Inpatient treatment has a number of advantages over other forms of addiction help. Let’s take a look at some of those advantages to see if going to an inpatient treatment facility may be the best choice for you.
Total and complete disruption of your addictive pattern
You could do a number of different things to try to address your addiction or alcoholism. For example, you might just hope that your behavior changes on its own without any real effort. Or you might go to counseling or therapy on an outpatient basis. Some people simply start attending AA or NA meetings without going to any sort of professional care first. And others may find themselves seeking religion in some way as an answer to their addiction problems.
There is not necessarily a right or a wrong answer here, but we could make a strong case that some options are going to be better than other options.
How do we make that case?
For one thing, some of these treatment options are broad, detailed, thorough, and therefore they actually include some of the lesser options. For example, most treatment centers also include AA meetings and an introduction to the 12 step program. So by simply going straight to AA and skipping the inpatient treatment you may be missing out on an important piece of the recovery process. The real question becomes: “What do I need to do in order to learn how to live a sober life?” If you can simply go see a therapist for one hour each week and do nothing else for your recovery, then that is great. But such a narrow approach will not work for most serious alcoholics and drug addicts. They need more help than that. So for some people there are certain recovery options which are more comprehensive than others. Meaning that they are better able to help the person because they address more issues, they offer more tools, and they involve more forms of support.
Just consider the aftercare plan that you might get from an inpatient treatment center. It might include any or all of the following:
• Outpatient treatment groups.
• Therapy groups.
• One on one counseling on a regular basis.
• Daily AA or NA meetings.
• 12 step sponsorship.
• Long term treatment.
And so on. So it is more than just “checking into rehab” and then leaving later in the hopes that you are “cured.” In reality there is no cure. In reality you need to continue to do the work. The foundation for that work is laid out while you are at inpatient treatment, but when you leave rehab that is really just the beginning.
When you check into an inpatient facility you completely disrupt your addiction. For one thing you are changing your physical environment. For another thing you are surrounding yourself with clean and sober people who are positive influences. In addition to that you instantly remove all of the negative influences from your life, at least while you are in treatment.
Furthermore, there is no physical threat of relapse while you are in a controlled environment. Everything at inpatient rehab is set up to help you maintain sobriety, as well as to learn how to live sober after you finally leave.
Addiction is a pattern, a cycle. You must disrupt this cycle. Going to inpatient treatment is perhaps the most effective way to do this while also learning about how to live sober in the future.
This is a huge advantage over other forms of treatment in which you are not in a controlled environment. For example, many people who are attending outpatient rehab regularly relapse or show up to groups drunk or high. This is because they are not in a safe environment where the threat of relapse has been removed.
Instant support from a peer group
One of the most amazing things about being in treatment is the feeling that you get with your peer group. It is almost impossible not to feel a special connection with the peers that you meet in an addiction facility.
For one thing, you got clean and sober at the same time. You arrived at detox together, and so you become friends during this somewhat scary transitional time with each other. Many people who meet a group of peers in rehab feel like they are the first group that has tried to sober up together. It is a feeling of intimacy that is difficult to describe to outsiders unless you have felt it for yourself.
In my experience you do not get this feeling of intimacy while being in outpatient treatment. Even though you may show up to the same groups and lectures every day as the inpatient clients, it is just not the same. You are not waking up together, eating meals together, going through every agonizing minute of withdrawal together, and so on. When you go home from treatment every night to sleep at your own house it is just not the same.
This is a special bonus that you get when you check into an inpatient treatment facility. You know in advance that you will form these intimate connections with your peers in early recovery. And because of this close connection you will get a feeling of support as well. This can make the difference between holding on when you are struggling and just going out to relapse because you no longer care. Having that feeling of support can cause you to care just enough to hang on a bit longer.
Access to therapists and counselors who would try to help you
One big advantage of being at inpatient treatment is that you are usually assigned a counselor or therapist.
Most of us have problems in addition to our addiction. Sure, our addiction may be primary, but very few of us can say that we do not have additional problems in our lives. Whether that may be relationship issues, financial troubles, mental health issues, physical illness, or something else—nearly all of us have complicating factors in our addiction.
Those issues may not be the cause of our addiction, but they certainly contribute. Even though our addiction is a primary disease, we still have a lot of work to do in order to be happy and healthy in our own skin again.
Some people can work through all of their issues with a sponsor in AA or NA. Others need a professional therapist to help them sort out their problems. And for some extreme examples, addiction may not even be the biggest problem on their plate at the time! For such people they are going to need a lot more help than what is offered in many treatment options. For example, someone who has mental health issues, physical problems, is in an abusive relationship, and lacks adequate housing—that person probably needs a lot more help than just attending a few AA meetings. So is it really fair to everyone in recovery to say things like “No one really needs treatment if they would just go to AA meetings and follow this simple program!” Such statements ignore some people who have complicated problems in their lives that may not be fixed by simple treatment options. They might need a lot of help.
So what does this have to do with inpatient treatment? Well, inpatient rehab is a starting point. It is a centralized place where you can go to get physically clean and sober, then get stable in residential treatment, and hopefully get paired up with a professional therapist who can help you get started on your problems.
