This is an important concept for recovery and many people who are still struggling to get clean and sober would do well to take a very close look at this idea. This may be especially true if you are trying to find the motivation to seek treatment.
Before we get into recovery, nearly everyone sees rehab as being a negative thing. We shun the idea that we need to check ourselves into a facility in order to regain control of ourselves. Our pride is wounded at this thought and our ego cries out at the idea that we need to ask for help.
So most people shun the idea of treatment; they want less of it, or as little of it as possible.
But ultimately this is the wrong attitude.
Instead, we need to cultivate the idea that MORE treatment is GOOD for us, and that we want to get as much help as we possibly can.
There are many reasons for this. Lack of understanding with this concept can be very dangerous.
Wanting less treatment is generally a symptom of continuing denial
I worked in a drug rehab center for over five years on a full time basis. This was an enlightening experience because of the high volume of recovering addicts and alcoholics that I got to watch try to get clean and sober.
A very large percentage of these addicts and alcoholics failed to get sober and the reason that I knew this was because they ended up coming back to treatment after they had left. In fact, the amount of “repeat business” that I saw within the treatment center industry was truly shocking to me. I had no idea what a revolving door it could be.
Over time I got to know quite a few of these people and I would discuss things with the other staff and predictions would be made. Sometimes a client had really seemed to surrender fully and we had a genuine hope that they were “finally going to get it” and stay clean and sober for good this time. In most cases though these repeat visitors who struggled to stay clean and sober had the entirely wrong attitude, and you could easily tell just by casual observation that such people had NOT fully surrendered to their disease.
The reason that this could be so easily detected is because they had the wrong attitude toward treatment. They still treated rehab as if it were a punishment. They still thought of being in treatment as being punitive. They did not see treatment as a gift or as a blessing or as an opportunity. They resented being there in rehab and they thought that it was a real drag for them to have to be in rehab, rather than being grateful for the help and for the chance to get clean and sober.
It turned out that this attitude toward treatment was one of the very few solid predictors of success in recovery. It really was quite difficult to tell who was going to “make it” in recovery, but it was fairly easy to tell when someone was NOT going to make it. People who had a bad attitude toward treatment pretty much always relapsed.
This bad attitude was probably a symptom of something deeper, and that “something deeper” was actually one of two things: denial or immaturity.
People who have a very bad attitude toward treatment are either still in denial about their disease, and do not believe that they really need to be in rehab….OR they are fairly young and immature and just think the whole thing is a big waste of time.
In both cases the recovering addict or alcoholic has simply not endured enough pain and misery in their life yet. Doing so would allow them to reach a point of surrender and then they would undoubtedly have a much better attitude toward recovery.
Even if they are just young and lack maturity, this is really still just another form of denial. They believe that they can ultimately control their addiction if they really wanted to, but they are still having fun with their drug of choice and so they reason that they just do not want to stop using drugs or alcohol yet. People like this may be in treatment for a variety of reasons, none of which are actually the right reason (which is because they have hit bottom and want to learn a new way to live without drugs and alcohol).
So people who are vehement in wanting less treatment and in thinking that rehab is a punishment are generally still in denial. They have not yet had enough misery and chaos in their addiction to be able to appreciate the opportunity to possibly achieve recovery.
Such people may be very close to full surrender and becoming ready to change, or they may still be decades away from true surrender. And there are some people who will go to rehab but they will never surrender fully and they will continue to use drugs or alcohol until they die. I know this is the case because I met several such people while working in rehab who did exactly that. They died before they ever really “got it” and took a better attitude towards rehab and found a way to surrender and change their life. Instead, they just kept going back out there and relapsing, over and over again. Eventually it killed them.
Agreeing to more intensive treatment is a sign of full surrender and acceptance
The flip side of this whole argument is when the struggling addict or alcoholic finally accepts more intensive treatment as their solution.
This is the “good attitude towards treatment” that we hinted at above.
If an addict or an alcoholic actually wants more treatment, if they are desperate for help and they are grateful for any treatment that they can get, then this is a far better attitude than if they are viewing rehab as a punishment of some sort.
I experienced this in my own life and in my own recovery journey, so I know how accurate it is as an indicator of success.
