One of the things that I have learned over the course of my addiction and subsequent recovery is that top treatment facilities for alcoholism and drug addiction are essentially a myth.
There is this idea that if you had access to the absolute best treatment in the world then you could get anyone sober.
Or if you only threw a near-infinite amount of money at the problem and bought the best therapists and counselors in the world that you could effectively “cure” someone of their addiction.
This myth persists because we have an image of how the rest of the world works. We compare addiction recovery to other fields and expect for it to work the same way.
But it doesn’t. You cannot buy sobriety at any price. It has to be earned with misery and experience.
One rehab to rule them all – the myth of the perfect rehab center
If you think about the rest of your life then there are usually ways to spend more money and get an easier solution.
For example, maybe you want change the way that you look, so you decide to change your eating habits and go on a diet. When this proves to be difficult in the long run, you may find yourself envying celebrities who have got similar results as what you are trying to achieve simply by having surgery. Of course those surgeries are expensive and you probably cannot afford them yourself, right?
This sort of thing happens in just about every industry you can imagine. Let’s say that the president of the United States gets sick or comes down with something. Most people believe that the president probably has access to the best health care in the world, and that he can receive treatments that are not even available to the general public. If we were rich, famous, or had power like the president then maybe we would be let in on these sort of “secrets.”
Now whether or not you think this way is a little besides the point, because nearly everyone thinks this way about certain things, and the myth definitely applies to addiction and recovery. We secretly believe that there must be better treatments out there for the wealthy or politically powerful people.
In reality this is not the case when it comes to addiction.
If you take a look at some of the celebrities who have fallen victim to addiction then you will see that this is definitely true. No matter how powerful someone is or how much wealth they command they are not exempt from the destructive power of addiction. Their wealth does not buy them a better treatment program for alcoholism. There are no secret medications that cure addiction that are only available to the wealthy. This might be nice if it were true but it is not.
There are obviously a wide range of rehabs available out there. Some are little more than homeless shelters that are set up to try to help alcoholics and drug addicts who have no where else to turn. And some are set up to cater to the extremely wealthy addicts and alcoholics who expect to be waited on. And of course there is everything in between those two extremes.
The myth that exists in the mind of many is that your odds of success might be different by going to one treatment center over another. This is probably true but only up to a very small extent.
In other words, what determines your success in recovery is:
10% = where you choose to go to rehab.
90% = other factors that have nothing to do with choice of treatment center.
Now it is possible that you could choose a truly awful treatment center that is infested with drugs and booze where no one is really getting clean and sober, and I have to admit that such places do exist out there. There are very few of them though compared to the vast majority of rehabs which are genuinely trying to help people and do a good job at controlling what comes into their facility. But most rehab centers do work very hard at keeping a controlled environment so that people have every chance at recovery when they are going through detox and early treatment.
The one thing that really determines your success or failure in recovery
So if the choice of rehab is not what determines your success or failure in recovery, then what does?
Basically it comes down to one thing:
If you have surrendered completely to your disease then everything else falls into place.
If you have NOT surrendered to your disease completely then essentially nothing will work out. In fact, if you are still stuck in denial and have not yet surrendered then it does not matter which rehab you go to. No one can help you, period.
There is no such thing as a rehab center that helps people to break out of their denial. There is no such thing as a rehab center that is set up to even attempt to try to do that. They have found that there is no point in preaching to that particular group of people, because that group is not yet ready to try to change.
Think of it this way:
You have two groups of people in recovery who might show up to rehab:
1) People who want to get sober.
2) People who really don’t want to get sober.
Now realize that most of these people from BOTH groups are going to relapse.
So what do you think is a good use of time and energy in trying to help people in recovery? It is a tough job no matter how you slice it and even many who genuinely want to change their lives end up failing. But the people who don’t even want sobriety? Forget it. They don’t have a prayer yet. Sure, they may still get sober one day, but they need to go back out and experience more pain and chaos and misery first….so that one day they can come back to rehab and be in the other group of people, the people who actually want to change.
