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In the Midst of Addiction There is a Moment of Clarity

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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

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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.

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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.

Connect with Sober Courage on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

*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).



  1. Moment of clarity: waking up in vomit, having completely lost it with my partner the night before, who actually stayed awake all night to make sure I didnt choke. Light. Bulb. Flicked. On. I look at that night as a blessing now. 1) I didnt die 2) if it didnt happen, I would still be drinking. Great post! Thanks for sharing your own moment of clarity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember waking up flat on my back after a blackout with a giant 3-piece wad of gum in my mouth. Obviously, I could’ve choked in my sleep. I drank for about SIX YEARS after that, trying to “get it right”, and then hundreds of dramatic, emotionally exhausting, near-death incidents later, I finally got sober. Talk about INSANITY, right?

    I’m still not 100% clear on why my last drunk was my last drunk. I think I subconsciously realized that I was drinking suicidally. What I do know is that the longer I stay sober the more clarity I have about my addiction, and more is revealed to me each day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oh wow! Glad you made it. Yes it’s insanity, took me about 4 years of in and out to get stopped. But that insistent was my last Drunk and my most vivid memory through any drinking stupor. I often have a rush of those feeling when I think about it. It’s freaky. But it keeps me sober.

      Thanks for sharing your moment! Hugs.


  3. I posted about this today on The Clean Times. My drinking career actually started with daily blackout/passout/vomiting drunkenness and then I struggled for years to figure out if I wanted to quit or moderate. I wanted whichever was easier, and I tried to quit 19 or 20 times, then tried to moderate and ended up drinking too much again, over and over until one day it just hit me in a relatively normal context that I was kidding myself again. I would have looked perfectly respectable to anyone walking into the kitchen at the moment but I knew better. I knew the control was already slipping again. I’ve had many moments of truth and forgotten or just lost the strength again, but that last drink 12 years ago now was the last for a lot of reasons.


    • Thank you! I can so relate. I though I had moments too, then totally forgot them. And I didn’t plan my last drink. It just happened. The weirdest part was that my life was actually good. I was celebrating. It was Friday. I had a good week. No worries. And to get so shitfaced was just scary. Because I always thought that I drank because my life sucked. But apparently I just drank.

      Thank you for sharing your moment. And congrats on 12 years! Woot woot!


  4. Love this – it’s so very true. As I was reading it I was remembering my own most recent Moment of Clarity, for which I am so grateful! Exactly as you describe it here…the only thing left to do was surrender. Thank goodness!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I sure do remember my own moment of clarity, waking up in the company bed at my inlaws home, alone. My husband was sleeping on the floor in the family room, too disgusted by me to sleep with me. I had blacked out the evening before, with little to no recollection of what happened. I could say more …. but I know I don’t have to. I’m sure it’s a familiar scene, and the feelings ignited are probably identical. This was the last time I would drink and wake hungover, but I wouldn’t hit my rock bottom until over two years later. Stubborn! Thanks for the great post, will be re-blogging it ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I think I had several bottoms. Technically my last drunk was not what I would consider the worst, or a bottom becauae I already had lost jobs, been to detox several times, and rehab, and jail. I think what really did it was the way I felt inside. I was empty. I lived to drink at that was all. There was nothin left.
      So I know for everyone Ita a bit different. But it happens to all of us.

      Thank you for sharing your moment! Hugs.


  6. Still struggling to find a true moment of clarity…I feel like I have had glimpses of it, but I still have difficulty accepting the idea of never drinking again, and a voice in my head says it’s okay for you to drink occasionally, I guess because I have never had a true low bottom – several embarrassing situations and some poor decisions, but no true low.


    • Hi there, i don’t think you need a low bottom to have a moment of clarity, and i don’t think you can find it either. I think it sort of happens. It’s weird. I think it happens when the pain inside you is finally is too much. Hang in! It will happen in time! Hugs


    • This is exactly how I felt to. Once you hit like a week, you will be really proud of yourself, and you should be! I garuntee you will want to keep the drinkless streak going. And before you know it will have 15 days! You start to feel a lot better to. I realized how much of a fool I made of myself when I drank and once all the crap is out of your system for a few weeks your gonna feel like a new person. It seriously gets easyier as it goes. It’s hard to see at the start. Iv only been sober 5 weeks so I’m no veteran or anything. I couldn’t have 20 bucks or is be out boozing…but ever since I started going to meetings and putting effort good thing have happened. I have 80$ in my wallet right now btw 😉 stay strong

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My moment of clarity was after a 3 day bender. I spent 1100$ on booze, pills, blow. I stole a customers car, that I already sold him. I said I had to take it for a inspection and I screwed off for 3 days…horrible. But anyway I ended up over heating the truck and ruining the engine. I was stuck on the side of the road, and I just told myself it’s done..I can’t do this anymore. Luckily I didn’t get charged. But it was more then enough to make me want to change. That wasn’t to long ago to be honest. I’ve now been sober for almost 5 weeks. I got my 30 day chip at AA last week and it feels pretty dope lol. I’m just taking one day at a time like they say…and that seems to be working


