The other day we looked at the true costs of addiction treatment. Today we want to consider the idea that inpatient rehab is the way to solve our addiction problems.
Rehab is not a magic bullet
Of course there is a common objection to the idea that “treatment is the solution” because so many people who attempt to get clean and sober through rehab end up relapsing.
Put simply, treatment is not a magic bullet. Due to the nature of addiction and alcoholism, chances are good that treatment will never be a magic bullet.
The problem is that you cannot change someone’s self will if they are dead set against the change. You can not make decisions for other people. Sometimes an addict or an alcoholic is just dead set on the idea that they are going to use their drug of choice to their heart’s content and no one is ever going to stop them. They may be just fine with self destructing due to addiction, thank you very much. In such cases there is little to be done, and no treatment center in the world could possibly help them. No professional could speak to them or work with them and get results. They just don’t want to be clean and sober….therefore, nothing works.
So in that sense, there is always going to be this barrier, this failure rate, and it may never change–no matter how much we learn about treating addiction or alcoholism. Another problem is what we might think of as the “surrender gap,” if you will. This is the gap between when a struggling addict wishes that things were different, and the point at which they are willing to do ANYTHING in order to get sober. You might think that this gap is fairly narrow, but in my experience the gap is actually quite large.
For example, I got to a point in my own addiction where I wished that things were different, and I even wished at times that I had never started drinking or using drugs. But I can also look back and see that when I had these thoughts, I was still a long way from “total and complete surrender.”
And of course the problem is that you cannot make any progress in recovery until you have reached that point of total surrender. The saying is “half measures availed us nothing” and it is absolutely true, no matter if you are following AA or not.
To some extent, the choice of rehab is almost irrelevant. People have this false belief that if they could just pick the exactly right rehab center, or if they could just find this magic treatment center, then the addict would be cured and everything would work out fine. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, it may be the case that any rehab will work or even the worst possible rehab you can find may be the ticket to salvation. The reason for this is because it depends about 99 percent on the willingness and surrender and commitment of the individual, and only about 1 percent on the actual treatment method.
Don’t get me wrong, rehab is still important, and it can be effective. But keep things in their proper perspective here. 99 percent of your success is based on the stuff inside you–not on any external solution. It is all about your surrender. Have you finally broke through your denial completely? Are you willing to do anything in order to stay clean and sober? The answers to these questions are a hundred times more important than what treatment center you attend.
Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that attending a treatment center–ANY treatment center–cannot change the answers to those questions. Sure, a rehab can help you, and it may give you the tools that will eventually save your life, but it is really your surrender and your decision to find a new way to live that is “working the magic of recovery.” Do not make the mistake of giving credit where it is not due. Your own willingness and level of surrender is what is truly important here.
So even with all of the common objections (including the one about rehab not working so well all the time!), inpatient treatment is still the best thing we have going. Sure, there are some alternatives out there, such as:
* Counseling or therapy.
* Outpatient treatment.
* Attending 12 step meetings.
* Try doing it completely on your own.
And so on. But none of those options can offer the same level of treatment that inpatient rehab can. Some of those options might be included in a trip to inpatient treatment as well, but with inpatient treatment you get something MORE.
In this case, the thing that you get “more” is the idea of disruption.
Disruption is critical for most addicts and alcoholics
If you have ever been stuck in addiction yourself, then you know how important it is to find a disruption in order to escape the pattern of addiction.
Addiction and alcoholism have a pattern. They have their own inertia. Someone who is stuck in the pattern of addiction will have a strong tendency to stay stuck. This is what defines addiction to begin with, really. We dig ourselves into a hole and we cannot get out on our own. If we could get out, we would not be addicted.
Therefore nearly every struggling addict or alcoholic will benefit when they deliberately disrupt this pattern of abuse in order to try to get a clean start on recovery. If you stay stuck in your old using/drinking environment and try to get clean, it can be very difficult due to all of the environmental triggers. If drugs or alcohol are always available and on-hand then it makes it really tough to break out of your old pattern.