Surrender does not insure sobriety. But a lack of surrender pretty much insures relapse. Think about that very carefully because it has a powerful truth in that idea when it comes to choosing your path in recovery.
Where you go to rehab matters very, very little. What is far more important is that you actually surrender to your disease and then decide to go at all.
So how exactly do you go about surrendering?
My advice is that if you are still stuck in alcoholism or addiction then you need to get honest with yourself. This is a process and it may not happen overnight. You can’t just snap your fingers necessarily and say “I want to be sober forever, I just need to be honest with myself now!” If only it were so easy.
Actually it is, but your brain would never believe it. So you have to slowly break through your denial.
Your denial says that you can have a good time whenever you want when you use your drug of choice (whether that is alcohol or something else, doesn’t matter).
Your denial says that you will be miserable in the long run if you quit drinking.
So what you need to do is to really start measuring things in your life. This is how you get honest with yourself. You must pay attention. You must measure your happiness.
How happy are you, really?
Are you happy all the time? Every day? Every time you take a sip of alcohol?
Probably not. If you have been drinking for a while and you have experienced negative consequences in your life then I can bet that you are not happy 100 percent of the time. If you are, then I would tell you to keep on drinking! But of course that is not reality. If you are struggling with your alcoholism then you are definitely miserable most of the time.
The problem is, your brain keeps telling you that:
1) You are happy whenever you drink alcohol (even though this is not true).
2) You will be even less happy if you get sober. You will be miserable forever because alcohol is the only thing that can make you happy.
This second thing must be disproved to be believed. The only way you can do that is to take the plunge.
28 days may not be enough. Then again it might be. If you go to rehab and go through detox and you are sober for 28 days or more then you will probably notice that you are not as miserable as you predicted that you would be.
If you are still miserable then you should give it more time. To be honest it may take some alcoholics more than 28 days in order to start feeling human again and really find some sort of happiness in their life. That is OK. You just need to be prepared to give yourself time, to give yourself a chance.
If you have been struggling against alcoholism for a long time then I would suggest that you give it a full year at the minimum. Just make yourself a deal that you will surrender to your disease, you will get clean and sober, and you will give it at least a full year before you pass judgement on sobriety. If you are still miserable after a full year in recovery then you can always go back to drinking, right?
In order to surrender you must realize how miserable you are. In order to do that you have to be aware of how you really feel throughout the day. You have to get honest about how happy you are when you are drinking, when you take that first drink, that second drink, and so on. If you black out then you were not really “happy” because you cannot remember it. If you pass out then you are not really happy either. So the only time that counts as being “happy” for the alcoholic is after they start drinking, after they get properly sauced up or “buzzed,” but before they pass out or black out.
If you notice something that over time the alcoholic will lose the ability to be “happy” when they are drinking. Because that window of happiness in between their buzz and the blackout or pass out is a tiny little window of happiness.
When you first started drinking that window was huge. It would last for an entire 12 pack of beer and go all day and all night. You were happy. Buzzed. On top of the world.
Later in your alcoholism that “happiness window” has shrank considerably. You may drink 12 beers and half a bottle of liquor before you feel “buzzed” and happy. And you may only be happy for a short while before you pass out or black out. The window gets smaller and smaller over time. This is how addiction progresses. Eventually the window of happiness is gone completely. I knew a guy in rehab once and he would black out from a single drink. No more fun for him. Just straight to blackout.
So if you are still drinking then you need to pay attention to this stuff. If alcohol is your wonder drug and your miracle cure and it makes you happy, then start measuring how well it really works. This is the only way that you will ever break through your denial. You must force yourself to realize that the good times are long gone, and that you can no longer make yourself happy all day and all night by simply drinking this magic potion. The magic is gone. Time to wake up.
Formula for success: Ask for help, go to treatment, stop sweating the details
Here is the formula for success in early recovery:
* Ask for help from people you trust.
* Follow their directions and go get professional help.
* Stop trying to control your life. Surrender that control over to other people.
