This is a common question that I used to hear quite frequently when I was working in a drug and alcohol treatment center. People always wanted to know what the best drug rehab in their state or country was.
The idea of course is that if you can just send yourself or your friend, family, or loved one to the best available treatment center, then surely their odds of staying clean and sober will go up drastically. This is the thinking of course.
It is no surprising that we think this way because so much of our everyday lives has conditioned us to think this way. For example, when it comes time to buy a new kitchen appliance we instantly go online to read all of the reviews so that we know which one to purchase. Some are better than others. One of them is probably the “Cadillac model” and stands above all the others in terms of quality. There is usually a best choice for us.
As consumers we have been taught that we have all of these choices in the market, and that some choices are a better fit for us than others. So we are expected to do a little research to figure out which product or service is the absolute best fit for our unique situation.
You would think that addiction treatment works much the same way. Not every treatment center is going to give the exact same experience, right? Some will be more effective than others.
Modern marketing has taught us to think this way. And most of us believe in the illusion that if you just throw enough money at a problem then you can solve it through sheer force of will. I.e., “My son is hooked on drugs but if I only had a million dollars then I could pay for him to attend the greatest treatment center in the world and they would have a really good chance at fixing him.”
(Fortunately) it does not really work that way. There is no secret level of treatment that is reserved for the ultra wealthy that produces better results than what everyone else has access to. Though most of the general population persists in the illusion that if you only had enough money then you could throw it at the problem of addiction and probably cure it. This is wrong.
Is there a magic rehab center that can cure any addict or alcoholic?
There is no treatment center that can magically cure addiction. No one has a monopoly on overcoming drug or alcohol addiction. At best we have various treatment centers around the world who all try their best to help people. But ultimately it is up to the individuals to follow through on what they learn in rehab. This is where the real test comes in: Can the person leaving treatment apply the concepts that they have learned, and follow through on the suggestions to change their life?
Ultimately people are either willing to change or they are not. Unfortunately in recovery from addiction they have to change everything, not just one or two things. This is much more difficult a task than most people envision when they first get clean and sober. Their idea is that they will simply check into rehab, dry out from alcohol and drugs, and then go back to “life as usual.” But the truth is that there is no “life as usual” after getting clean and sober. You have to rebuild a new life from scratch, one that no longer revolves around self medicating all the time. This takes a huge amount of energy and focused effort. Most people seriously underestimate it at first.
Longer term treatment centers can give more support as you are transitioning to this new lifestyle, but the rehab can not actually “cure you” in the end. The individual still has to do the work and they still have to follow through and take positive action. I lived in long term treatment for almost 2 years straight and I watched many of my peers there who failed to follow through. As such they did not get the results they wanted and they ended up relapsing. Just living in long term rehab is not a “cure,” because it does not actually force you to change your whole life. If you want to change everything then you can get a ton of support by living in rehab, but it does not actually force a cure on anyone. Shoot, I have watched people living in long term treatment go out the door and get drunk that very moment, only to come back to the rehab and pack their bags to leave. It is not necessarily any more stable than living anywhere else–it is all up to the individual.
There is no magic cure, there is no perfect treatment center.
Is there a certain amount of money that can be poured into the problem of addiction that would cure it permanently?
Sometimes I think we have this belief that if we just had more money or we were rich that our addiction or alcoholism problem would evaporate. It is very easy to blame our problems on finances and use that as an excuse.
But this explanation does not really hold up if you look at it closely. Just look at all of the addiction and alcoholism problems that celebrities have to face on a regular basis. Their financial situation is usually fairly solid but this does not seem to help them avoid the problem of addiction. In fact the rate of addiction and alcoholism among entertainers and celebrities is probably a little bit higher than it is among the general population, in spite of the fact that they have more money in order to deal with their problems. Just being rich does not cure addiction, and in fact it may make it worse.
If and when you have money in your life, it takes away the excuse from you. You can no longer blame your finances for your misery and so therefore it forces you to realize that you are not happy with yourself or your life.
Just having money will not cure addiction. Attending a nicer rehab does not increase your chances of remaining clean and sober.
Picture two different rehab centers. One is designed for homeless addicts and therefore the people who attend there have to help out and do all sorts of chores in order to keep the clients fed, the kitchen clean, the beds made, etc. The other one is designed for wealthy addicts and celebrities and the clients do not have to lift a single finger, they are allowed to just completely relax.
Now which of these two rehabs do you think has a more effective rate of “curing” addiction or alcoholism? Which is the better rehab if you are concerned with long term sobriety?
My answer is that out of these two very different rehabs, the success rate is going to be very close to being identical. And this is why we tend to fall for the illusion that the rehab that we choose makes a huge difference. It really doesn’t.
What matters much more is the decision between going to rehab at all versus doing nothing. This is what most addicts and alcoholics should concern themselves with. Don’t worry so much about finding the perfect treatment center. Don’t worry so much that you have chosen the wrong rehab center. That is ridiculous, you just can’t tell how ridiculous it is from your current viewpoint. But I have been to several rehabs and I have worked in the field of addiction recovery for 12 years+ and I can tell you that, from where I am sitting, the decision of which rehab you should go to is actually pretty meaningless. We think it is important when we are faced with the challenge but the really important question is this:
“Are we going to rehab at all?”
This question is about 100 times more important than “which rehab should I go to?”
Just going to treatment when you have surrendered to the disease is 99 percent of the battle. Choosing the “right” or perfect rehab to attend is generally not an issue. At all. Help is help. Detox is detox. You are either ready to change your whole life, or you are not.
