The Biggest Addiction Recovery Scam and How to Avoid it

The Biggest Addiction Recovery Scam and How to Avoid it


Part of the problem with the addiction recovery industry is that some recovery centers can be prone to prey on the friends and families of people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Some rehrabs do this, in part, by using too strong a language when advertising their services. The word that they use (at times) is “cure.”

Now most treatment centers that advertise probably do not use the word “cure” to try to entice people to choose their rehab. But some do, and I have personally seen at least one major treatment center who advertises on television using the word “cure.”

To me, this is a scam. It is a scam because I don’t feel that it is fair to the friends and families of people who are addicted to use language like that, language that promises a permanent cure.

The false hope for a “cure”

It is understandable that families and friends of addicts would hope for a cure. This is based on the nature of addiction itself, and what people have to deal with in terms of dealing with an addict or an alcoholic on a continuous basis. It’s not fair to the friends and families because the addiction is so incredibly destructive and toxic.

- Approved Treatment Center -


The friends and families are understandably hoping for a cure. They would like nothing more than for the madness to end, quickly and definitively. Anyone who has had to put up with the chaos of addiction for any length of time is going to be hoping for this. But it is even worse after an addiction has dragged on for years or even decades.

This is unfair to the general population though who may not understand the true nature of addiction. They are hoping and praying for a cure, for any kind of permanent relief from the chaos and madness that they have been suffering through.

Why there is no permanent cure for addiction or alcoholism

Unfortunately there is no cure for addiction. It is not a curable disease. Even if an alcoholic or addict gets clean and sober and maintains sobriety for years or even decades, they can (and still do at times) relapse. It happens. The disease is never totally cured.

They have another word for successful recovery. They say that you have “arrested” the disease. You have never cured it fully.

The disease of addiction can be rather sneaky as well–another reason why it is never really cured. For example, I once knew a recovering alcoholic who had over a decade of continuous sobriety and who was very active in working a strong recovery. Unwittingly, he suffered an injury and wound up taking pain medication as prescribed by the emergency. This person then found themselves liking the pain medication much more than they ever had before in their life. So this new twist on their addiction just came out of nowhere. They were not expecting it and it came out of nowhere. They were not looking to self medicate or alter their mind when they fell victim to a new addiction.

So an addiction is never fully cured, and it is always patient enough to try to find a new entry point. No matter how long you have been clean and sober, you are never immune to the threat of relapse. The potential for disaster is always just one moment away.

Unfortunately for addicts and alcoholics, recovery is a pass/fail proposition. You cannot “sort of relapse.” If you think that you have just sort of relapsed, I have news for you: You have totally relapsed. There is no in between. You are either working on a recovery and are completely sober, or you have put alcohol or addictive drugs into your body. Those are the only two possibilities for an addict or alcoholic.

Calling recovery a cure is a mistake

It is a mistake to call the recovery process a cure. It is not a cure, it is just a process that must be continuously embraced in order to overcome an addiction. We can only overcome alcoholism or drug addiction one single day at a time. Each day that you wake up is another potential relapse. That may be a very depressing way to look at it but it is also a very realistic way to look things. If you want to improve your odds of remaining clean and sober then you have to take continuous action.

Most of the general population is misled by this very idea. They are under the false impression that recovery is an event rather than a process. So they may know someone in recovery who quit drinking or drugging at some point. In their mind, the person just suddenly stopped one day, and that was the end of it. End of story. The person just quit.

This is not a realistic way to perceive addiction recovery. To view this occurence of “quitting drinking” as an event is a mistake. It is not an event. It is a process. And in fact it is a life long process that never ends. A few weeks, months, or years of sobriety is not a permanent change back to “non-addiction.” But the general population tends to perceive it that way.

