. It is a myth.
Of course, in order to maintain abstinence over time, a recovering person must, at some point, be internally motivated to do so. But I challenge you to ask yourself: When you stopped, did you really want to stop? I know I didn’t.
At the end of my drinking, I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain. My family was pressuring me to get help. My alcoholism was creating problems on the job. What I wanted was for all these things to go away. I still wanted to drink. It was the results that I didn’t want.
I was 23 years old and still living with my parents. The last day I drank, September 6, 1996, was the day they drew the line with me. If I didn’t get help, if I wasn’t willing to go to treatment, I would have no place to live. My family had leverage and, thank God, they were willing to use it. That’s my story. I didn’t get sober because I saw the light. I got sober because I felt the heat. And, as time went on, I became more and more attracted to this way of life. That is how I got better and that is often how it works for others.
Treatment industry research clearly indicates that a certain segment of the population shows far better outcomes than any other. If you are a licensed professional, such as a nurse, a doctor, an attorney, or a pilot, and your job is on the line, you tend to stay sober. When these people seek help for their addiction, they often risk losing their license unless they complete treatment successfully and adhere to an aftercare plan that can include support groups and drug testing for up to five years. They follow through because they don’t want to lose their jobs. They feel the heat, and eventually they come around.
Another saying comes to mind. “It’s not for the people who need it. It’s not for the people who want it. It’s for the people who do it.” So, remember this when someone reaches out to you for help. In the beginning, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not a person wants to be clean and sober. Are they willing to get help? Are they willing to attend meetings? Are they willing to work the Steps? Are they willing?
It doesn’t even matter why they are willing. It’s not for people who want it. It’s for people who do it.