One of the scariest things I ever did was to check myself into an addiction treatment center. Actually, the first 2 times was pretty scary, but the last time wasn’t so bad….because I kind of knew what to expect.
The only scary part in checking in this last time was the dreaded thought of facing life without drugs and alcohol. Luckily I was able to conquer that fear, thanks to a long stay in a treatment center that basically saved my life.
So if you or anyone you know is going to be going into treatment anytime soon, this might be a handy thing to read first–as I’ll be showing you all the ups and downs of what to expect.
Finding a treatment center
I would suggest that you look locally. This is what worked best for me and actually got me clean and sober….I went to a local treatment center and finally found success. In the past, I had gone across the country to a supposedly “more successful” and prestigious treatment center, but failed to stay sober after leaving there. Here are a couple of reasons that I believe you should stay local and close to home when selecting a treatment center:
1) Support system – you will meet new recovering addicts in treatment and probably gain some exposure to local 12 step meetings as well. When you get out of treatment, these new relationships and the exposure to the local 12 step community will prove invaluable at helping you to maintain sobriety in early recovery. If you go far away to a treatment center, you won’t get these benefits when you leave. Instead, you’ll come home to a complete lack of a support system. Staying local plugs you into an existing recovery network.
2) Family involvement – most treatment facilities encourage family participation in their recovery model. Staying close to home can facilitate family participation which will ultimately lead to better outcomes.
3) Cost – it’s usually cheaper to stay local.
Remember that there is no magic bullet out there. The outcome of treatment is 90 percent conviction, 10 percent treatment center. In other words, it really doesn’t matter where you go so much, if the person is truly ready to change their life, then anywhere will do just fine.
Motivating yourself to go
How does someone actually get to the point of agreeing to go to treatment? Better yet, how does someone get to the point of actually picking up the phone and seeking out the help themselves?
The idea behind these questions is that an addict must surrender in order to recover. The same idea applies to the willingness to go to treatment. It’s fear that holds us back from changing our lives. It’s fear that keeps us using drugs and alcohol in order to medicate our feelings. The idea of going to treatment is actually pretty scary for most people, on a number of different levels. The change is so vast; so big. It’s overwhelming, in that the addict has to face reality again without self medicating. They have to face the world and actually feel their feelings.
One tactic that was proposed to me at one point was to get as sauced up as possible before going to treatment so that I would not lose courage and back out of the deal. I have heard that this has worked for some people but it really didn’t work for me. The time that I tried doing this, I did go to treatment–but I wasn’t ready to stop drinking, and I ended up relapsing. The next time around I did not have a need to do this–I simply threw in the towel and was able to enter treatment without having to get blitzed. I have been clean and sober ever since.
I don’t know if there is a trick to generating your own motivation to go to treatment. I can suggest that you take an honest look at your life and ask yourself if you’re still having fun with drugs and alcohol. If getting drunk and high has become a chore, or something that you have to do just to feel normal, then you might want to take a look at getting some help.
If you are trying to motivate others, I have already written in detail about how to convince them to stop drinking and also how to convince them to go to treatment. I must warn you though, neither task is even remotely easy, and many times is downright impossible. Sometimes all we are left with is hope and prayer that they can eventually find the right path.
Dispelling any fears you might have
I want to assure you that addiction treatment centers are safe and welcoming places. In most cases, some of the staff and people there helping you will be recovering addicts themselves, as I have found to be true at the 3 treatment centers I have attended. This creates an instant connection, because they know how you feel and will not look down on you for your situation.
Many people are full of shame when they first go to treatment. This is completely unnecessary. Addiction is a disease that nobody chooses for themselves. It just happens. What you do about it is your responsibility. Walking into a treatment center is proof enough of action on your part. Feel good about your decision to get help. So many addicts and alcoholics never do seek treatment, which is tragic enough. So lose the shame and know that you are doing the best you can with your situation by going to treatment and asking for help.
Some people are afraid that they will be forced to talk or share in front of large groups by going to treatment. I have found that this fear was overblown, as I was deathly terrified of these situations, but I found that the groups were generally small and I had an easy connection with my peers. Nobody pushed me to say more than I wanted to in any of the treatment centers I attended. In fact, in almost all cases, I could easily avoid talking at all and simply opt to listen quietly. Even if you are extremely shy or anxious, treatment centers are still very accommodating places.
Finally, if you have a fear of stigma or of “being found out by the world” that you are an addict or alcoholic, then you should rest easy knowing that addiction treatment centers are required by law to maintain your anonymity. People are not trying to find out who is at rehab….the media has probably blown this fear up a bit due to celebrities and exposing them when they check into treatment. Thousands of addicts go to treatment every single day in this world, and no one really cares. So get rid of the idea that “everyone is gonna know I’m a drug addict and that I checked into treatment.” Trust me, the people who matter in your life already know….and the people who don’t matter could care less. So put these idle fears aside and go get yourself some help.
