Going to rehab can be an intimidating proposition. It is a scary step and the typical addict or alcoholic has a list of excuses a mile long as to why it is a waste of time and a bad idea.
The reality is, however, that most addicts and alcoholics have almost nothing to lose by attending an addiction treatment center.
Let’s take a closer look at this idea, and see what the real trade offs are when someone checks into rehab for a shot at changing their life.
Lost time that you could have been getting drunk/high
The most hopelessly trapped addict will argue that rehab will take up their precious time.
What exactly are you accomplishing while you are getting drunk or high all the time? Is that time of yours really so productive that you cannot be separated from your drug of choice for even 28 days?
Unbelievably, this is how the mind of the addict actually works. They will balk at the idea of a 28 day program, arguing that it is a huge waste of their time–not realizing that they are essentially just wasting their time anyway!
The ultimate fantasy of some addicts is to simply be strapped down to a bed and fed intravenous drugs non-stop, 24/7. This is a sad state of being and is really closer to a vegetable than to a human being who is experiencing and enjoying life. What is the point of constant self medication if you cannot live your life and enjoy yourself? But this is the extreme to which all drug addicts and alcoholics eventually arrive at–they wish that they could just make the world go away, and float along on a constant state of total buzz. Not really living any more, just constantly medicated to the point of oblivion.
The question that the addict has to ask themselves is this: “What is the point of that kind of life? How are you spending your time? Is it benefiting you or others in any way?”
The addict may cling to their precious time in active addiction, but it is tough to argue that they spending their time wisely. At least in recovery they can be sober, be productive, and make a difference in the world.
Time argument summary: rehab is not a waste of time. Addiction is the real waste of time, and when you get clean and sober, your time becomes productive and beneficial again.
The happiness argument for overcoming addiction
The addict may also protest: “But I am not happy when I am clean and sober, and the only way that I can be happy is with my drug of choice!”
False. This is a common illusion that nearly every addict must figure out on their own, though it is almost impossible to do so.
The problem is that:
1) Drugs and alcohol actually were a lot of fun, in the beginning.
2) Our denial makes us cling to this “perfect memory” of fun with our drug of choice, even after addiction becomes a drag.
3) Sudden detox or withdrawal from our drug of choice is NEVER fun, and is generally pretty miserable.
Combine those three concepts and you have a very tricky trap to try to escape from. The problem is that the addict or alcoholic is not measuring their happiness in addiction.
Every single addict and alcoholic goes through brief periods in their active addiction when they stop using for a brief moment. They might go to jail, they might have a really vicious bender and take a few days off, or whatever. For various reasons, every single addict has at least SOME brief periods of sobriety during their addiction.
Because of this, they know full well how miserable they get when they stop taking their drug of choice. Withdrawal quickly sets in and their body screams out in protest, making them physically uncomfortable. The psychological withdrawal is just as bad, in most cases.
So addicts come to learn that they are miserable without their drug of choice. Their brief periods of abstinence train them to believe that they can never be happy (or even comfortable!) again without constantly self medicating.
Thus, they resign themselves to believe “I guess I am just different…..and that I have to use my drug of choice in order to be really happy in this life!”
The truth is that this “happiness problem” is just a big denial mechanism, and is all an illusion.
Take any addict or alcoholic, sober them up and get them detoxed, and stick them away on a deserted island where they cannot get any drugs or alcohol.
Within a few weeks of healthy living, their body will start to readjust to life without their drug of choice.
Their brain will start to rewire, and the old reward circuits will start to work again.
The simple pleasures in life will start to become meaningful again. Enjoyment within drugs will become possible again.
And real happiness and contentment will slowly ease back into the addict’s life.
They probably will not notice this transition at first, and will only realize it looking back when they have a few weeks in recovery.
The addict will suddenly realize:
“Hey, I’ve been clean and sober for a month now, and I’m not miserable every single second like I thought I would be!”
In fact, they may be quite happy and content at this point, much more so than they ever believed possible.
