Sometimes throughout our struggles with addiction, we experience certain events that act as catalysts for our recovery, that impact us so strongly we feel we have no choice but to get clean. For many of us, these catalysts can be the painful wake-up calls we needed to finally prioritize our sobriety. They often come after years of denying we have a problem, resisting getting help, suppressing our pain within ourselves, and avoiding the truth both within ourselves and with others. We’ve been lying to ourselves and clinging to whatever remains of our now unrecognizable lives. We’ve been so afraid of confronting our unhealed issues and of having to commit to the hard work of recovery. Even though our experiences can feel debilitating and can paralyze us at the moment, causing us intense depression and even relapse, over time they often serve as the powerful calls to action we needed to finally get well.
One of the major catalysts for so many of us is the feeling of hitting rock bottom. Our experiences with addiction are unique to who we are, so what hitting rock bottom feels and looks like will be relative to us and our individual experiences. Many of us can relate to some specific feelings and experiences in common, though. When we’ve hit rock bottom, we can no longer continue our lives as they are. They’ve become unmanageable. We can’t keep up with our routines or our obligations and responsibilities. Our pain feels unbearable. Hitting rock bottom can feel like the worst, most catastrophic depression we’ve ever experienced. It can mirror or coincide with a breakdown in our health, leaving us unable to sleep, eat or function normally. We can feel like we’re experiencing a constant state of panic. We might have recurring flashbacks, visions or nightmares. We can feel like we’re losing our minds. This is a terrifying place to be in, but we often look back on that time as the point at which we knew we needed to make a change and get help. We finally realized that we could no longer do it all on our own. We couldn’t keep going as we were, pretending we were fine and denying the truth of our addictions. Our pain had become so severe that we had no choice but to humble ourselves and reach out for help, facing our fears of vulnerability and judgment, risking exposing our truth for the sake of our survival. When we hit rock bottom, we see that there is nowhere else to go but up, and this can bring us incredible hope. We know that our suffering is nearing its end, and soon we’ll be able to enjoy the happiness, fulfillment, and redemption that come with sobriety.
Another major catalyst for sobriety is the loss of people who are important to us. As we know, our addictions can cause us to be unkind, volatile, aggressive, even abusive with the people in our lives. We might have pushed people so far away that they no longer feel safe or comfortable being around us. We may have let conflicts fester for years without trying to make amends or seek forgiveness. We might have sacrificed our close relationships with alcohol and/or our drugs of choice and addictive behaviors. Oftentimes we didn’t have the clarity to know what we were doing. We were so high, so impaired, and in so much pain to realize we were on the verge of losing the people we love and care for. When we do lose them, we can be hit with inconsolable pain and grief, accompanied by shame, remorse, regret and deep disappointment in ourselves. We can become increasingly depressed and withdrawn, isolating ourselves and harming our relationships and our mental and emotional health even more. We can become self-hating and blame ourselves harshly for the failure of our relationships. We become so down on ourselves we come to believe we don’t deserve to have love in our lives. When we’re forced to deal with the inexplicable grief of losing loved ones, the pain we feel can eventually be a catalyst for us to get sober. We don’t ever want to get to that point again, where a drug or self-destructive pattern has taken precedent over someone we love. We never want to prioritize our addictions over our loved ones again. We never want to have to look them in the face again and admit our mistakes, regrets, and wrongdoings and see the sheer disappointment in their eyes. We want to have whole, happy, healthy relationships built on mutual respect and honesty, not the deception and betrayal tied to our addictive patterns. We want to repair the broken relationships we’ve had to grieve the loss of. We want to be able to build new relationships with others in recovery, who understand and empathize with us, who can relate to us, who can help us have new and joyful experiences that don’t have the same context of suffering and association of struggle we’re so used to. Our desire for connection and union, and our need for vindication and redemption in our lives can be some of our greatest catalysts for sobriety.
Our years of living with addiction can make us resistant to sobriety, but many of us have moments where we finally realize we have to stop running, running from ourselves, running from our truth, running from the challenges of recovery. We have wake-up calls that remind us of who we are and what kind of life we actually want to be living. We feel pushed to strive for better. We feel a sense of urgency to finally get clean. We feel responsible for our recovery, and we realize we can no longer hold ourselves back with excuses, justifications, denial or distraction. Our huge moments of epiphany and breakthrough serve as the catalysts for our recovery, the divine intervention and guidance we needed to finally get well.