When I was still stuck in my addiction, I believed that going to drug rehab must be some sort of brainwashing exercise. I was terrified of the idea of addiction treatment because I believed that they could somehow force me to want to walk away from drugs and alcohol forever.
Turns out I was wrong–rehab does not have any way to make you not want to drink or use drugs. They don’t have a way to brainwash you into thinking you don’t like your drug of choice any more. It doesn’t work that way.
The truth is that you have to be willing to want to try. You have to be miserable due to your addiction, and you have to admit and realize that your misery is the fault of your addiction. People are typically stuck in denial when they are pointing their finger of blame at everything and everyone else in the world. They will blame anything that they can other than their drinking or drug use. This is classic denial. And the only way that they can get past this denial is to experience so much pain, misery, and suffering at the hands of their addiction that they finally realize that it is not the world that it is at fault, but rather, it is their drug and alcohol use that really is messing them up. Some addicts never reach this point of realization, because they suffer too massive of a consequence before they get the chance, which is tragic. But many addicts and alcoholics do hit bottom eventually, and realize that there is no more happiness to be had from using their drug of choice any longer, and that there has to be an alternative.
That alternative, of course, is living a better life in recovery. Being clean and sober, seeking better health, and taking positive action on a daily basis. So the question is, do you have to go to rehab in order to get there? And if so, how exactly does rehab help you to achieve this new way of life?
In my experience and based on my own knowledge, most people end up going through treatment these days. There was a time, of course, when rehab did not exist at all. There was also a time when AA meetings existed but rehab did not. During that time, obviously some people were able to simply start attending AA meetings without going to rehab, because rehab did not exist yet.
So it is possible, if you want to play hardball, for an alcoholic to bypass the inpatient treatment path and still recover.
However, that is a little bit like saying that you could overcome diabetes without ever going to the doctor. In theory it is probably possible, but why would you ever want to make it that hard on yourself?
When you check into a drug rehab center they are likely going to have you in a medical detox area. This is not as bad as it sounds and in fact they will take very good care of you while you are in detox. Nurses are there around the clock to make sure that you are doing well. If you have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms the medical staff will do everything that they can in order to help mitigate those symptoms. If you have ever tried to quit on your own before and not been able to do so based on your physical withdrawal symptoms, then going to detox can be a huge help in this regard.
In addition to this aspect of the detox process, you get support from your peers while you are in detox. There will be other people who are trying to do the exact same thing that you are, and they will be there to support you through this process. You will befriend your new peers and learn how to lean on each other. There is a special bond that happens when you go through this process with someone, and it has to be experienced in order to be fully understood.
After you get through the detox process, they will probably move you over to a residential area of the treatment center. There you will have a larger set of peers and you will be going to groups and meetings throughout the day. It will feel a bit like being back in school, because ultimately the treatment center is trying to educate you about how to remain clean and sober. Again, the effect of being in treatment with your peers is something that has to be experienced to fully appreciate.
You may believe that if you were in a rehab center that you would feel as if you were going to run out the doors at any second and start using your drug of choice again. Rehab is not like that at all. No one at rehab is clenching their fists and in a complete rage about wanting to relapse this exact second. Once you are there, rehab is easy. Being in treatment is not challenging at all for 99 percent of addicts and alcoholics. Once you get there, they get you comfortably through your withdrawal and then you have this new peer group and you are busy attending groups and such. It is not difficult to be in rehab.
I do realize that it is difficult to convince yourself to go to rehab in the first place. And make no mistake, after you leave rehab, it is very challenging to follow through with your aftercare perfectly and maintain sobriety. But while you are in the actual 28 day program, being there and being clean and sober is easy. Really easy.
The groups and the lectures and the meetings that you attend in rehab are all geared towards educating you about addiction and recovery. The idea is that after you leave treatment you will hopefully have some tools that will allow you to overcome your triggers and urges.
When you attempt to go back to your real life, there are going to be things that trigger you to want to pick up. In order to avoid relapse you are going to have to employ some new coping skills. So the rehab is attempting to teach you some of those coping skills, so that you have a fighting chance once you go back to your home.
One of those coping skills is based on the idea of going to AA or NA meetings in most cases. So most treatment centers expose you to AA or NA meetings in house, while you are in a 28 day program, so that you will hopefully continue attending meetings after you leave. If you do 90 in 90 then you will be going to an AA or NA meeting every single day. That is a coping skill. If you are struggling on any given day then you know that you will be at a meeting soon, and you can vent some of your frustration there or get feedback and advice.
If you have never been to treatment before then you owe it to yourself to make an effort and see what it is like. I can assure you that it is not intimidating or scary once you get there.
If you have been to rehab before but you continue to struggle, I would urge you to give it another chance. If you failed to remain sober then that is because you were not in a state of true surrender. When you finally surrender fully and go back to treatment again, you will see everything in a whole new light.
If you are still struggling with addiction then give inpatient treatment a chance. Good luck!