Now some people will hear this argument and believe that it means that every addict will eventually relapse. This is not necessarily the case. But it is true that many addicts and alcoholics will struggle to get started in recovery. And inevitably, some will relapse. But others will eventually “get it” and stay clean for the long haul. Does that mean that they will stay clean and sober forever? We cannot make that claim. To do so is a mistake. We have learned to “never say never.” We did that far too much when we were drinking and using drugs.

The cost of treatment and the price of success or failure

Some people argue that if you cannot really “cure” an addiction or alcoholism, then why is the cost of treatment so high? Why pay so much money for treatment if it doesn’t really work? Why pay money for something that may not even create a lasting change?

These are valid questions, especially coming from the friends, family, and loved ones of a struggling addict or alcoholic. They are right to be concerned with the idea that they might put up a great deal of money for treatment and then be dissappointed. The hope of the friends and family is that they can somehow buy or purchase someone’s sanity. This is part of the illusion of hope that people commonly cling to. They are under the delusion that if you only had enough money or access to the best resources in the world that you would be able to purchase sobriety for someone. This is not how recovery works, even though many of us secretly hope that it works that way.

The cost of treatment is generally only high if the person attending gets out relapses immediately. Obviously in this case the money is “wasted” in that they did not get the desired result (permanent sobriety). To the casual outsider, the money spent on treatment is a complete waste, but someone who has lived through the treatment process may beg to differ. For example, in my own journey I attended 3 inpatient rehabs over a period of several years before I finally “got it.” Anyone who was observing this from the “outside” would believe that the money spent on the first two rehabs was entirely wasted. And perhaps it was to some extent, though I do not feel that this is really true. In my experience, part of the treatment process is that you have to learn what doesn’t work before you can discover what does. You have to try and fail a few times in recovery before you can figure out what it takes to be successful.

If someone has to go to treatment several times before they finally “get it,” then this is still better than the alternative. The alternative is to never get clean and sober, to never get help, to never change your life and find happiness and contentment. The alternative is constant misery. The alternative is a life of permanent misery while living in complete denial (telling yourself that you “enjoy” using your drug of choice while staying miserable 99 percent of the time).

If an addict or an alcoholic goes to treatment (or to several treatment centers) and finally “gets it,” what do you think that is actually worth? What is the value of someone who finally learns how to live a life of sobriety? It is difficult for the mind to even contemplate all of the implications of someone who has made the leap from a life of destruction to a life of sobriety.

First of all, consider for a moment the impact on relationships. Not only will the immediate relationships of the recovering addict improve, but there are second and third order consquences (that are positive) based on these improved social connections. In other words, the recovering addict is now a role model for others instead of being a bad example. The downstream effects of this are huge, and difficult to even tally up.

Consider the emotional impact of recovery versus addiction. When abusing drugs or alcohol, all emotional growth is completely stunted, and the addict will simply medicate their feelings away rather than communicating them with other people (and learning and growing through it). In recovery, this option of repressing feelings is essentially gone, and people are forced to mature emotionally and grow in the recovery process.

Consider too the impact on overall happiness and peace in life. The struggling addict or alcoholic has a life of misery and turmoil. In recovery they learn to enjoy life again without the need to self medicate every day. The “happiness factor” in recovery is a slam dunk. Addiction is miserable. How can you even place a price on this? How can anything justify NOT pursuing sobriety and recovery?

Treatment may be expensive (much like all of health care, this should not really be a shocker to anyone), but the rewards more than justify the costs for people who finally “get it” and make it work in the long run.

The cost of doing nothing is too high for any addict or alcoholic.

Paying for structure is not a scam, but believing that you can buy a cure to addiction is not right

Some people criticize the addiction treatment model by saying that all you are really paying for is the structure (and therefore it is not worth it).

In other words, why go to a 12 step based rehab when you could just start going to AA meetings every day?


Why go to a religious based treatment center when you could instead immerse yourself in a religious community (for free)?

The reason is because you are paying for the structure. Treatment programs are structured for a reason, and that structure has value–especially in early recovery.

