Let’s take a look at what helpful drug treatment programs need to accomplish in order to better help addicts and alcoholics:
1) Communicate the enormity of the task of maintaining sobriety – If someone checks into a drug rehab program, stays there for two weeks, and does not leave with the idea that they are up against the toughest challenge of their life so far, then the rehab has failed. Each addict must come to the realization that they are in for the fight of their lives.
Why is this important?
Because so few addicts and alcoholics actually make it and stay clean and sober for the long run. The statistics are lousy and most would say that only about 1 in 10 who leave rehab will stay clean for the entire first year of recovery without any slips. Some estimates are even a little worse than that!
So you have to realize the enormity of the situation. The addict must put every possible effort into maintaining sobriety, or they will eventually relapse. It must become their life’s work, at least in the first few months to a year.
If a rehab does not convey this concept, then they do a disservice to the struggling addict.
2) Communicating the need for a shift in focus as the person maintains recovery – the strategy for maintaining sobriety is different at 60 days sober than what it is at 3 years sober. Is this right or wrong, good or bad? No, it just IS. Accept the fact that you have to change and grow in your recovery, or you will potentially screw up and relapse.
What got you clean and sober will not keep you there forever. We don’t live in rehab forever. Most people with 20 years of sobriety have a life outside of recovery, and they do not attend 7+ AA meetings per week. You have to change and grow in order to stay sober. Recovery programs should help illustrate this concept in some way.
3) Teach people coping skills to help them deal with everyday life stresses – Obviously there are people in early recovery who are dealing with all sorts of outside issues in their lives: relationship problems, job problems, trouble at school, and so on. There is no shortage of stress in the life of any newly recovering addict or alcoholic. If the person cannot find effective ways to deal with all of that stuff, they are just going to revert to what they know works fast for them: their drug of choice. Thus, most decent rehabs have classes that teach at least some basic techniques for handling emotions.
4) Caution against dependency on a social solution – Most rehabs get this totally wrong, in my opinion. They set people up for possible failure by basically teaching dependence on AA or NA. This is not entirely bad in all cases, because those programs do work for some people, but on the other hand, they have their own success rates which are not great by any means. Many, many people in recovery need to seek solutions that go beyond the social solution that is 12 step, group-oriented recovery.
5) Address complicating health problems – A lot of addicts and alcoholics get tripped up in their recovery due to poor health. This happens for a number of reasons and in several different ways. But ultimately it can lead to relapse if people do not address their overall health in recovery.
6) Inspire addicts and alcoholics to take responsibility in all areas of their lives – this goes along with the idea of taking care of your health. Many addicts have legal issues, relationship issues, and so on. If you have chaos in any area of your life, it can set you up for failure in recovery. So rehabs need to push people to take responsibility enough so that they do not sabotage their own recovery efforts.