A dear friend of mine has been an addictions counselor for decades. She shared a story with me about a particularly difficult case involving a man who was quickly approaching late stage alcoholism. Nothing seemed to work for him. Detoxes, rehabs, IOPs and every established intervention professionals used had been of little value. He came to my friend in desperation and she offered him this bit of brilliance:
“Just for today, can you not drink?”
He assured her that he could do that but immediately asked, “What do I do tomorrow?” This is the nature of addiction – staying in the here and now is both difficult and scary. We’re people who look down the road and get blinded by the headlights of a truck that’s out of control. (I have met the truck head on and was disturbed to find that the truck is me and everything I ever tried not to feel).
My friend told the man to come back tomorrow and she’d let him know what to do. The following day she asked him, “Just for today, can you not drink?” He agreed, but being a good alcoholic, inquired about tomorrow. They repeated this cycle for thirty continuous days. After that month’s time, it’s not as though he experienced some magical change. Rather, he had simply developed a habit and two bits of acceptance that made his life manageable:
Just for today, I don’t have to drink. AND I can face tomorrow’s problems when and if they arrive.
I have moments in which I silently laugh to myself and think, “Thank God I went to college.” Common sense and caring are what it’s really all about. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous sits directly in front of my therapy desk for a very simple reason:
I haven’t found a single thing that makes more sense or that has proven to be more effective.
I can say that as a dual diagnosis clinician that I practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but what I’d be more honest in admitting is that I teach people how to use the Keep It Simply System (K.I.S.S.) I know about anxiety and depression and a million other afflictions that people live with but I also know:
There’s nothing more important than not drinking today.
If we can manage this, then a ton of other possibilities become available. I can work, play, learn, heal, and grow. If I drink today, I lose what I gain. It doesn’t matter if I get a new car, get my license back, get a great job and a new place to live. If I continue to drink I will lose all of those things.
The key to not self destructing is accountability. I can’t honestly and consciously choose to destroy myself. I need to lie to me before I can destroy me before I can do that. Instead of trusting myself I choose to be honest with those who understand me and can tell when I’m bullshitting myself.
Just for today, I choose to surround myself with such people. If you’re in need of folks like mine, Google: “AA/NA meetings ___(name of your town)”