A recent billboard advertising quitting smoking made me think about what it actually means to quit. Is all quitting created equal? Is there better or worse quitting? Can you quantify it? No, I don’t think so. Your addiction is not the same as mine, mine is not the same as anybody else’s. Yes, there are many similarities but everyone’s path to addiction is completely different from each other. And no one has a magic solution on how to quit perfectly and if quitting completely will ever be guaranteed once we do. We can strengthen our desire to stay quit by being active and busy in our recovery, but as with everything else to do with addiction, our work toward sobriety is something that we need to be constantly diligent about.
At the same time, if we “fail” or “slip” that doesn’t mean we get kicked out of the School of Sober. We all have a chance to get sober, to quit for good … as long as we try. Even if we fail a hundred times, we still have that chance. In fact, I will go as far as say that the chance of someone who has “failed” a hundred times is no smaller than a chance than of someone who attends one AA meeting and following that stays sober for the next decade. So many things depend on how we stop using and how we stay stopped. I always talk about family and community support—were those in place when you’ve tried to quit? If a person leaves rehab and goes back to the environment that contributed to her use, what chances does she have of staying clean and sober? This is not to say that it’s not impossible but it’s going to be harder than it is going to be for someone going back to the place where recovery is at the forefront.
The billboard I saw read “Even failed attempts can help you quit for good.” How? Well, once you make the attempt, you cannot unmake this attempt. Once you’ve acknowledged there is something to quit it is impossible to lie to yourself that you’ve overreacted or that you were just testing the waters… deep down inside you know that when you are at the point of doing something that’s nagging at you long enough to wonder if you should stop, that’s probably a good indicator you should, indeed consider stopping. And there is hope even in those failed attempts to quit—they show us that we have determination and strength. We might not have all the tools needed to stay quit (such as family or community support or even something as basic as a place to live for the more unfortunate ones), but we have opened he door to the possibility. And with opening that door, we’ve given ourselves a chance to once go through it when we’re really ready. It is also possible that we will never be ready to quit completely—but that is also not a failure. You cannot dismiss all the heartfelt attempts and all the work put into recovery even if the person with substance use disorder does not stay continuously clean or sober. All of that time counts. Those sober, clean hours where you are yourself count for more than those times when you are in a blackout or trying to cough your way through a cloud of smoke to sanity. “Failure” is often a path of recovery—never give up on yourself; keep trying!
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