What makes for effective drug rehab in the early stages?
I would argue that you only need 2 key variables to be properly aligned: timing, and a support network. Everything else is extraneous noise, including specific recovery strategies, tactics, programs, steps, and so on. Keep in mind we are talking about early recovery only here. Timing and networking is all you need.
Let’s take a look at these:
Pretty much every recovering alcoholic or drug addict can look back at their attempts to find sobriety and see how “timing was everything.” We all had moments where we were close to being at that critical level of surrender, but we just were not quite there yet. And so we attempted to get clean and sober and we failed.
We were not ready.
If you stay in recovery and network with others you will hear this over and over again: “They just weren’t ready. So-and-so relapsed last week….apparently they just weren’t ready.” You get the idea.
When people fail in early recovery, we tend to attribute it to 2 possibilities: one, that they were not ready (poor timing), or two, they “just didn’t want it bad enough” (their level of conviction).
It can be very frustrating to blame this on poor timing because that really is something that no one has any control over. You’re not ready until you’re ready….and there seems to be no magic wand that can make a person hit bottom and truly surrender.
But nearly everyone agrees that if you’re not ready to stop drinking and using drugs, then you’re not gonna stay clean and sober. Timing is everything.
Networking / support
The other half of the equation in early recovery is in support and networking. Now this part is definitely debatable, because there are a whole host of other strategies and tactics for early recovery that some people might say are equally important for success, such as:
1) Working a program
2) Working the steps
3) Reading recovery literature
4) Meeting attendance
7) Personal growth
8) Pursuing holistic health
Now any or all of those things might be important for recovery, but what I’m saying is that in early recovery particularly, strong networking and support trumps all of those things. You need peer support in early recovery more than you need any of those things on that list.
Consider what is keeping you clean and sober in early recovery….most of us are just hanging on for dear life, trying to scrounge up another day of sobriety. What truly helps us to overcome temptation when we are gritting our teeth against wanting to drink? What is the most powerful device for keeping ourselves grounded through this trying time?
Another recovering alcoholic, of course. We need peer support in early recovery. Most of us will find this through meetings and through 12 step programs, but there are other ways to get it as well. For example, I lived for 20 months in a long term treatment center that housed 12 recovering alcoholics. This support was critical for my early sobriety.
You need people to help you stay clean, especially in the beginning. Support is the most important thing.
Now here is the fatal twist that often leads to relapse: long term recovery has nothing to do with timing and support networks
Here is where some people get confused: long term sobriety doesn’t rely on either timing or networking and support. Those things become non-issues when you start to rack up some clean time.
After a few years clean and sober, timing is no longer an issue. You are living in recovery and that’s that. Maintain it or relapse.
After a few years clean and sober, most of your support and networking peers from early recovery will have relapsed. There is a distinct shift towards pursuing your own holistic growth as a means to better yourself in recovery. This push for growth becomes more important than peer support as you stay sober for longer periods of time.
Is networking still important? Yes. But it becomes less important over time and holistic health and the push for growth takes some of it’s place. This is a tendency that I see in all of my peers in recovery who have multiple years of sobriety. They are still networking, and many are still involved with the program and working with newcomers. But they have definitely shifted towards a path of personal growth. This growth is their path to sobriety.
What you did in early recovery at 30 days sober will not work for you at 3 years sober, or at 6 years sober, or at 10 years sober. We have to change and evolve and grow in recovery. That’s part of the deal. Peer support will always be important but eventually your sobriety must be driven through positive change. That is ultimately how to beat complacency and that is the path to long term success in recovery.