An alcohol rehab clinic has 2 main purposes: one is to get the alcoholic physically detoxed from the alcohol, and the second thing is to teach them how to live a life of sobriety without reverting back to their method of self medicating with booze.
Detox is pretty straightforward and can be handled in most cases from a medical perspective. Yes, it can be dangerous, so you would be wise to do it in a real rehab facility if you are physically addicted to alcohol. If you have ever had the tremors, even slightly, from quitting drinking, then you probably need medical detox. Better safe than sorry–alcohol withdrawal can actually kill you. You can die from not drinking.
So if detox is pretty much a breeze (despite being somewhat dangerous), then what is the big problem with treatment? What makes success for recovering alcoholics so difficult?
The saying that sums it up pretty nicely is: “The problem is not stopping, but in staying stopped.” The alcoholic has to learn how to live life, all over again. This is much more difficult than what most people expect it will be. You have to learn how to have fun again without being drunk. You have to learn how to handle your emotions while you are stone cold sober. You have to learn how to deal with everyday stress without running to the bottle. This all takes time and a lot of effort. It does not happen overnight. These are learning processes that have to occur, starting from the day that you take your last drink, and possibly lasting for several years or even decades as you continue to grow in recovery. In fact, you are never really done growing and learning in recovery.
So how can an alcohol rehabilitation clinic instill these ideas into people who are struggling with alcoholism? How can they convince their clients that this is a lifelong journey, and a few days or weeks in rehab does not even really scratch the surface? Some treatment professionals take the stance that “the client has to want it” if they are going to recover. In some cases, it seems like substance abuse treatment shifts a great deal of their failures onto the shoulders of their clients. It is a tough population to work with, and there is no way to insure success with any alcoholic. But we need to push ourselves to find new ways to connect with clients, and new ways to help them get the support that they need to stay sober.