In the Midst of Addiction There is a Moment of Clarity
For many of us affected by alcoholism, it is quite shocking to realize that no matter what we try, we cannot control our drinking. Yet, recovery often cannot start until the truth about our malady finally breaks through our deep denial. It may seem odd to an outside person to see someone lose their job, their family and everything that was dear to them, and still continue their uncontrollable drinking. But many of us are not able to come to terms with our addiction until we can clearly see and accept it. Often, our defining moment will be the result of a progression of traumatic experiences caused by our drinking, or it may be defined by one single – moment of clarity.
A moment of clarity is often described as a sudden, and deep acceptance of some truth that has been impossible for us to see. Addiction is an illness that blends fact and fiction to the point that we often find ourselves unable to distinguish the two. In the midst of heavy drinking we cannot see outside of our situation and we are not able to grasp exactly how devastating it is. However, in the moment of clarity our vision becomes unclouded and focused, by an energetic rush of what seems like an epiphany or revelation. Many people have referred to this moment as an instant when they are not being affected by their drug, and can understand clearly the nature of their problem; they have finally come to terms with their malady. This is when acceptance takes place and we are able to see the reality of our situation, and move towards the solution.
They are rare. Nevertheless, everybody has them. Those unanticipated seconds in time when the whirlwind of life ceases and a virgin oasis of awareness suddenly opens the mind to a thought or a vision that resonates beyond that moment, even when the moment goes away. For addicts and alcoholics, such experiences are usually the catalysts that turn despair into hope and the helplessness of addiction into the promise of recovery. – Christopher Kennedy Lawford
The moment of clarity may be combined with what is often called a “bottom.” This is a time when you realize that you cannot continue to live the way you have been living. It is a state of utter hopelessness and despair; all your choices are impossible, the battle has been lost, all that is left is surrender. The chances of seeking help are optimal during this period and a quick reaction can start the progress towards a positive change. But do not wait! Often, after a few hours of obsessing about what happened, your mind will quickly try to convince you to pick up a drink to numb the pain. That is the last thing you really need because hen you will quickly forget the mental and physical trauma of your last “drunk,” and turn back to drinking. This is the time to act fast, to call a detox center or a rehab, or to reach out to a support group or a support person.
The moment of clarity was vital to my transformation. I remember it vividly. I awoke from a drunken stupor weekend spent in a blackout, lying flat, face down on my kitchen floor, I could not move. I remember my thoughts running something like this: Is there any wine left? What am I doing on the floor? I need more wine. What day is it? What time is it? OMG! What happened? How much did I drink. This is crazy. I am scared. I cannot move. What happened? I cannot move. This is horrible. OMG! I am going to die. This is crazy. I cannot do this any longer. There is nothing else left to do – I will either die a drunk or I have to get sober!
I did not want to die. I knew, at that moment that I could not drink safely, no matter what. The truth was, that everything that was happening in my life and every decision I have ever made, was directly tied to my drinking. No amount of moderation could ever change the fact that I was addicted to alcohol. No amount of willpower could keep me safe! No child, no job, no success, and no failure! No sun or rain! No good mood or bad! It did not matter. I was still an alcoholic despite all of the circumstance in my life. With this realization, I felt a sense of surrender, and peace, something that is tough to explain; I felt lite and relieved. I had never felt like this before, it was an absolute stillness internally; I was not angry, I was not sad, and I was no longer afraid. It did not matter. Whatever was on the other side of this life, just had to be better. I picked up the phone, and for the first time in my life, I asked for help.
Many of us struggle for years to get out of the devastating cycle of addiction, because often recovery starts only when the truth finally breaks through our deep denial. For some it happens in this moment of clarity, for others the defining moment is actually the result of a progression of traumatic experiences caused by our addiction. Nevertheless, the moment of clarity has happened to virtually all of us, and it has single-handedly propelled us into recovery.
To read some amazing stories about this phenomenon, check out “Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery“ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford, which chronicles the life-changing experiences of 44 people who could not stop drinking or taking drugs on their own. Most of them — including Buzz Aldrin, Judy Collins and Elaine Stritch — are celebrities.
Have you had a moment of clarity? I would love to hear about it. Please share in the comments.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).