I went to rehab three times. The first time I was not ready to change my life, in fact I was nowhere near full surrender, and so when I left treatment I had no chance of staying clean and sober. I just was not ready yet. I did not necessarily see rehab as a punishment but I definitely did not see it as a “gift” or cling to it with great hope or anything.
My second trip to rehab was a bit different, as I knew more of what to expect and I had learned a bit more about addiction at this point. I was a mess and I was willing to do 28 days in rehab this time, but just barely. I felt like doing 28 days in a residential setting was some sort of sacrifice. I thought that I was “wasting” my time by staying in treatment for so long.
So what happened is that this second rehab had counselors who were trying to help me, and those counselors recommended that I live in long term treatment. This was their recommendation for my aftercare.
I was outraged. This idea of long term rehab, I viewed as a punishment. To me, at the time, it sounded like a prison term. I could not believe that someone would expect me (of all people!) to waste my precious time by living in long term treatment. This was the wrong attitude, plain and simple. I was viewing more intensive treatment as a punishment rather than as an opportunity or a gift.
So instead of “wasting” my time going to long term rehab, I promptly went home and relapsed immediately instead. Great use of my time, right? I was so outraged that the treatment professionals would expect me to live in rehab for a few months that I went right back to wasting my life away while drinking and using drugs every day.
But this is the denial aspect that we examined above. I could not see at the time that I was wasting my life, that I would have been better off dedicating a few months or even a few years to long term treatment. I could not see the truth of the matter, which was that I was miserable in my addiction and that I only thought that I had freedom when I was out of rehab using drugs, and I that I actually could have become truly free if I would have accepted long term rehab as my solution and agreed to follow through with it. Instead I thought that long term was a prison sentence, and so I opted to take my “freedom” instead, which meant staying out of treatment and continuing to self medicate.
I had it all backwards. I thought that rehab was prison and that using drugs was freedom. In reality, I was living in my own self created prison based on the drugs and the alcohol that I was addicted to, and I did not realize that the solution of more intense rehab would actually lead to my eventual freedom.
Fast forward about a year from this point, when I had turned up my nose at the idea of long term rehab. Now I was truly miserable and I was spinning even more out of control and I reached a point of surrender. I asked for help and went to detox, and I realized full well, for myself, without any additional input, that I was going to need long term treatment.
I was so scared at this point and I was afraid for my life and I was terrified of relapse, and so I viewed long term rehab as a gift, rather than as a punishment. I begged the counselors this time to find me placement in long term somewhere. I knew that this is what I needed. I accepted it fully as my solution and I was scared of the idea that they might not find me placement in long term rehab.
This shift in attitude produced the right results. They counselors DID find me placement in long term treatment and I proceeded to live there for about 20 months. After that I managed to go out on my own and have since been clean and sober for over eleven continuous years now. Long term treatment was the right solution for me at the time and I had to embrace it fully, surrender to my disease, and thus follow through with treatment while having the proper mindset and the right attitude. It took me three tries to get to that point and once I surrendered fully and embraced treatment as my solution I was able to move forward and make progress.
More intensive treatment options give more support
More treatment generally equates to “more intensive treatment.”
This is true of both the type of treatment as well as the duration.
Less treatment generally starts with one hour counseling sessions. The next step up might be sporadic AA meeting attendance (though this is not really professional treatment it is still a common action for recovery programs).
The next option might be outpatient rehab, where the addict goes into treatment but still goes home each day.
Next is inpatient rehab, the 28 day or less variety. This generally includes detox too.
Long term treatment may last from 90 days to several years. I stayed in long term rehab for 20 months.
There are various types of long term rehabs. Some are sober houses or transitional housing setups. Some are halfway houses. Some are just like 28 residential treatment but simply last much longer.
What is perhaps more important with these more intensive treatment options is the increase not only in duration and length, but also in the accountability. So if you live in a sober home or a halfway house then what you are doing is giving yourself incentive and being held accountable to remain sober. Generally if you relapse then you would be ejected from the house and so there is additional incentive to help you to remain sober that you would not otherwise have.
