How Can a Person with Low Income Find a Good Addiction Treatment Program?

Patrick
  • How can you find alcoholism or addiction treatment if you happen to have low (or no) income?

    This is going to depend a great deal on your situation. There are no universal answers to a question like this because there are so many different circumstances to account for.

    In particular, the two main variables that will determine your ability to get help will be:

    1) Where you live (what state, country, etc.).
    2) What insurance or lack of insurance you may have.

    I am assuming of course that you do not have piles of cash laying around. If you do then stop reading this now, call up a local addiction treatment center, and tell them that you will gladly pay cash for their services. They will take you in based on this information!

    Most drug addicts and alcoholics do not have the kind of cash sitting around to pay for professional treatment services. Therefore you are going to either need to pay with insurance or get some sort of help via special funding.

    And it may be the case that you already qualify to have your treatment paid for, but you just don’t know it yet. So this is going to be about exploring your options and seeing what is available for you. And this is really the key behind this whole article, that you need to get more information. In particular:

    1) Make a decision to get help.
    2) Ask for help and be open to suggestions.
    3) Persist until you find a way to overcome your addiction.

    Can the process really be that simple?

    I think that it can.

    How critical is a medical detox for your situation?

    First of all you need to ask yourself a question:

    Just how badly do you need medical attention in order to stop drinking or using drugs?

    This is not always an easy question to answer, especially if you do not understand the severity of certain withdrawal symptoms.

    In particular, alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Someone who is heavily addicted to opiates (such as heroin, methadone, or painkillers) can also go through very dangerous withdrawals (and in very rare cases can also be fatal, usually due to severe dehydration as a side effect of the withdrawal process). In addition to this, there are some other medications that are not painkillers (such as anxiety medications and barbiturates) that can also be fatal or dangerous to stop taking cold turkey.

    Therefore you must be cautious when it comes to the idea of “skipping detox.” Don’t just say that you are confident that you can physically quit on your own without medical supervision. Unless you are very familiar with these various withdrawal symptoms and risks, then it is usually wise to error on the side of caution. In other words, you probably need detox.

    If you don’t need detox, then the options for treatment (or sobering up in general) become a whole lot easier (and cheaper). Detox generally accounts for more of the cost of residential treatment, because the medical staff that is supervising you has to be paid of course. So medical detox has significant costs. Depending on your unique circumstances, you may be able to avoid those costs.

    I know of some people who were seeking recovery and they simply sat in AA and NA meetings all day. This was their “treatment.” They did not have access to an addiction treatment center so they did the best that they could with what they had. They stayed in meetings all day long so that they would not be tempted to drink or use drugs. Of course this will not work for everyone, but it has worked for some people. Just an example of an alternative path in recovery.

    If you think that you need a medical detox, then you probably do. Don’t try to cut corners here unless you are already clean and sober for the most part. Always error on the side of caution.

    The need for a disruption in your pattern of addiction

    Even if you do not need a physical detox, it is likely that you might need some form of disruption in order to break free from your addiction. This is really what the person is doing who hangs out in AA meetings all day for the first 6 months, they are disrupting their pattern of living so that they can break free from the drinking and drugs.

    Rehab does this as well. Going to treatment is a massive form of disruption. All of a sudden you are no longer at home, you no longer see the same people, all the drugs and alcohol are gone. It is a total disruption, not just a partial one. If you go to outpatient treatment then what you get is a partial disruption. That was never enough to help me out and I needed to go into a residential facility in order to finally break free from my addiction. In fact, I needed even more disruption than the standard 28 program and I ended up living in long term rehab for almost two full years. This is what finally led to my sobriety and the reason I was able to do it was because it disrupted my pattern of alcohol addiction.

    There are other forms of disruption but most of them are not very good. For example, you can go to jail or prison and this will disrupt your pattern of addiction (and your entire pattern of living). Unfortunately when you go to jail or prison it does nothing to disrupt your thought processes and the sort of things that may have drove you to drink or use drugs in the first place. Instead of “fixing” your inner problems it just allows them to stew for a while, possibly growing even bigger and getting worse over time. Most alcoholics and drug addicts do not change their behavior when they leave jail or prison unless they latch on to a recovery program or experience some sort of spiritual awakening.

    You might also find yourself in a mental hospital at some point and this is certainly better than staying out in the real world and killing yourself with alcoholism or drug addiction. If the mental facility can help to address your addiction then this is pretty much just as good as substance abuse treatment. The key is to use the disruption to your advantage and take action in order to fix your life. Recovery takes real work, no matter where you get started or who is helping you (or what program you may try to follow, for that matter). In the end it takes real action.

    How to talk your way into rehab

    I don’t mean that you can just talk your way into any rehab or that you can get expensive services for nothing.

    What I mean is that if you are truly desperate to get help then you need to get on the phone and start calling up treatment centers.

    Pick up the phone.

    It all starts with a phone call. Really it does. You may get out your phone book and find a local treatment center. Maybe you find a drug or alcohol help line. Or perhaps you use the Internet to try to find an addiction center in your area. It doesn’t really matter. Really it doesn’t….just pick up the phone and get started. Get out a pen and some paper and get on the phone and start asking questions.

    You might start with things such as:

    * I need help with alcoholism (or drug addiction). What can you direct me towards?
    * I have no money and no insurance. How can I get into your treatment center?
    * Are there funding agencies out there for people in my position? What can I do in order to get the help that I need?
    * Who else could I possibly call or talk to that might be able to help me?
    * Do you know of any other rehabs or treatment centers in the area?
    * Do you know of any hospitals that might be able to help me detox?
    * Can you recommend someone for me to call next?