This is why your recovery actually hinges on surrender. Rather, it hinges on the depth of your surrender.
If you want to know which rehab center is perfect you, it is this one:
The one you attend when you have reached total and complete surrender.
The importance of surrender on treatment outcomes
I worked in a drug and alcohol treatment center for roughly 7 years of my life, full time. During that time I had the privilege of watching several hundred (possibly thousands) of people attempt to get and stay clean and sober. Many of these people who left treatment and relapsed eventually came back for more treatment later on, in order to try again. Because of this “revolving door effect” I got a good idea of who was making it and who was relapsing.
The amazing thing was that it was so difficult to predict who was going to relapse. Sometimes I would be completely shocked to hear that a certain person was scheduled to come back into treatment. It was always upsetting because I would have been so sure that they were going to stay clean and sober based on their good attitude.
But that is the harsh reality of recovery: Just having a good attitude does not insure that you will remain clean and sober. Just being positive in early recovery is not enough to make sure that you never relapse. It takes a lot more than that.
The real measure of your success in long term sobriety is the depth of your surrender. It all depends on how deeply you have surrendered when you attempt to get clean and sober. Many people that I watched in treatment had not really surrendered at all, and it was easy to predict that they were simply not ready to get sober yet.
Such people had the wrong attitude completely. They had not endured enough pain and misery yet at the hands of their addiction. Quite honestly I am not even sure why some of these people would come to rehab at all, if they are still glorifying drug or alcohol use and they are not yet miserable from their addiction. This is a prerequisite to embracing recovery and change. If your addiction has not led you to complete misery yet then you are definitely not ready to change your whole life.
Other people in rehab were more on the fence, they were more in a medium state of surrender. They had experienced some seriously negative consequences from their addiction, but they were still not completely fed up with their old life to the point that they were willing to change everything.
You can’t just be miserable, you have to be so completely sick and tired of addiction that you are willing to squash your own ego in order to make changes. This is a different standard of surrender than most people believe is necessary at first. Which is why so many people relapse after attending rehab (at least the first time)–they have seriously underestimated their disease and how much effort it will take to rebuild their life.
It is only after going to treatment and failing (sometimes more than once) that we can grasp just how much effort is really required in order to change our whole life.
I have heard many people in recovery talk about hitting bottom. This is the point at which they surrender. But one of the common themes that I hear over and over again is that people thought that they had hit bottom, but they really had not. So they realize later that they were kidding themselves, that they then went back out for some more misery, and they hit an even lower bottom. Usually when they are talking about this it is after another relapse and they are now trying to get sober again. But this time they realize that they have reached a new low and a new bottom in their life. I guess we might call this “false bottom syndrome.” You can always go lower, actually. Anyone can relapse at any time and if you do then you can be sure that things are only going to get worse.
So the question really is “Have you had enough misery in your life that you are now ready to put forth a serious effort in recovery?” I had to hit bottom and become completely miserable before I became willing to face the fears I had concerning recovery. I had to become miserable enough that I was willing to do whatever it took to build a new life in recovery. I had to become willing to dedicate my entire life to the recovery process. I could not do that until I had reached a certain point in my addiction, a point in which I was completely sick and tired of the cycle of addiction.
Don’t think about it, just go to treatment. Take action now
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction then my suggestion to you is to take action now. Don’t delay, as any delay may cost you an entire precious life.
I had to go to rehab 3 times total in my life. After I went the third time I have been clean and sober ever since, and it has been over 12 years now.
I don’t mind that it took 3 tries. I see that most of my peers in recovery also need more than one attempt at sobriety as well.
So what? Big deal. There is no cure out there. There is no perfect rehab that can insure you will stay clean and sober forever.
For any addict or alcoholic who has never been to treatment before, I would say this:
Just go to rehab. Get on the phone and call a rehab and just go. Stop debating, stop rationalizing, stop worrying about it all. You are just wasting mental energy at this point. You can either stay stuck in your addiction or you can take action and try to change your life. There is no middle ground. You are either ready for massive change in your life or you are not.
So if you are willing, if you are even the slightest bit willing, then make the call now and go to rehab. Sometimes the phone can weigh a million pounds but you just have to pick it up and make the call.
You may have all sorts of questions about why you may not be able to go to treatment:
What if they don’t accept my insurance?
What if I don’t have any insurance at all and no one can help me?
What if I go to rehab and then I relapse right away?
What if I go to treatment get sober and I am miserable?
What if I leave my family to go to treatment and they really need me while I am gone?
And on and on and on.
None of it matters. The world doesn’t really need you drunk or high. It needs you clean and sober. The amount of positive impact that you can make on this world when you are clean and sober is infinitely greater than if you are still trapped in addiction. You may not be able to see that or believe it right now, but it is pretty darn easy for me to see now that I have the added perspective of being sober for 12+ years.
So stop thinking so much. Stop making excuses. Stop talking yourself out of positive action.
The most positive action that any struggling addict or alcoholic can take is to attend treatment. Go to rehab. Seek professional help.
And stop sweating the details. Just pick up the phone and start making calls, call up any rehab, start asking questions. The path will unfold for you as you go along. Someone will be able to help you. If a rehab cannot take you in then they will direct you towards someone else who might be able to help. If you persist then you will find someone who can help you.
There really is only one choice to be made here:
Take action, or don’t.
There is no alternative. All of the worrying and fretting over details is meaningless. It’s time to make a decision. Are you going to seek professional help, or not?
Take action today. Make the call right now.