How to secure funding
Treatment is generally expensive. Therefore, one of the first steps in attending treatment is going to be in securing a way to pay for it. For most people this will mean one of a few possible options:
1) Private insurance (you might still have a copay or some out-of-pocket expense)
3) State or government funding
It is not worth explaining these options in detail here….instead, you should contact a local treatment center and have them talk you through the process of securing funding. I have found that virtually anyone can find a way to get funding for treatment if they are persistent. Even though the cost can be high, that should be no excuse, and I’ve rarely seen anyone turned away because they could not find a way to pay. There are usually options and ways to get assistance with this. If you genuinely want treatment, then get on the phone and make it happen.
What to expect from detox
Depending on what substances you are using, the medical part of the treatment center will attempt to give you certain medications to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. The idea is also to make the experience safe for you, as some withdrawal can be very dangerous (such as alcohol withdrawal, which can actually kill you). Based on the addiction treatment centers that I have seen, the only thing you are expected to do while you are in the drug detox center is to sleep and get well again. After a few days, they will typically have you start going to groups and transfer you to residential treatment.
What to expect from the groups and meetings
Most treatment centers have groups that consist of informative lectures, group therapy, and usually 12 step meetings as well (such as AA or NA). In most cases, the counselors and therapists that run these groups will be recovering addicts themselves, but in some cases they might not be. Believe it or not, you can learn from both types of people, so don’t shut yourself off to any particular source. They might expect you to share or open up a little bit in these groups but in my experience, they never push you in an unreasonable way if you are nervous about sharing. In that sense every drug addiction treatment center I’ve ever been to has been very welcoming and never pushy. It takes time for some people to open up and I’ve seen treatment centers be very accommodating with that.
Making the most of your stay there
There are a few principles to follow in order to maximize your effectiveness at a treatment center:
1) Open minded – this is the biggest and most important principle right here. If you can stay open to new ideas without shutting your mind to them then you have a much better chance of maintaining sobriety.
Think about it. These people who run the alcohol addiction treatment center are experts at helping people to recover. The vast majority of the staff will likely be recovering addicts themselves. What they suggest to you should carry tremendous weight, because they know so well about what works and what does not. So if the treatment center suggests something that you are dead set against, you might want to reconsider your ideas. Stay open to their suggestions.
2) Honesty – It is possible to go to a treatment center and lie to the people there who are trying to help you. But why would you want to? This only makes things harder both for you and for them. Be honest with the people there and they will better be able to help.
3) Willing – Addiction recovery is about change. You have to be willing to change in order to succeed. Therefore, willingness goes along with the idea of being open minded. When you go to treatment, be ready to take action. Look at it as a new and exciting journey. Getting clean and sober is scary, but if you give it a chance, it’s also pretty exciting. So in a sense it’s like a big trip; a great adventure. Look at it that way and be willing to take action on your journey.
These 3 principles are more than enough to ensure success in early recovery. Try hard to make them a part of your early recovery.
What to do after you leave
This is when the real test begins….when you finally walk out that door of treatment and enter the “real world” once again. For most people, temptation is still there, in the form of their drug of choice being available to them in some way. Here is what you can do to maximize your chances of maintaining sobriety:
1) Have a plan – this is absolutely critical. When people leave a treatment center without having a plan in place first, it spells disaster. They have virtually no chance of staying clean. I know this because I have seen it happen over and over again. It is only the people who have a solid plan in place that even have a chance at making it.
What does a plan consist of? This will vary from person to person, but one possible plan might be: “Attend an AA meeting each day for the first 90 days, attend an intensive outpatient group 5 days a week, get a sponsor at my first outside meeting and call them every day, attend a weekly meeting with a therapist,” and so on. All of those things put together compose a plan of action. If someone leaving treatment simply says “I’m gonna try to get to some meetings,” then that does not inspire as much confidence.
2) Follow through – it doesn’t help much to have a recovery plan if you ignore it. Follow through with the aftercare recommendations and you stand a better chance of staying clean.
3) Consider long term treatment – if you’ve been to treatment before and failed to stay clean, then you might want to consider more intense aftercare. For me, this meant living in a long term treatment program, and it was the best decision I ever made. For some addicts and alcoholics, long term treatment is what it takes to finally find real recovery. It can be more of an holistic addiction treatment center, because you have more time to explore other growth paths. Most people think that living in long term treatment is too big of a commitment and is too disruptive to their life, but the alternative in some cases could be much worse (such as going to jail or prison or ending up dead). I finally gave long term treatment a chance and I’m so glad that I did, because it probably saved my life.
4) Focus on new connections – you need to connect with new friends in recovery, other people who are staying clean and sober like you are. This is especially critical in the beginning when the temptation will be greatest to seek out old familiar friends who might not have your best interests in mind.
I hope that provides a decent overview. If you have any questions about substance abuse addiction or a drug rehab center, please drop me a line or leave a question in the comments.