In my experience, inpatient detox is absolutely essential for beating alcoholism and drug addiction.
When I was stuck in my own addiction, I was drinking and taking drugs every day, and I could not find a way to break free from this pattern. At one point my family urged me to do something, and at the time the most I was willing to do was to attend a counseling session once a week with a therapist.
The therapist could quickly see that we were not going to make much progress if I was going to continue to drink and take drugs. So they immediately recommended that I go to inpatient treatment.
I resisted this idea at first because I was still stuck in denial. I did not like the idea that I would be “locked away in a building somewhere while deprived of drugs and alcohol.” To me, being in rehab was seen as a punishment. I wanted the “freedom” to be able to drink or take drugs as I pleased. I could not see, at the time, that this “freedom” to take drugs and alcohol whenever I wanted was actually a prison that I had made for myself, and I was the only one who did not know that I was enslaved by it. Everyone around me could see that going to rehab would give me my freedom back, but I saw it completely the opposite because I was stuck in denial. All I could see were family members and friends who said that they loved me and they were trying to take away my drugs and alcohol!
The problem with addiction, of course, is that as soon as the alcoholic or addict attempts to fix the problem, they run into the trap of withdrawal. Certain drugs, to include alcohol (which is just another drug by the way), can produce some very dangerous conditions in your body during the withdrawal process. Not all drugs will do this but many of them are dangerous to detoxify from without medical supervision. So if nothing else, most struggling alcoholics and drug addicts would be wise to attend inpatient treatment in order to safely detoxify their bodies.
Once you get through the medical part of detoxification, you still have to deal with behavioral and psychological issues regarding your drug addiction. In other words, you need to develop a strategy for living that allows you to live a different kind of life in recovery. You need to trade out your old habits–which mostly consisted of coping with reality through a chemical escape–with a new habit of facing life and coming up with new solutions that are healthy. This means changing who you hang out with, where you spend your time, what kinds of things you do every day, and what new habits you develop.
Recovery is about making positive changes in your life, and you need a structure and a new base of knowledge to begin to do this for yourself.
Simply making a positive change is not enough for a person to recover. Why not?
Because a single positive change is completely erased when the person relapses. If you go back to your old solution, which is to self medicate, then all of your progress gets erased.
How does the recovering alcoholic or addict prevent this from happening?
The key is through habits. When you establish new habits in your early recovery, you make it so that you don’t have to keep relearning the same lessons that you have had to learn in the past. By establishing a positive habit you can overcome an old character flaw or defect that used to keep you stuck in a negative cycle of some kind.
For example, I used to have this tendency to use self pity in order to justify my drinking and drug use. I would sit around and feel sorry for myself and constantly try to play the victim in my mind. By doing this I was giving myself the excuse that I needed in order to abuse drugs and alcohol.
The problem came in when I finally surrendered and became clean and sober. Instead of magically disappearing, the self pity tendency simply continued in my recovery, until I finally realized that it was not doing me any good now that I was clean and sober. So I had to establish a new habit in my recovery, which was to take positive action and seek solutions rather than to use self pity in order to justify bad behavior.
But in order to implement these new habits, and in order to have a foundation to even begin to contemplate these sorts of changes, I had to have some stability in my life. I could not get that stability when I was on the outside, trying to resist temptations to drink or to use drugs.
I needed a break from the grind. I had to find a way to break free from the constant need to self medicate. The only way that I could accomplish this was by going to an inpatient treatment center. Checking into a detox center was the single best thing I could have done for myself.
Now I will admit that I was very much afraid to do so, but I would never admit that I was scared. Instead, I covered up that fear with anger and declared that I did not really need detox, nor did I really need any help. I said things like “If I really wanted to quit drinking, I certainly could….but I just don’t want to.” I was in a classic state of denial, arguing that I was fine, and that I did not really need to go to an inpatient detox. The real truth was that I was terrified of facing reality without having the crutch of drugs or alcohol in my system. I had self medicated for so long that I was afraid to feel my emotions and feelings in a raw state. The thought of it was too overwhelming, which is why the thought of going to rehab or detox was overwhelming.
But at some point in my own miserable journey through addiction, I reached a point in which I was so incredibly fed up and miserable with myself and with my life that I just wanted for it all to go away. It really felt like an ego death when I finally surrendered and agreed to go to rehab and get help. I felt as if something had broken away from myself and drifted off. I was suddenly no longer fighting for control of my addiction. I was willing to face my fear head on and walk right into a detox center. That was the moment that everything changed for me.
In order to become willing to face your fear head on and go through the detoxification process, you have to reach a point of misery in which you are sick and tired of the rat race that is addiction. Once you reach this point and surrender, your life will never be the same again.