This is simple to do but not necessarily easy. The reason it is not easy is because no one likes to give up control of their life. But this is the quickest way to turn your life around and succeed in early recovery.
Most people who first get into treatment think that they are smarter than average. In fact, nearly every single recovering alcoholic and drug addict believes that they are smarter than average!
But I have news for you:
Being smart doesn’t really help in early recovery.
Nor does it help to believe that you are smart. In fact that is even worse than actually being smart.
The smart people try to figure it all out for themselves. This is extraordinarily hard to do in early recovery.
I thought I was pretty smart, and I could not do it. I don’t know of anyone who really has.
In fact, what finally worked for me in early recovery was:
* Went to my third rehab after surrendering.
* Agreed to live in long term rehab for 6 months to 2 years (stayed for 20 months total).
* Made an agreement with myself that I would not trust myself to make any decisions for myself without consulting anyone else first, at least for the first full year of sobriety.
This last one is a key point. I could not even trust myself to think on my own feet in early recovery. If it was my own idea I largely ignored it. If it was someone else’s idea then I would entertain it and possibly follow up on it.
This brings up a hard truth that no one wants to admit:
We don’t always know what is best for ourselves.
You go get a sponsor or a therapist in recovery. They tell you what they think you should do. You do it. Your life gets better.
Not just a little better, but a lot better.
A whole lot better.
And you cannot deny this when you see it working in your life.
I can remember being in treatment and realizing that it was working. It was like a miracle. I was becoming happier! And it wasn’t anything that I was doing, meaning that it was not anything that I had come up with on my own. I was just following suggestions that other people gave me.
Now admittedly, those suggestions were not rocket science. They were telling me to live in rehab, to go to meetings, to stay sober, to go back to college, to get a job, and so on. Any fool could figure this stuff out, right? But they can’t. And the alcoholic won’t figure it out, not in early recovery. They will sabotage their own efforts and end up drinking again, unless they can learn to get out of their own way and follow directions.
This is how you surrender.
By listening to other people.
It sucks and it is hard to do, but if you can do it (and push your ego aside) then your life will get better by leaps and bounds.
This is the biggest secret of recovery. It is also why you cannot “buy” sobriety by going to the perfect treatment center, or by throwing more money at the problem.
It all comes down to surrender.
Is there a cure in the future? Probably not
Lots of drug companies are (ironically?) racing for the cure to addiction. They want to invent a pill that will cure the addict or alcoholic of their affliction.
Many medications have come on the market and some of them do seem to help. But none of them have turned out to be a real game changer. Not by a long shot.
My belief is that there is never going to be a hard and fast “cure” for addiction. Quite honestly I am hoping that something is discovered, some medication or technique that can give alcoholics and addicts a serious helping hand. But so far there has been nothing of the sort and I am not exactly holding my breath.
The closest thing that we have to a “cure” right now is to work an active program of recovery.
The alcoholic must want to change. This is defined by their surrender. If they have not surrendered yet then they do not really want to change (even if they say or think that they do).
Not only must the alcoholic want to change, but then they must become willing to take massive action in order to change. They must be willing to follow through when it comes to building a new life in recovery.
What must they change? Everything.
Every area of their life must change. Every aspect of their health must improve. And in the long run the struggling alcoholic must find a way to embrace personal growth in such a way that they are essentially reinventing themselves in their recovery.
If you fail to reinvent yourself then what happens? You simply revert back to alcoholism.
That is the default. The alcoholic is always an alcoholic at the core. If you strip away their progress and growth in recovery then you are left with the disease. It will always come back if you let down your guard long enough.
This is why recovery is a process, not an event.
This is also way your choice of treatment center matters so much less than what you believe at first.
In order to succeed in long term recovery you must embrace the process of change. This goes far beyond doing 28 days (or even longer) at a rehab facility. The lifelong commitment that it takes in order to stay clean and sober dwarfs the short term recovery at an inpatient rehab.
The solution is clear enough:
Ask for help.
Get of your own way.
Get to rehab. Any rehab. And start building a new life for yourself in recovery.