To convince the struggling addict or alcoholic of this miracle, however, can be very difficult. Most will believe that they can never be happy without their drug of choice. But anyone who sobers up for long enough will return to a baseline of happiness and contentment eventually, proving that anyone can be happy and at peace without self medicating all the time.
Happiness argument summary: The addict will become happy and content again in recovery, given enough time, even if they do not believe it is possible.
The health argument for addiction recovery
Most addicts and alcoholics have attempted to rationalize their addiction in terms of health in some way. Either they minimize the damaging effects of their drug of choice in their mind, or they actually try to pretend to themselves that their addiction may have some health benefit.
The other reason that many alcoholics and addicts will dismiss the health argument for addiction treatment is because they no longer value their health. They are miserable in active addiction and do not value their own life any more, so the lure of “better health in recovery” is completely meaningless to them. They do not care if they can be healthier by quitting their drug of choice, because better health is not something they desire. They would just as soon die an early death because they are so miserable in their addiction.
If an addict or alcoholic gets to this point then they are close to the point of surrender, but the lure of better health will not motivate them.
What the struggling addict fails to realize is that health WILL become important to them in recovery, if they can make that leap of faith and start on the path to healthy living again. At first, they will probably still have low self worth and will not really care much about their health, but if they continue to stay sober and to grow in recovery, their health will eventually become their number one priority again at some point.
The question is “how to get there?” The addict must sober up on blind faith, wanting to avoid the desperation and negative consequences of addiction, in order to get to a point where they care about their personal well being again.
Most addicts and alcoholics die approximately 10 to 20 years early. The prevalence of cigarette smoking among addicts and alcoholics also contributes to those lost years. Active addiction is a slow suicide, and recovery is a choice for life. The problem is that most addicts don’t care about this fact due to their low self worth and miserable outlook on life due to years of addiction.
Health argument summary: Addiction is suicide. Recovery is life restored.
The financial argument for addiction recovery
Most addicts and alcoholics care very little about time and money, as they are just a means to get more of their drug of choice. Sure, part of their fantasy is to have enough money in order to be able to not work and just sit around all day with an unlimited supply of their drug of choice, but beyond that they generally do not care much for money. It is just a tool that is part of their addiction.
The financial argument for recovery is really about money AND time.
Life in recovery is not necessarily about making money, it is about making good use of your life, your time, your money, seeking growth, enjoying relationships, and so on.
Money and your time usage are both factors in recovery, and they can have a great deal to do with how you enjoy your life, how much stress you have, and so on.
For example, consider this shocking statistic:
* A typical smoker (pack and a half per day) spends almost en entire month out of every year engaged in the act of smoking cigarettes.
This is an enormous block of time that steals from every part of their life that is good and leads to happiness. We all know that cigarettes are expensive and that it can be a very expensive addiction, but most people do not realize that the time factor is actually a lot worse. You go outside to smoke, you spend time plotting and planning your next smoke break, and all of that time spent smoking and thinking about smoking is reducing your time spent on other things. Time that could have been spent enjoying family, relaxing, socializing with others, etc. is now seriously compromised due to the addiction.
Obviously, this smoking example is much the same when it comes to drinking and drug addiction. From an economic standpoint, the money spent on the chemicals is really pretty trivial compared to the amount of lost time that you sacrifice due to your addiction.
It’s not just a money thing….it’s your time. That is why they say that when they finally got clean and sober, they “gained their whole life back.” This is because all of that time that you used to spend doing your drug of choice and obsessing over it is now spent on things that make you happy and joyous instead.
But again, the struggling alcoholic will probably not care much for this argument, because they believe that they “enjoy” their time spent getting wasted, and they don’t mind the financial implications of it either. Whatever it takes to stay drunk and high is good by them, or so they believe….
Financial argument summary: Addiction is horribly expensive, in both time and money. Recovery gives you “your whole life back.”
