Do You Need Long Term Treatment in Order to Stay Clean and...

Do You Need Long Term Treatment in Order to Stay Clean and Sober?


Some people can get clean and sober just by attending a few meetings here and there, while others need a whole lot more help in order to take control back for their life.

You are not going to be sure how much help you really need to achieve recovery until you are looking back at your successful journey in retrospect.

This is a problem in most cases but you can also choose to view it as an opportunity. Through honest assessment of your own personal journey through addiction thus far, you can probably figure out exactly how much help you really need in order to change your life for the better.

Long term treatment typically is anything from about 90 days to 2 years long. Most long term programs are probably right around 6 months to a year though.

I personally found success in recovery after living in a long term facility for a period of 20 months. In the past, I had never been willing to consider attending treatment for that long, but I had become miserable enough to the point that I was willing to try something different. For me, “it took what it took.” I had to surrender everything, including my aversion to long term treatment. This proved to be the key that I had been previously missing in my journey to overcome addiction.

So every struggling addict and alcoholic may at some point ask themselves: “Do I really need long term treatment in order to stay clean and sober?”

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Let’s explore that question so that you can best answer it for yourself, and get the right level of treatment that you need.

Ask yourself: How well has treatment worked for you in the past?

The first task that you have when facing this question about long term rehab is to honestly assess your own situation.

Let me start by telling you what mine was:

I had been to rehab twice before. The first time was very much on a whim, I checked into a small rehab that was part of a hospital, and I was nowhere near the point of true surrender. I willingly went to the rehab and I learned about the disease of addiction, but I was still not convinced that a drug was a drug was a drug. So my intention was to simply quit drinking but continue to use marijuana. This obviously failed, and I quickly ended up drinking again.

Later on I ended up in treatment again, this time at the request of my family. I knew the drill a bit more this time and I was convinced that I was not going to stop using because I did not really want too, and was just going to treatment to appease my family. Turns out I was right. I did not want to change my life and therefore I continued to use after leaving that treatment center.

Now both of those two treatment visits were 28 days or less. I had heard about long term rehab by this time, and I was absolutely horrified at the idea. How could anyone lock themselves up for several months or even a year in order to stop drinking or using drugs? It was absurd. The time commitment just horrified me for some reason. What a waste of time, I thought!

A year later I was finally at the point of surrender, and I was absolutely miserable. I cared very little for my own life. I was desperate. So when I checked into a treatment center, I asked the therapists if they could hook me up with long term care. I knew then that this is what I really needed, because my previous two attempts were so terrible. I was also scared to walk outside of the rehab into the parking lot, practically terrified that I would stumble onto drugs or booze or something. I felt like I needed to be caged up, I was just so scared of the idea of relapse.

In this story, you can see that there was a transition that involved the process of surrender. In the past I was horrified at the idea of long term rehab, and at some point I became miserable enough that I actually requested long term. So that is really a huge glimpse into the nature of surrender, and what it really means to become willing to change anything and everything in order to get clean and sober. My turnabout on this issue of attending long term treatment is not the solution, instead it is a stark look at the level of desperation that is required to get sober. I was horrified at the idea of long term in the past and I had become so miserable in my addiction that I eventually made an about-face, knowing full well that long term was the solution for me. Keep this in mind and realize just how desperate you must become in order to truly heal. The real key here is surrender.

On top of this surrender that I achieved, I also came to another realization about my situation: I was not going to stay clean and sober with a quick visit to a short term rehab. I faced that reality fully and knew it to be the truth. My whole life was about addiction. I lived with addicts. I worked with addicts. Every single person that I knew and associated with, other than my immediate family, was a drug addict or alcoholic. I was not going to be able to simply go to rehab for a few weeks, walk back out into my old life, and be able to stay clean and sober.

My previous efforts at rehab both failed for two reasons. One was because I had not fully surrendered. But two was because I needed long term treatment rather than the other solutions that I was actually presented with. Actually, both programs urged me to consider long term care, because the counselors there knew that I was not going to have a chance at real recovery, given my situation. I was young, surrounded by addicts, and not fully surrendered to the disease yet. Without long term care, they knew I did not stand a chance. But at the time of those two rehab visits, I was not willing to consider long term solutions.

I had to face the truth about my situation: How well had short term rehab really worked for me? The answer was: “Not very well.”

If you have been to treatment in the past, short term rehab or counseling or outpatient, how well has it really worked for you?

Also, how many times have you been to treatment? If the answer is “never” or “just once or twice,” then you might be able to make a change using short term rehab.

But if you’ve been to rehab several times before, you might consider that long term is the next logical step for you.

Are you stuck in denial, arguing that you could not possibly attend long term rehab?

Many people who are stuck in denial about long term treatment do not understand the real consequences that they could face.

People make ridiculous arguments in order to avoid rehab (and especially long term treatment) by saying things like:

“I could never attend treatment for six months, that would cost me too much money and I could never afford it.”
“I could never go to long term treatment, my family would miss me too much.”
“I could never check into long term rehab, I have too many responsibilities out in the real world.”

If you have arguments against long term rehab like this going through your head, I want you do me a favor. Replace the words “attend long term treatment” with the word “DIE.”