Obviously when you move up to more intensive treatment, you get more support for your recovery and your chances of doing well and avoiding relapse will generally increase. More treatment and more intensive treatment generally produces better results than less intensive treatment. In my opinion outpatient rehab is not really well designed for the hard core addict or alcoholic who is really a mess due to their addiction. The problem is that it is just not disruptive enough to be effective, the person is still living at home during treatment and so they have exposure to all of the triggers and environmental problems that may help contribute to their addictive behavior.
Consequently, if you fail to stay clean and sober, you might consider the idea of seeking MORE intensive treatment in the future. This is the truth that I had to accept in order to finally get the right level of help and be able to remain clean and sober.
More expensive and intensive treatment is easily justified based on long term sobriety savings
Many people argue that MORE treatment and more intensive treatment is not a good thing because it costs more money.
This is a fair argument but you have to remember exactly what it is that you are buying.
When I was still stuck in my active addiction (and believing that long term rehab was a punishment similar to prison) I would often argue against treatment because of the cost. I was outraged that it could cost so much money to go to rehab. Keep in mind that, at the time, I was not really interested in becoming clean and sober, and therefore even if treatment was totally free I would have still found a reason to complain about it.
Looking back today, I can fully realize just how foolish these arguments are that are based on the high cost of treatment.
What I realize now is that treatment–even ultra expensive rehabs that cost tens of thousands of dollars–are actually a dirt cheap bargain.
The whole point is if they actually work for you or not.
Sure, if you go to rehab and then come back out and just go back to drinking or using drugs, then sure–treatment is expensive, and you have pretty much wasted your money.
On the other hand, if you do what I did, and attend three rehabs over a period of several years and then eventually GET IT, and stay clean and sober for the long run after that, then you have to start looking a little deeper into the math.
The cost of my addiction was quite high. I was spending a lot of money each year on drugs and alcohol, and I was also losing a ton of money, time, and quality of life based on my behavior in active addiction. The opportunity costs of not pursuing a better career, an education, of starting a business–these were all things that cost me in my recovery as well.
Just the monetary cost of addiction or alcoholism is easily $100,000 per decade. So for every addict or alcoholic who continues to stay stuck in their addiction for the next full decade, they will undoubtedly waste at LEAST $100,000 dollars that they could have otherwise saved, had they been clean and sober.
But the dollars and cents are almost meaningless and trivial compared to the REAL costs of continued addiction:
* The emotional cost of being miserable all the time in addiction rather than being content and happy while clean and sober.
* The opportunity cost of using your drug of choice for the next ten years, and missing out on all sorts of amazing experiences that you would otherwise miss out on.
* The social cost of being isolated in your addiction, whereas in recovery you would form meaningful and deeper connections with people.
* The holistic health factor – in addiction I was a smoker, out of shape, poor nutrition, etc. In recovery I quit smoking cigarettes, got into shape, started eating better, etc.
This list gives plenty of food for thought but really is just a few examples. There are even more costs associated with continuing to use your drug of choice and of course the big one is that it will probably kill you at some point and shorten your lifespan considerably. This is especially true when you consider the holistic health factor (such as alcoholics who tend to smoke cigarettes, etc.).
Even if I spent $50,000 on my three treatments that I went to, that cost would have been justified after only a few short years in recovery. As it is, I have been clean and sober for over eleven years now, and the upfront costs were nowhere near that high.
The value that I got from attending treatment is enormous. It cannot be stated only in dollar amounts. To do so would be to do it an injustice. Going to rehab (and seeking more intensive rehab) has blessed me beyond measure.
The time investment with more intensive treatment is a price well worth paying to avoid continued addiction
One last point to make here is that going to treatment, any form of treatment, involves a time commitment and a time investment on the part of the addict or alcoholic.
As the financial cost of treatment is easily justified, so is the time cost.
As pointed out earlier, I originally balked at the idea of long term rehab, because I believed it to be too great of a time commitment.
Little did I realize that my time spent in active addiction was a complete waste of life, and that any amount of time invested in recovery was time well spent. Because I was in denial I could not see the truth in that, but looking back I can see it very clearly.
I will leave you with this truth that I heard a counselor say to a struggling addict who had decided to bail out of rehab early:
“Many, many people regret leaving rehab too soon. But I have never heard someone complain that they stayed in rehab too long, or that they got too much help for their problem.”
That should help you to see what the proper attitude towards rehab is. It is not a punishment. It is a gift.