As someone in recovery from alcoholism and Borderline Personality Disorder, I often get questions about the recovery process. To recover, I mostly did Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which I now use to help others out of addiction and mental health problems. I then went on to use other tools and practices to work on my recovery further.
I must stress that everyone is an individual, but here are some questions I have been asked, along with my honest answers. I hope you find them helpful.
1. When did you realise that you had to stop drinking for good, rather than doing controlled drinking?
When I faced the fact that, in reality, I was rarely able to control my drinking. I almost always had more than I planned, and whenever I managed to limit myself to just a few drinks I felt so horribly deprived and grief-stricken at not being “allowed” any more, that it was better not to have any, frankly! Trying to control my drinking became far more painful than just not drinking at all.
2. How did you know when treatment was working for you?
I had a breakthrough moment when I was doing DBT. I spoke about it in the first chapters of my book, The Happy Addict
. I realised that I was either going to let go of the past and get on with making my life magnificent, or I was going to be condemned to suffering forever. I realised that whatever had happened in the past, and however much I was suffering, I
had to be the one who pulled myself out.
I realised that my own thinking, beliefs and behaviours were sabotaging me more than anyone or anything from the past or the present ever could. I had to decide that I would win in the end, and commit to doing that, no matter what. For me, for my family, for my cat. But mostly for me. Because there was no other choice.
All I was doing by fighting reality was losing. If I drank, I was just making myself incapable of solving problems. If I acted out, I was just making myself feel worse about myself. The only thing to do was thoroughly and utterly commit to doing the right thing by me, no matter how I felt. It was only by doing the right things that I even started to like myself.
Our behaviour is what gets us results, including changing how we feel about ourselves. One of my biggest realisations is that I don’t have to act on how I feel. I can choose to do the right things to move forward, no matter how I feel. I never regret doing the right thing, and I always feel better about myself when I choose to act wisely.
3. Was it a long time before you stopped having more bad than good days?
It was about three months of constantly and stubbornly applying the DBT I was learning until the worst of the days passed. Three months of constantly looking at the positives, constantly fighting down my urges to self-sabotage, constantly doing the right thing. Those three months were the most difficult, and then after that, it got easier to do the right thing – I was seeing how much better I felt for it, and how I could go upwards in life now, rather than downwards. It became like a positive dynamo.
4. Sometimes Addiction and Mental Health services don’t understand. Did you have this and how can this be resolved?
I had people who didn’t care. I had people who didn’t understand. I had to face waiting lists that would take years. Again, those are things I couldn’t control, so I decided that I would largely do it without them. In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or believes – you can still choose to get better. And you can focus on the people who do understand and are willing to help. They are there if you look for them.
5. After you stopped drinking, did you switch to anything else, or was drinking the last coping mechanism?
If I have problems now, I either solve them, or if I can’t solve them, I let the feelings go. I don’t need to “cope”. My two options are: solve it or let it go.
6. How long after stopping drinking did you stop counting days sober, and realise that however hard the work was, it was worth it?
I stopped counting at just under a year. I always knew it was worth it – because the alternative was staying in the misery I was in before. No matter how hard it was, it had to be better than that.
7. Do you believe anyone can recover like you did?
Yes. With all my heart.
If you’d like your questions about recovery answered, drop me a line here.
by Beth Burgess