This is something that I have been quite honestly overlooking recently, until a helpful reader pointed it out for me. There is value in structure. It is worth paying for it.

I personally went to both short term and long term residential treatment. Living in long term rehab is nothing but structure. That is the entire point of living in rehab. You are there for the structure. Period.

Well, that is what finally worked for me! I needed that structure in order to overcome my addiction. It worked when everything else had failed.

On the other hand, long term rehab is certainly not a magic bullet for everyone. Just because you have the structure in your life does not insure that you will stay clean and sober. In fact, I have seen some data in the past that suggested that long term rehab success rates are almost identical to short term residential success rates. Just because you go to long term treatment does not mean that you are insured to stay clean and sober.

That said, the structure is worth paying for in many cases. This can be true of short term treatment as well. It is not that rehab is a “cure,” rather, the structure and the protection of inpatient treatment allows you to be successful (if you so desire).

Before I had surrendered to the disease of addiction, I went to treatment centers twice. Both times I was not ready to get clean and sober because I had not surrendered yet. I was not done using drugs and alcohol at this time. Therefore I was not about to get any benefit from the structure and protection offered at the rehabs. In fact I resented the idea of rehab and the idea of being “locked up.” I viewed rehab the same way I thought of jail or prison. Obviously this was a bad attitude, and not one that served me well at all.

I had to change my attitude before I could allow treatment to work for me. Yes, you have to WANT for treatment to work for you. This is why rehab is often viewed as being a big scam, even though it is really not. The only scam is in those who are trying to sell you on the idea that they can cure you. There is no cure, this is the root of the scam argument.

On the other hand, when I was finally ready to change my life and surrender to the disease, I was grateful to be able to pay for rehab. I was grateful to be able to live in long term rehab. In retrospect, there could not have been a price that was too high for what I received. I needed the structure and the protected environment that treatment provides, and therefore I should have been willing to pay any price for it. Looking back now I can see the truth in this, but before I got sober I thought of rehab as a prison, as something to be avoided at all costs.

The real scam is continued addiction or alcoholism

The struggling addict or alcoholic who never gets clean and sober can one day die a miserable death and look back at their life and think “what a scam….I looked for happiness my whole life in drugs or alcohol, and I never found it.”

That is the real scam, the real crime. To be stuck in addiction and never find your way out of it. What could be more tragic than to have an opportunity at happiness in recovery and to have missed it?

Nothing can justify a continuous existence of misery and chaos.

I can look back today, now that I am clean and sober, and see that there is no price that is too high to pay for recovery. That does not mean that you should pay an outrageous amount for rehab though. Instead, it means that there is no PERSONAL cost that is too high to overcome addiction. This is what I never understood when I was stuck in my own addiction. I thought that living in long term rehab for almost two years was too high a price to put on sobriety. But looking back I can now see that there is no cost that is too high, because the difference between addiction and sobriety are like night and day. It is no contest. Nothing can justify the continued misery of addiction.

So if you are stuck in your addiction and you are saying “I would get clean and sober, but…..” then you are only fooling yourself. There is no reason to stop you from making this change. There is no excuse that is valid that can justify a life of continuous misery. Whatever your excuse is, it is invalid. The benefit that you get from being clean and sober will more than justify any “cost” that it takes to get there.

If you believe that rehab is a scam, just take a look at the deal you get when you stay stuck in addiction or alcoholism for an entire lifetime. What could possibly justify that misery? In my opinion, the answer is nothing.

Therefore, every effort should be made to get to treatment, to seek the help that you need, to seek the help that you want and desire.

If someone is promising you that their program or their rehab can cure an addiction, then you need to realize that this is not realistic. On the other hand this does not mean that you should never try to get sober, or that you should never pay money for the structure and protected environment that rehab can provide. Professional treatment can give you the tools to recover, but it cannot cure you. Know the difference and avoid scams where false promises are made via advertising.


- Approved Treatment Center -call-to-learn-about