When you go to inpatient rehab you make a serious disruption to your pattern of abuse. Because it is a controlled environment there is zero chance for relapse while you are there. Most rehabs have a medically controlled detox area so you are pretty much guaranteed to be safe. All you will really need to worry about is what you are going to do to stay clean and sober after you leave rehab. So this challenge becomes the focal point of your education while you are there, as you try to learn the skills and tools that will be necessary to prevent relapse. Most rehabs also expose you to 12 step meetings and encourage you to use them for outside support. Just another tool in your arsenal to keep you sober once you are back out in the “real world.”
Staying clean and sober while you are at inpatient treatment is easy, and that is the whole point. It is designed to be easy. There are no temptations there. They have you covered from a medical standpoint. They try hard to prevent people from sneaking in illicit substances.
The length of the disruption matters. Unfortunately as health care costs have spiraled out of control, the lengths of time that people stay in rehab has steadily crept downward. What used to be a 28 day program is now around 7 to 14 days. No one will pay for more, and no one can really afford more. Sure, there are some long term programs that are funded differently (and are set up as housing, not as short term rehabs) but these are serving a different purpose (specifically, if you need MORE disruption than what short term rehab can provide, you might consider long term).
There are alternative forms of disruption, but none of them are as pleasant or convenient as inpatient treatment. For example, jail or prison is a disruption. You generally will get a break from your drug of choice when you land in one of those places. The same is pretty much true if you end up in a hospital or a mental ward. But none of these disruptions are as desirable as going to inpatient treatment of your own volition.
Another good point is that, out of all of these potential disruptions (death, prison, mental ward, hospital, rehab), the only one that is generally voluntary is treatment. The rest of them are all things that just happen, they are forced on you, and are not generally planned for. None of those other disruptions are desirable. But if you continue to abuse drugs and alcohol, at some point it is inevitable that you will face one of those disruptions. Take your pick, it will either be death, jails, hospital, mental ward, or rehab. The only one you can really choose proactively is to go seek addiction treatment. The rest of them just sort of happen as a consequence of NOT seeking help.
Therefore you should choose your disruption wisely and deliberately. If you ignore the idea that you need disruption in order to get your life back on track, then eventually your life will auto-correct whether you want it to or not, and the resulting disruption is not likely to be pleasant. Much better is to head it off and choose treatment voluntarily while you still can.
Where are you going to get support for early recovery?
Another question you may want to ask yourself (after you ask: “How am I going to disrupt my pattern of addiction?”) is this one:
“Where am I going to get support in my early recovery?”
Most people will not have a built in support system for their lives, and if they did, they would have pushed it away during their addiction. Therefore they will need to make changes or seek out some form of support in early recovery if they are going to be successful.
There are a few different options that you might have in order to find support:
* Meet people at rehab, follow up with them after leaving.
* Attend 12 step meetings on a regular basis.
* Join a church or other organization that meets on a regular basis.
* Live in long term rehab or transitional housing.
Most people who are struggling with addiction or alcoholism will find it tough to jump into any of these solutions. My suggestion is that a trip to inpatient rehab is probably the easiest path. It may not be a magic bullet and it may not work 100 percent of the time, but it is the quickest shortcut to getting the support you need in early recovery. Not only will you meet people in rehab that can become part of your support network, but you will almost certainly be exposed to 12 step meetings as well.
My personal philosophy of recovery has always been about the move toward greater independence over time in recovery (and reducing dependency on programs, meetings, etc.). Having said that, I still believe that support is very important during early recovery, and that most people are going to end up relapsing if they do not get any support for themselves early in the game.
Trying to do it all yourself
If you pay attention then you will realize that every single person who attends inpatient rehab has already tried to do it all on their own, usually several times. This phenomenon has to do with selection bias as well. If you are in a rehab center, an AA meeting, or anywhere else that addicts and alcoholics go for help–then you can safely assume that everyone who is there (voluntarily) has already tried to overcome their addiction on their own.
This is simply human nature–no one actually wants to make the ego-crushing admission that they are “too weak to overcome their drug or alcohol problem.” No one wants to admit that they are out of control and that they need serious help. Therefore anyone who really wants to change has already tried to do so while “saving face.” They tried to figure out a way to control their addiction on their own, without having to go to rehab and make a big deal out of the whole thing. Their secret hope was to gain control over their problem and just sweep it under the rug quickly so that no one else would have to find out.