    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am a nurse and a mom of three. Opiate addiction.i don’t have custody of my kids. I had a car accident. I went to treatment. I am battling staying sober.last week I was thinking about my kids and life and was pretty hopeless. I’m not really religious, don’t know much about spirituality. I was crying and decided to pray and beg, for anything, I just wanted to die, I was sick of fighting. Then I felt warm and light. My mind flooded with connections and revelations. I could plainly see what everything was, I could see a clear path on how to get my kids back. I was so happy and now my tears were happy. I could see how simple things are and that everything has a reason and small things don’t matter. Everything fits together and if I don’t understand something it is because it is not for me to understand. My mind was flooded for days and it continues.this was seven days ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Man what a great post. My greatest moment of clarity, like smack down, eyes wide open moment was in a meeting with my counselor and mother in rehab. I fought for my way and won. I was going back to my old life and not taking their suggestion of after-care. She asked me to keep an open mind just for one more day before I leave, and I said, “OK.” My counselor said, “that’s bullsh*t–you haven’t been open to this idea for one minute.” I thought “woa.” And I said, “Ok, I’ll go.” It felt like a new person speaking–like that tiny voice in you, or a muscle you’ve never exercised before.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had a moment of clarity. It was very vivid and removed any doubt that alcohol was causing me to lose control of my life.

    I had drank daily for years. Eventually I thought I may have problem, so I was able to limit my drinking to 4 or 5 nights each month. What I discovered is that I would have a flair up in personal relationships 4 or 5 times each month. You lose your temper with at work, or a loved one on occasion, they don’t trust you anymore. The other things don’t matter.

    I lost someone I truly loved and who truly loved me. I couldn’t figure out why I was a nut twice a month, and had had not slept for three days trying to understand why. I called my friend who was a recovering alcoholic to have him massage my ego. I almost didn’t call because I am sick of hearing about his recovery. As soon as he answered the call and spoke for 5 seconds, it happened. One of the most profound moments of my life.


  11. Thank you so much for this post that I stumbled upon. My husband is an alcoholic who I have enabled for years. He drank himself into a seizure one night and I had to shove a spoon down his throat to pull him tounge out enough for him to breathe. He has lost jobs, friends, family and now his kids over his alcoholism. I finally had to leave as I could feel myself being pulled in and cried myself to sleep when he started drinking again three days after the above incident. I love this man more than he will ever know we have been married 28 years. After he left he moved in with a woman who also drinks and does drugs, he has his military retirement and all money goes to his addiction which now he blames on me. I Amin so much pain as I can’t speak to him in fear I will get pulled back in.. I just wondered if he will ever realize perhaps in a moment of clarity how many people love him and just want him to get well. I worry he will never realize and end up dying. I pray for him to have clarity and get into rehab again but I doubt that’s possible as long as he is with someone who needs him to continue his addiction so he will continue to support hers. Thank you all for your messages about your clarity, I pray to God my husband has one before he dies..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michelle. I am so sorry that you are going through this. I am sure you are worried sick and heartbroken. But I’d be the first to tell you, to take good care of you! And I am glad to hear that you got out of the situation. I do home that your husband comes to the moment of clarity but the hard part is that no one knows when that comes. This is a viscous disease.

      So, take good care of you and your daughter! Get yourself in a good place and continue to live!

      Sending big hugs. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Because of a recent DUI they have installed an interlock system on my car. The night before I went to get the system installed I drank my wine, but I had it figured that there would be plenty of time for my body to burn off the alcohol before I had to blow into the system. Whenever I drink I always drink a lot and the night before was no exception. Even with the 14 hours I had allotted for burn off my husband was freaking out, which made me freaked out. When we got to the dealership they handled me a piece of paper that said do not blow into this device if you’ve had alcohol within the last 24 hours. They didn’t tell me that ahead of time. Clarity!!! What in the hell was I thinking?? If I fail this test my driving privileges my not be granted by the DMV. You can not fail a blow test.
    My drinking has just turned into this. No childhood trauma , no awful life to deal with. Just social drinking that turned into nightly drinking that turned into drinking at home because I always drink too much.
    I couldn’t go ONE night without the wine? I knew there would be plenty of time before the blow. The next day I had no idea what was going to happen.
    Blew 0.00. Never want to go through that again. I’ll have this interlock for a year. It’s going to be the best thing that has happened to me. All the wine is out of the house. I will not live this torture every day over a stupid bottle of wine. Even though I couldn’t make the decision for myself, I’m grateful for my situation and the Clarity it has given me about my drinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you!! I currently have an interlock device un my car after I got a DUI last year when I relapsed. It’s pain in the butt, but it does help to stay sober for sure! Sometime we have to hit the pavement hard to get that clarity. I am so happy for you that you had that moment. Keep hanging in! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

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