In order to get the most benefit out of addiction treatment, there are a few suggestions that you would do well to follow.
First of all, I know that this is beyond obvious, but I think it needs to be said anyway: You need to actually go to treatment.
I say this because when someone is stuck in denial they might admit that they have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, but they might still be very averse to attending inpatient rehab. One of the reasons for this is because of the stigma that they have attached to treatment in their mind. They don’t want to admit to themselves and to the rest of the world that they need this kind of help, so they draw the line at going to treatment, and instead say things like “I’ll be fine….I’ll just figure it out myself….I know what I have to do,” and so on. They make excuses and they will do just about anything to avoid going to treatment because they have it in their mind that if they go to rehab than it defines them as being less than, as being an addict, as being somehow beneath others. And their stubborn ego does not want to make that admission that can more accurately be described as “needing help.”
So that is step one–actually be willing to go to inpatient treatment. To sort of go along with that concept, I would also caution you to say that the person needs to not only go to treatment, but that they need to be willing to follow the suggestions of the professionals that they encounter. There was a time when I was struggling with my own denial and the people who assessed me determined that I needed a certain level of care, which was long term rehab. I was not willing to attend long term rehab even though I was in a short term facility already. What was the problem?
My problem was that I was still in denial, and I was avoiding the stigma of being someone who has to live long term in rehab or a halfway house, and in my diseased little brain that was just too much for me to handle, and I preferred not to think of myself that way. So I decided that going to short term rehab was somehow okay while going to live in long term rehab was just too much. Whatever. So I stayed stuck in my addiction and I left short term rehab and I promptly relapsed due to my denial.
The thing about denial is this: If you have even a tiny bit of denial left inside of you, then it will ruin everything.
In other words, you cannot partially surrender to recovery. You are either all in, or you are out. You either do everything and anything that the treatment professionals suggest to you, or you essentially end up relapsing. I wish this wasn’t the case but I see evidence of it being true every day, both in my own experience as well as those that I work with in the substance abuse field. Partial surrender always ends in relapse. Hanging on to just the tiniest bit of denial is known as “having a reservation.” It also ends in relapse. The only way to truly succeed is to let go of everything and really allow yourself to be guided in recovery.
So my number one suggestion for you is an extension of these core ideas, which is this:
Take every suggestion and every piece of advice and apply it in your recovery.
That’s it. Follow directions. But do so totally and completely. Do not ignore certain bits of advice without first testing that advice.
Now obviously this only applies if you are taking suggestions and advice from the “winners” in recovery: The therapists, the recovery coaches, the sponsors in AA and NA, and the trusted peers in meetings and groups. You don’t just follow any advice from anyone–you look to the professionals and the trusted “winners” in recovery and you listen to their advice as if it will save your life. Because it will.
So what you are really doing is testing out suggestions and ideas. If you look carefully at a large cross section of people who are all living in addiction recovery, you will notice that they are all working a slightly different program. In the most extreme cases you might have two people who are both successful at remaining sober who are really working 2 completely different programs of recovery. Not only did they potentially take a completely different path to sobriety in completely different recovery programs, but the way that they live their lives and the things that they do in order to remain abstinent might be completely unique.
For example, I tend to write a lot in my recovery and I also rely heavily on meditation and physical exercise. Those things have become the core of my recovery program. Sure, I started out in rehab and I went to meetings and I talked with a therapist. But eventually my recovery evolved and I discovered the things that worked best for me.
Now I have many peers in recovery who are my friends today and their program looks completely different from mine. One of my peers does not do any writing at all, he doesn’t really exercise deliberately, and he doesn’t do any seated meditation. Those are the things that I rely on to stay sober myself. And yet this peer of mine has an amazing life in recovery and he reaches out to people who are struggling every day and he has a really solid program.
The fact that our day to day life in recovery is so different should tell you something: You are going to have to forge your own path in recovery, and you are going to have to find the things that really help you. So in order to find those things you are going to have to explore, take suggestions, and follow various bits of advice.
So this is the optimal attitude to have in addiction treatment: You are the explorer, you are testing out suggestions, and you are going to try out the advice you are given to see if it helps you. I strongly advise that you attempt to give yourself 30 full days to evaluate any habit or suggestion that you are given.
If you test out an idea and you do it every day for 30 days straight, you have essentially established a habit. Whatever that suggestion may be, if it is benefiting you and you want to keep it in your life, then you can easily do so because it has already become a habit. So it becomes part of your routine and part of your lifestyle. That is how I am with writing, with meditation, and with exercise. They are not just things that I do from time to time–they are part of my routine and thus part of my lifestyle. They have become part of who I am and they define the successful path that I am on in recovery.
You can find your own path of success, and you do so by being open minded about the suggestions that you hear in recovery. Go to rehab, go to meetings, talk to a therapist, and try to take every single suggestion that you can in early recovery. This is how you will figure out what works for you and what does not.
At first, you don’t really have to know. You just have to do the things, follow through, take the advice and try to make it work. Just follow through. Later on you will look back and realize that you were doing exactly what you needed to do in order to find your way in recovery. Good luck!