Your career and work ethic in recovery
Long term addiction and alcoholism tend to produce a lousy work ethic, or outright unemployment. The addict will eventually resort to doing “just enough to get by.” The time factor discussed above is also an issue, because your career and work ethic will change drastically once you no longer have the crutch of addiction holding you back.
It is amazing what the addict can accomplish when they remove the chains of addiction. An addict or alcoholic who used to hold down a simple job can now move into a management position once they are living clean and sober. Advancements of this nature are not uncommon in recovery. Most addicts and alcoholics are smart folks who can really excel once they remove the crutch of addiction.
Again though, most addicts are not going to be motivated by “a better career” if they can sober up.
Also, some addicts believe that they have a good job already, and they argue that getting clean and sober would compromise their ability to do the job or fit in to a particular workplace. This sort of argument is always a form of denial. Our ability to work and do productive things always increases in recovery. The idea that our addiction is helping our career is a sham; a form of denial.
Career argument summary: Addiction seriously cripples your career potential. Recovery brings it back to full potential.
Relationship quality and depth in recovery
Our addiction may have us convinced that our drug of choice brings us closer to other people.
In the long run, this is never the case. In the long run, drugs and alcohol always isolate people further.
Therefore, any addict or alcoholic who gets clean and sober will only experience greater depth and quality in their relationships. They will come to realize that their addiction was pushing other people away from them, even though they thought that their drug brought people together.
In early recovery, this increased intimacy can be a challenge. Suddenly, our filtering system is turned off. We are hearing and connecting with people at full volume again. We realize that what we thought was intimacy during our active addiction was just surface-level interaction. Now we are connecting with people in a much deeper manner in recovery. Why?
Because now we are feeling our feelings, not medicating them with our drug of choice. So when we connect with others, we can empathize with them much more deeply, because we tune in to our own feelings much better now.
Most addicts would argue that their drug of choice allows them to feel more deeply, but this is an illusion; a form of denial. In recovery we realize that we were masking our feelings by self medicating, and that the quality of our relationships becomes intensified when we get clean and sober.
Relationship argument summary: Drug and alcohol use masks our feelings and isolates us in our addiction. Recovery intensifies our relationships and brings us closer to the people in our lives.
“But my family needs me….”
The addict may argue that they cannot go to treatment because “their family needs them.”
No, your family needs you clean and sober. They can get along just fine while you are in treatment trying to repair your life.
Proof of this concept is simple: addicts and alcoholics die all the time. What of their families then?
Indeed, many addicts die after arguing that they cannot afford to “waste their time in rehab.” Addiction kills them, either directly or indirectly, and they cannot even regret their choice to ignore treatment.
Many times this argument is a financial one. The addict or alcoholic may be the breadwinner of the family.
But again, breadwinners die all the time, and the family finds a way to carry on. They have no choice but to find a way.
And so it is with addiction treatment. The family must find a way to support themselves while the addict is getting help. The addict may argue that this “impossible,” but they are forgetting that they could die, and the world would go on without them. They are not as important as they believe.
On the other hand, if they go to treatment and sober up for good, the long term positive impact that this will have on their family is truly awesome. Say they go to rehab, sober up, and ten years later the family looks back at that decision and ask themselves “was it worth it to go to treatment?”
Well, duh. Ten years of recovery has nearly infinite value. Struggling through a few weeks of rehab without the breadwinner is nothing compared to this.
Summary: Your family will get on just fine if you disappear into rehab for a month. Life will go on. You have the whole world to gain by your recovery, and so does your family.
You have everything to gain by finding long term sobriety
The bottom line is that none of these arguments hold any water….all of them are just excuses that the addict or alcoholic uses in order to further justify their using.
You have nothing to lose by giving addiction treatment a chance.
Go to rehab.
If you don’t like the outcome, you can always return to your drug of choice. The drugs and the alcohol is not going anywhere. It will be there for you if you still want it later.
Give recovery a chance. You have everything to gain by getting clean and sober.
Life in recovery is amazing!