Maybe some people who have a less serious “problem” are able to do this successfully. The rest of us end up in jails, institutions, hospitals, and rehabs. We need help because we cannot do it on our own.
If you really want to get clean and sober on your own then simply do it. Stop beating around the bush and claim your sobriety (and your serenity!). If that works out well for you, then great! If not, then it is time to get honest with yourself and realize that you cannot do it alone. Even if this is the case and you have to admit that you need help, you can still “do your own thing in recovery” some day. You just can’t start out that way, because you do not know how to live sober. You must first learn how to live a clean and sober life, and to do that you need to ask for help, you need to take direction from others, and you need to follow some sort of new structure in your life.
My opinion is that “doing it yourself” works great in long term recovery, but not so well when you are just starting out. You need new information in your life in order to make the leap into sobriety. You can only get that new information by taking advice, listening to others, asking for help, following programs, etc. You do not necessarily need to follow a program but you do need to take advice and do something different with your life. What you have been doing up until now has not been working, and if you are a struggling addict or alcoholic then you are out of ideas. Time to seek outside assistance.
What if you do not agree with the rehab program philosophy?
Let’s say that you check into rehab and they have a philosophy that you disagree with. This may be a 12 step program, it may be a religious based program, or it may be a combination of the two. If this is the case and you object to the philosophy, what should you do?
This can be a great excuse for nearly anyone because it is easy to get all worked up and overly protective of your own “precious beliefs.” My response to this sort of reaction is “big deal,” and in addition to that: “who cares?”
If you are bent out of shape because you tried to seek help and now you feel like the treatment center is imposing their beliefs on you, then what is your alternative? So what about your precious belief system? Your best ideas about living almost got you killed, right? That is why you are checking into rehab, correct? You have decided that you want to live, and you finally realized that addiction was killing you. So now that you are in treatment you all of a sudden have this big thing about your beliefs, and you are offended because the treatment philosophy does not match up with perfectly with your existing beliefs?
Get over yourself!
Seriously, what makes you think that you are so important that you cannot just suck it up for a few weeks, go along for the ride, and see if you can learn anything? What makes you think that your personal beliefs are so sacred and precious that you cannot expose yourself to some new ideas? Get over it already, you are fighting for your life here! This is more important than your precious beliefs.
Don’t block yourself from a new life in recovery because you can’t get past the higher power thing, or because the only rehab in town is Christian based, or whatever the case may be. Your beliefs are NOT as important as overcoming addiction. People who get this backwards tragically go out and die from addiction, clinging tightly to beliefs that were somehow the excuse to avoid treatment.
I am not saying that you have to sacrifice your beliefs. What I am saying is that you need to get treatment, and your beliefs must NOT be an excuse to prevent this from happening. If this is the case then you are just hurting yourself in the long run.
I know a guy who is clean and sober today and he is not a Christian, but he went through a Christian treatment center because “it was the last house on the block that had its light on.” He had nowhere else to go. And instead of complaining about having beliefs forced on him, this guy did the amazing thing and he simply shelved his opinions while he was getting help, and he did his best to be open, civil, and helpful while he was in this rehab. The treatment center liked him so well that they offered him a job there, even though he was not of the same belief system. This is the sort of “spirituality” that makes recovery actually work. Positive actions rather than “correct beliefs.”
Don’t let your beliefs get in the way of recovery. It’s not worth it. Open your mind, put your opinions on the back burner for a while, and become open to a new path (any path!) in recovery. Anything is better than the addiction you were living in.
Inpatient treatment is ultimately your best option in most cases
The bottom line is that going to inpatient treatment is almost always going to be your best option. It is a powerful disruption and it can help you find the support that you are going to need in early recovery.
Many, many people regret not going to treatment. But almost no one ever regrets checking into a place.
Therefore if you want to change your life, just go. Make the call. Make it happen.
Ask yourself: “What have I got to lose?”