Getting the Most Out of Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

Getting the Most Out of Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs


I have been working at a residential drug treatment program for about 5 years now, and I get to watch all sorts of people come and go. The amazing thing about working in a rehab center is that so many of the struggling addicts and alcoholics keep coming back. They return to treatment because they continuously fail. This is shocking when you experience it first hand, but I guess I should not be surprised: I went through a couple of rehabs myself before I “got it.”

So I know how to fail at treatment, and I also know how to leave one and stay clean and sober for quite a long period of time. And I also have watched hundreds others who have failed, and a few who have succeeded.

Here is what I have learned.

Keep an open mind going into a drug rehab visit

If you want to succeed in a drug or alcohol treatment program, the absolute best piece of advice is that you go into it with an open mind.

Clearly I failed to do that the first 2 times I attended treatment, and my results spoke for themselves.

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The first time I was only trying to quit alcohol, but fully intended to keep using other drugs (you can guess how well that worked out!).

The second rehab I was only willing to do short term rehab, and was not willing to follow through with any aftercare (again, you can guess how well that worked out!).

The third rehab I went to I was completely whooped, and I was willing to do anything. They suggested that I live there. So I moved in, stayed for 20 months, and have been clean and sober ever since.

Being open to their suggestions was what made all the difference for me.

Follow the rules and actually participate in groups and therapy

If you go to treatment and either:

* Break the rules


* Fail to participate in your treatment


….you are not going to stay clean and sober.

This is all but guaranteed. And yet, incredibly, so many people who attend treatment facilities do both of these things and insist that they will somehow magically stay clean and sober for the rest of their lives.

Even those who follow the rules and actively engage in the treatment process, many of them still end up relapsing. So if you fail to do those things then you are really sabotaging your effort.

Follow the rules and actively participate in your treatment. It really is the bare minimum.

Ask your therapist or counselor about long term drug treatment programs and aftercare options

This is part of what participation in your recovery is all about.

Ask yourself: “How am I going to stay clean and sober each day? How am I going to cope in my recovery?”

If you do not have a good answer for those questions, then you do not have a plan for your recovery.

In my experience, you DO need a plan.

Staying clean and sober is tough. It does not happen by accident. You don’t just “get lucky” and end up staying clean and sober for years on end. It takes work, and it takes a solid plan.

So if you are in a treatment center then your primary goal needs to be making a recovery plan. You need to figure out exactly what you are going to do in order to stay clean and sober.

Most any addiction treatment program has therapists or counselors to help you devise such a plan. But you have to participate, you have to get involved, you have to communicate. Figure out what will work for you and then talk with your therapist about your options.

Get family involved if they have a program that allows it

This will not apply to everyone of course, but if you have a family that is supportive of your recovery efforts, then you should try to involve them in your treatment. And if your family does NOT support your recovery, then perhaps you really need to get them involved, so that they can learn a thing or two.

The data generally shows that family involvement improves your chances of staying clean and sober.

Follow through with your aftercare plan

Every time that I tried and failed to get clean and sober, it was because I did not follow through with my aftercare recommendations.

The people at rehabs are experts at recovery (compared to the general population at least). They know what works and what does not.

So if they tell you to do something and you ignore them, then guess what? Relapse is almost certain.

Look too at the idea beyond their recommendations to see the underlying principles. For example, they might suggest that you attend AA or NA meetings every day. Perhaps this is not really your thing, but you still need to look at what they are actually suggesting: make connections with others in recovery. You might do this in different ways, buy you had probably better do it somehow.

Addiction treatment is generally fairly expensive, and involves both a large commitment in both time and money. Therefore you want to do everything that you can in order to maximize your chances of success. If you leave rehab and end up relapsing then you are pretty much right back to square one, with very little progress to show for it.

Anyone can go to rehab and sober up for a few days…..the real key is in your follow through. Don’t leave it to chance. Make a plan while you are in treatment and then put your whole life and energy into following that plan. This is the only real chance you will have at remaining clean and sober.  Use every addiction recovery resource that you can find to help you succeed.

The odds are heavily stacked against you, but if you put forth a supreme effort, there is no reason that you cannot have a new life in recovery. But you have to put in the work if you want to turn your life around.


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