    You get the idea. These are the sort of questions that you need to be asking. The goal is to get into treatment, to go to detox, to go to residential treatment.

    Getting into rehab is a matter of funding. It is all about payment. I hate to admit that it is all about money but obviously the treatment center has to keep the lights on and pay their staff. If they could “do it all for free” then that would be magical, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, health services cost money and even if rehab is “free,” someone is paying for it. Just take a look at the cost of health care lately to get an idea of what we are talking about here. Rehab is not free and a medical detox is definitely not free. But that does not mean that there is no help available.

    I am not familiar with other countries but in the United States many of the states have money set aside for certain groups of people to get some sort of help with addiction and alcoholism. If you truly do not have any means to pay for treatment then it is somewhat likely that you fall into this group. Now that does not insure that every single person who needs help will automatically get it. In fact, I have worked in the industry long enough to know that there is almost always a greater demand for “free” services than what tax dollars can provide. That said, there are people out there who are getting the help that they need, and many of them did not imagine that they qualified to get that help.

    Being nice and persistent is the key

    It is hard to be nice and polite when you are miserable in addiction. I get that.

    But you have to realize that if you call up a rehab center, there is a person on the other end of the phone who is just doing their job. They want to help you and they want to help everyone if they can but there is only so much that they can do.

    For example, I had the privilege of working the phones at a rehab center many years ago. It was exhausting. Of course I have also been on the other end of it, when I was a hopeless drunk and I needed to get help myself. But talking to people who are struggling to get into rehab can be….interesting. If you do it all day for 8 hours straight and try to get people lined up with appointments and get their insurance straight and help get them to the right funding agencies, it can be challenging. Now imagine that you are doing this and some people are crying to you on the phone, others sound completely hopeless, and some others are actually angry and yelling at you. My boss left on a two week vacation once and I had to cover this position almost the entire time! It was one of the most stressful times I ever worked during that job at the rehab center. Trying to help people in this position is really tough.

    After having had that experience of working the phones at a rehab and getting people lined up to come into treatment, I feel like I can give you some great advice.

    That advice would be this:

    The person that you talk to at the rehab is just doing their job. They are likely under a lot of stress, because it is so difficult and emotional to try to help struggling addicts and alcoholics all day, every day. Therefore you can do them a big favor. You can be patient with them, be nice to them, and whatever you do, don’t yell at them! Pretty obvious, right?

    But it is not obvious. It is very easy to yell at the rehab center when they are telling you it is two weeks before they can get you into detox. Or that you don’t qualify for their rehab because you have no insurance, so you want to yell at them in anger. I am trying to caution you here to not fly off the handle, but to be kind and patient and see if you can work towards a better resolution.

    There is almost always another way forward, another funding agency to try, another referral to make (to someone who can possibly help). If you erupt in anger then it is not likely that you will even get to explore all of those options. So my suggestion to you is to be patient but persistent.

    If you are patient and kind and persistent, then it is very likely that you will eventually get the help that you need. I am not saying that you need to be fake in order to get special favors, only that you must be kind and persistent. That is enough. If you can maintain those two ideals then you will eventually get someone to help you find the treatment that you need.

    Lack of insurance is not an excuse to keep drinking

    Many people will complain that they do not have insurance, so they may as well just keep drinking.

    This is no excuse.

    Not good enough.

    I admit that there are some people who may have been dealt a really bad hand. I know that there are some people who have slipped through the cracks so far, and that do not have any sort of health insurance at all.

    Or there are people who may have really lousy health insurance, and it will not cover rehab unless they pay thousands and thousands of dollars out of pocket.

    Or there may be someone who should be on Medicare (for example), but they applied and for whatever reason they were turned down, so they cannot get the help that they need.

    Obviously, health care is not perfect in the U.S., and it is currently undergoing some sort of shift. The idea moving forward is that everyone will be covered eventually (by law) or they will be paying some sort of penalty because they are deliberately NOT covered with insurance. But even if everyone is covered under some sort of health plan, that may not be enough to get many people the sort of help that they really need in order to recover.

    Interestingly, the farther down the scale you go, the easier it can become to get help sometimes. For example, the place that ultimately got me clean and sober was a long term rehab that was set up for homeless men. You were not expected to have lots of resources, money, or insurance when you applied to get in there. They were designed to help rebuild you from the ground up.

    And there are many places like that in the world, if you care to look for them. A fair bit of warning, too: many of those places are part of an organized religion. So be it. You can’t always get something for nothing, but there are some places that will take you in if you are willing to learn about their faith. I know of at least two people in recovery today who went to just such a place in order to get sober, and it actually worked for them and changed their life. They went in with a rather stubborn attitude but they came out with an open mind. And they were not converted into religious zealots, either. I was very impressed with their transformation, to be honest.

    There is always avenue to explore for help in recovery, if you are willing to look. It is not acceptable to just give up, declare that no one will ever help you, and then go on about your drinking or drugging. This is loser talk. This is how you justify self destructive behavior. Instead, you need to make a decision that you are going to take action, that you are going to do whatever it takes, that you are going to persist until you can find the help that you need in this world.

    There are people out there who will help you if you are earnestly seeking them. There are ways to get clean and sober that do not depend on having top tier insurance or tons of cash in the bank. It is your responsibility to go out and seek those opportunities for yourself. Talk to people. Ask questions. Be willing to become open to new ideas. Whatever you have been doing has not worked out well for you. It is time to put your faith in something else, to try someone else’s ideas for a while.

    Usually when you are offered help it does not look like what we expect it to look like. This was definitely true of my own journey in recovery. This is why you must remain open minded. If you are expecting recovery to look a certain way then you are likely to be disappointed.

    There are almost always options available. Pick up the phone, call a rehab, and start finding out what those options are.

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