I used to believe that the most valuable treatment resource for beating drug addiction and alcoholism had to be long term treatment, mostly because that is what finally worked for me in my recovery.
I had been to a couple of short term rehabs and those had failed for me. I had also been to private counseling with an addiction specialist or whatever and that never worked for me either. So I am partially biased towards long term treatment as the best solution for recovery, and you can certainly see that bias at work if you look around the website enough.
So my thought has always been that when it comes to treating addictions and alcoholism, more is always better. So you come up with a hierarchy of sorts that goes from the least intensive treatment up to the most intensive, something like this:
* Outpatient therapy
* Inpatient short term rehab
* Inpatient long term rehab
And somewhere in that mix you might throw in “drug maintenance therapies” as well, even though that is a very different sort of treatment.
But basically, I slowly worked the way up the chain while I was still using drugs and alcohol, and nothing worked for me until I became willing to enter into long term rehab for myself.
Up until that point, people had often suggested that I might need long term treatment, but I was not willing to commit to that at the time. I thought it was too great a sacrifice of my life to live in rehab for an extended period. 28 days already felt like a death sentence, so anything longer than that was unthinkable. In the end, I ended up living in rehab for almost 2 years, and actually really liked it (and I had plenty of freedom while living there too, it was really transitional housing sort of rehab).
So if you would ask me what is the best treatment resource I would always say it is “long term treatment” and I would urge anyone who is struggling to check it out. But now that I have worked in a drug rehab facility over the last 5 years I have had a chance to watch the real success rates of both a short term and a long term addiction treatment unit. Now I did not actually have the hard numbers or anything while working in treatment but I simply watched people leave and then a whole bunch of them end up coming back in a year or so.
It would absolutely blow you away to see the amount of repeat customers when it comes to a rehab. Many of the people who relapse end up coming back. So many that it seems like a revolving door at times. And that is OK because most people take about 3 trips to rehab before they finally “get it.” But it would shock most people to see this process in action, and the number of people who relapse and then return to treatment at some point. It is staggering.
So after seeing this revolving door concept for the last 5 years I no longer believe that the length of treatment is AS important. It is still a factor and the head nod still goes to long term rehab over shorter stays, but this is less critical than I believed early on and this was of course due to my own personal experience.
What you have to remember is that I had been to rehab twice before and failed, and each time, I was not really willing to go anyway. I was rather reluctant, and was in rehab for the sake of my family. When I finally checked into long term treatment I did it because I was desperate to do so, I actually wanted to go, ME. Not family or friends pushing me into it. I was ready.
And that makes all the difference, and I can see that now after 5 years in rehab. Because believe it or not, the relapse rates are very, very similar between long term and short term rehab. In fact I was disgusted to watch how poorly the long term success rates were while I was working in treatment over that 5 years. It almost seemed like a waste because so many of the people would relapse, and you know how big an investment it was for a rehab center to house them and try to educate them for months and months at a time. Short term treatment is no better in terms of success but at least there you are not wasting so much time, money, and resources.
And so I see the error in my thinking: it is not the resource, it is the willingness. ANYONE who is desperate and has truly surrendered can recover just by clinging to 12 step meetings…..which are totally free. Not that they are the ultimate solution or anything, but they are a form of support, just as rehab is a solution. And if you throw yourself into a solution with all of your heart then it will work. And if you don’t, you will relapse.
The solution itself is not the ticket. Long term, outpatient, AA meetings, whatever. If you pick something and dedicate your life to it after you have truly surrendered, you will do well. That is the secret.