As in:

“I could never die due to my addiction, my family would miss me too much.”

Time for a reality check, folks! You could die, and many addicts and alcoholics DO die. It happens all the time, because they do not get the help that they so desperately need.

So stop kidding yourself and making lame excuses about how the world needs you or can’t possibly function without you. Your addiction can easily kill you and guess what? The world will carry on just fine when you are gone. Yes, your family will miss you, but this does not change the fact that they COULD have missed you for six months while you were in rehab, only to gain you back, healthier than ever, and living a positive new life in recovery.

Instead, because of your self centered excuses, you chose to avoid long term treatment, and ended up with a much worse fate.

Excuses are just that: excuses. Anyone can die, get thrown into jail or prison, and yes…..attend long term rehab.

It takes an enormous amount of willingness and surrender to admit that you need long term rehab. To most people, it almost feels like saying “I need to be thrown in prison in order to stop using drugs and alcohol.”

But long term rehab is not prison, and in fact it is quite livable and enjoyable. If you doubt this, simply talk with some people who are living in one. Ask them how life is for them, how happy they are in long term rehab, if their life is improving. See what they say. Talk to them, ask them questions.

Long term rehab is NOT prison, even though it may feel like a prison sentence when you agree to go there.

What is the reward for a life of sobriety, and is long term treatment worth it to achieve that?

Let’s put something in perspective here:

On the one hand, you have a lifetime of recovery, sobriety, and peace and contentment.

On the other hand, you have a lifetime of active addiction, misery, and chaos.

If your choice is between these two things (and in reality, every human being has the option of either one, at any time), then you have to ask yourself:

“Is it worth it to really go to ANY length in order to achieve recovery?”

The answer to this question, unfortunately, will probably not be answered with logic. If it was, then any addict or alcoholic would easily be able to say:

“Of course I want to life a life of recovery, peace, and contentment. Of course I will go to any length in order to achieve that, rather than to be miserable in addiction.”

But we do not use logic to make such choices, especially when we are trapped in active addiction. Instead, we are typically operating on our emotions, and the nature of denial is such that we not even believe that “a life of happiness, recovery, and contentment” is even available for us. The addict who is trapped in denial will not even believe that this is possible for them.

So using this logic is not necessarily going to work for someone who is still stuck in denial. We cannot just argue that long term treatment will give them a lifetime of happiness, because the person either does not believe it, does not care, or both. Sometimes we are just too miserable in our addiction to believe that joy is possible for us.

Therefore, this logical argument becomes an issue when the person is moving into surrender and has begun to pierce their denial. If the question of treatment is on the table, then the question of “how much treatment” is also open for discussion as well.

Keep in mind that most people who attend long term start out at a regular 28 day program first. Most will transition into long term after they realize and admit that they need more help.

The cost of long term treatment (both in time and money investment) is absolutely trivial compared to the continued life in active addiction. Most addicts spend more in a year fueling their disease than what a trip to rehab would cost. Long term sobriety pays for itself, generally within a very short time frame. Remaining sober is priceless.

How many times should you attend short term rehab (and fail) before you admit to yourself that it is not working for you?

There are struggling addicts and alcoholics in this world who fall into a sort of trap: they attend short term rehab, leave, stay clean and sober for a while, then relapse, only to return to short term rehab again.

I have personally known several hundred people in recovery who have done this over and over again. They make a pattern out of going to rehab. They stay clean and sober for a short while but they never really “get it” fully.

At some point, I would challenge these people to ask themselves:

“When are you going to admit that you need more help than what you have been seeking?”

“When are you going to admit to yourself that you need long term care in order to maintain sobriety?”

Short term rehab is certainly not a magic bullet. We might even break recovery down into three pieces, classified as:

1) Very short term – detox.
2) Short term – first few weeks of recovery, still drying out, fog is still lifting, etc.
3) Long term – actually living recovery out in the real world, dealing with reality.

People who are trapped in the cycle of short term rehab visits are missing out on that third piece. They are not able to figure out how to live their recovery “out in the real world.” While they are in short term treatment, they do just fine. When they get out in the real world, everything falls apart.

The solution?

Living in long term treatment is just that–living. You are in a transitional situation. You are half in treatment, and half in the real world. You learn how to live a sober life while still have the support and accountability of a rehab center.

Does it work for everyone? No. Can short term rehab work instead? Maybe. But at some point, if short term rehab continues to fail for you, then you might want to consider the possibility that long term treatment may be the missing piece of the puzzle for you.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to remain clean and sober?

At the first sign of surrender, most people are probably not going to check into rehab and live there for a year or more.

Instead, they will start slow. They might attend 12 step meetings, or go to counseling, or go to a 28 day program, or whatever.

At some point, if these solutions fail you, then you need to seriously ask yourself the question:

“What am I willing to do in order to achieve recovery?”

Long term rehab may feel like a death sentence (or a prison sentence) but it is not half as bad as it sounds.

Contrary to popular belief, you can still enjoy your life AND have some freedom while living in a long term treatment center. It is not bad at all and you can gain your whole life back, and discover a new happiness and joy in recovery.

If nothing else has worked for you, give long term treatment a chance.


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