Some alcoholics and drug addicts have only one single problem, that being their addiction. But these people are quite rare. Nearly everyone has complicating factors in their addiction and recovery, and therefore almost everyone can benefit from a professional therapist in treatment. With most other treatment options you don’t get the luxury of being paired up with someone who can help you like this. Going to inpatient treatment normally gets you access to professional help.
Protection from the threat of relapse when you are most vulnerable
When you are in treatment you are protected from relapse because you are in a controlled environment. If you look at the data concerning relapse among drug addicts and alcoholics, you will see that the earlier in recovery a person is, the more vulnerable to relapse they are.
In other words, most people relapse within the first 30 days of their sobriety journey. A bunch more will have relapsed within the first 90 days, and again at six months. Approximately two thirds to three fourths will have relapsed by the one year mark. But it is important to realize that the vast majority will relapse early on, and less and less relapse as the months start to accumulate.
This is why staying in treatment makes so much sense in early sobriety, because that is when you are at your most vulnerable. It is pretty much impossible to relapse while you are at an inpatient treatment facility (there are exceptions of course but nearly anyone can maintain sobriety in a controlled setting, getting there and staying there is the real challenge!).
If you really want to accumulate a year of sobriety, make a commitment to yourself to find a long term treatment center and go check into it. Stay in treatment and follow through and you will do well. The problem of course is that most people are not at that level of commitment because they are not yet desperate enough to take drastic action. How many people would willingly live in rehab for a year? Not so many, really. Willingness is born out of desperation, and in order to get truly desperate the alcoholic has to experience massive consequences. The problem is that many alcoholics and addicts are not lucky enough to survive those consequences.
Combining the best of all forms of treatment into one package
Inpatient treatment combines the best of all worlds. First of all you get a medical detox where you are supervised by medical staff as your body becomes physically clean again. Next you go through residential treatment where you learn about how to live a sober life, all while accumulating some clean and sober time in a controlled environment. You are generally assigned a therapist or a counselor and can get specific help from that person in areas that might trip you up in your recovery. And you will normally get an aftercare plan so that you don’t fall on your face the moment that you walk out of treatment.
If you want to have a shot at long term sobriety then you need to give yourself every possible advantage. Don’t just go to treatment of course, but go to treatment and actually participate. Listen and learn. Take what you learn and then apply it to your life. It is the action that you take that will build your new life in recovery.
No one gets clean and sober just by sitting on the couch and wishing that things were different. No one changes their life just by hoping that things suddenly shift for the better. That is not how recovery works at all. If you have dug yourself a deep hole in your addiction then you can bet that it will take a great deal of work to restore yourself to peace and happiness. Of course such an effort is well worth it if you are willing to give yourself a chance to heal.
Most alcoholics and drug addicts are rather stubborn creatures. They don’t like being told what to do. This is why it is so important to surrender and hit bottom, because then you may finally get to that point where you become willing to listen and learn. Until you reach that point of true surrender there is no point in trying to play games, in trying to convince yourself to sober up, because you likely will not be serious enough to follow through with it.
Sobering up is not easy to do, but it is dead simple. You just show up to rehab and do what they tell you to do. It is very simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. In fact it is so difficult that it kills many struggling alcoholics and drug addicts because they are too proud to take direction from other people.
You must sidestep your ego in order to recover. You must figure out how to get out of your own, to release your need to control things, and simply listen to others instead. This is difficult for most of us to do in recovery. We have a natural need to control things, to control the situation, to be in charge of our own destiny and our own ideas. It is tough to let go. And yet this is what will save our lives in recovery, if we can figure out how to let go. In fact we must let go of everything, we must let go absolutely. What does this really mean? It means that we turn our decision making over to people that we trust: Counselors, therapists, sponsors, and those who work in rehabs. We trust their decisions over our own, because our own ideas only got us into trouble. It is time to do something different. In order to do that we have to listen to others.
If you surrender completely and check into an inpatient treatment facility then it is almost impossible to fail. The key is that you must be in a state of total and complete surrender. That is the way in which treatment works the best, because then you will be receptive to the direction and the ideas that will show you how to rebuild a sober life. Without that complete surrender you will resist others who would only try to help you by giving you direction and advice.
Inpatient treatment gives you a lot of advantages over other forms of treatment. One of the disadvantages is that it generally costs more than other forms of help. This cost is negligible in light of the true benefit that you get from a lifetime of sobriety. Most alcoholics and drug addicts cannot even put a price on the joy and happiness that they feel in recovery, not to mention the cost saving they get over the years and decades when they stop abusing chemicals. There is really no comparison between living a life of peace and serenity in sobriety and dying an early death due to the misery of addiction or alcoholism. Any price that you pay to avoid the latter is well worth it, and you can confirm this by talking to anyone who has achieved long term sobriety. They will tell you that you simply cannot put a price on their sobriety, that it is the best thing that ever happened to them, and therefore anything that you can do to achieve such a goal is well worth it.