The single biggest mistake that you can make in early addiction treatment is to avoid inpatient rehab.
I know this because I struggled for several years to find my way into recovery. My biggest roadblock at the time was my fear and stigma associated with going to inpatient addiction treatment.
For whatever reasons, I was putting the idea of “having to check in to rehab” as being someone who was hopelessly out of control, someone who was not worthy of the life that they were living, someone who was completely broken and needed a very serious level of help.
Now mind you, I no longer believe those things. Today, I understand that a person with a drug or alcohol addiction simply has an “allergy” to substances, and that they did not want to become addicted, and it just happened to them. They are not responsible for the fact that they have this allergy; it is a medical disorder. They are, of course, responsible to do something about it once they know the truth, and that truth is that they can go seek treatment for their disease and get their life straightened out. But what I am telling you is that I felt like this level of help–going to inpatient treatment–was far too extreme and drastic for a person like myself. I somehow felt like that must be beneath me, because I was more civil than that, I was more in control than that, I was smarter than that.
But again, I did not understand that this is was a medical disease, not a moral shortcoming. So do not make this mistake of believing that people who need rehab must be terrible or horrible people, that they are morally corrupt to the point that they abuse drugs or alcohol, because that is not the case. It is not a moral failing that drives people to the point of needing rehab. It is a medical disorder.
So we will say that one of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake that can be made, is to avoid going to inpatient treatment.
Because inpatient treatment can be so critical for early recovery, the second mistake is really an extension of the first, and it is this:
Do not leave rehab early if you happen to be in treatment.
I happen to have worked in the addiction treatment industry for many years now, and I have seen this mistake happen over and over again. Someone is in addiction treatment, and they decide that they want to leave early. Maybe they are scheduled to be in for 28 days, or maybe they are just there for 5 days of medical detoxification, or whatever. But when someone decides that they want to leave early before their allotted time is up, it is always bad news.
In fact, I have never experienced or heard of a single case in which someone who left rehab early declared that it was the right choice to make. In nearly every single case, I end up seeing the struggling addict or alcoholic at some point in the future, and they inevitably confess to me that leaving rehab early cost them their sobriety. This happens in every single case that I can remember.
The reason that I think this is such a consistent mistake is because the addict or alcoholic has convinced themselves that they genuinely want to stay clean and sober, even though the “addict part of their mind” has convinced them to leave rehab early. They try to convince you over and over that they are not planning to relapse, but deep in their mind the addict has already taken over, and they are headed for chaos. I see this over and over again, unfortunately. The sad part is that once the mind has “snapped” in this way and they have made the decision to abandon treatment, nothing that you say to them verbally seems to convince them to reconsider.
Now a third mistake that people make in early treatment has to do with follow through. Again, this is really an extension of the other mistakes, because if a person goes through the addiction treatment process and gives themselves over to a program completely, they will do well in recovery. So all of the mistakes that can be made somehow sabotage or prevent the treatment process.
This third mistake happens when an addict or an alcoholic has gone through the inpatient treatment process, and they avoided the mistake of leaving early. They stay the full 28 days, and the therapy staff at rehab give them an aftercare plan to follow. So the recovering addict or alcoholic leaves the treatment center, aftercare plan in hand, and then they…..do nothing.
Most aftercare plans consist of things such as IOP groups, therapy, counseling, AA and NA meetings, and so on. The truth is that if you want to have any kind of chance at rebuilding your life in recovery, you really need to dive in head first and allow your entire life to be consumed with all of these sorts of activities: Meetings, fellowship, counseling, therapy, IOP, and so on. If you are eating and breathing that stuff every single day then you have a chance at staying clean and sober. If you only make a half hearted attempt at those activities, or if you completely disregard them as being unimportant, then you don’t really have much of a shot at remaining clean and sober.
Unfortunately, many people who “graduate” from a 28 day program do not follow through with the “desperation of a drowning man.” What I am telling you is that this is a big mistake: If you want to succeed in addiction recovery, then you need to dive into all those aftercare suggestions and take them very seriously. Your life depends on it.
Now a final mistake that can be made would be a long term issue once someone has successfully completed both short term treatment and their aftercare. So maybe someone has a few years of sobriety under their belt and they went through rehab successfully in the beginning and they are doing fairly well in life now. The last mistake that they could make in long recovery is to become complacent.
What is complacency when it comes to addiction recovery? Complacency sets in when a person that has been working and hustling to build a new and positive life for themselves suddenly stops doing that, they stop hustling, and therefore they stop learning and growing.
The illusion is that the recovering alcoholic or addict will reach a point of stability in their recovery in which they can kick their feet up, relax, and just coast through their recovery journey.
I say this is an illusion because no one actually reaches this point. In order to maintain sobriety in the long run, we have to keep pushing ourselves to learn, to grow, and to be more and more honest with ourselves. We don’t get to “coast” in our sobriety. Keep pushing yourself forward, and good luck!