I would say that, for a struggling addict or alcoholic, whether or not they choose to go to inpatient addiction treatment is the single biggest predictor when it comes to their quality of life in the future.
For those who refuse to get help and seek treatment, their future is going to be miserable, chaotic, and just plain dismal.
For those who choose to get professional help, they at least have a chance at creating a new life of freedom for themselves. Going to an inpatient treatment center gives you the option of total and complete freedom. This is because when you go to treatment they get you completely detoxified from drugs and alcohol while also teaching you about ways to maintain your recovery. It is up to you when you leave treatment to follow through with what they have taught you.
This is because going to inpatient rehab is not necessarily an instant cure or a magic solution to every struggling addict’s problems. It can be the starting point of a brand new life, but it can also just be a stepping stone on the way to the next relapse. The difference is all in the follow through and whether or not the individual fully embraces recovery or not.
In order to live a clean and sober life you have to change your lifestyle. In order to change your lifestyle you must change your daily habits. And in order to do that you have to listen to advice and put that advice into action. You cannot just decide for yourself that things are going to be different and then figure out a new lifestyle for yourself, by yourself. This generally does not work out so well.
The reason that you cannot self direct in early recovery is because of the tendency for us to sabotage our own efforts. Think of your addiction as the little devil figure on the shoulder of a cartoon character, trying to talk them into making bad choices. Our alcoholism and drug addiction seems to function exactly like that little nagging devil on our shoulder, trying to talk us into relapse.
Why does this happen? Because our drug of choice became our solution for nearly everything. When we had any sort of stress, anxiety, or struggle in our life, we used our drug of choice in order to cope and deal with it. So when we are first trying to get clean and sober, our brain is constantly reacting to things in the world by saying “hey, I know what would would help in this situation….” And so our own brain keeps trying to talk us into relapse, because that is the solution that it knows best, and that is what it is used to resorting to.
So in order to overcome that tendency we have to actually live a new solution and engage with different behaviors. So this cannot be a thought experiment and we cannot just “think our way into a different life.” That never works. The problem is that our own thinking will eventually get hijacked by the addictive thoughts.
So the solution is to engage with the new healthy behaviors without requiring any thought on our part. That is why we have to “make a decision” when we get clean and sober–we commit to recovery, we commit to a recovery program, and we commit to seeking out new solutions. Some people commit to trusting in a higher power, which is another way of saying that they are going to avoid trusting themselves and instead look for outside guidance and counsel. In this way we can seek out new solutions when life throws us a curve ball, and we can reach out to others and get help and support as we navigate our early sobriety.
Our brain–at least in early recovery from addiction and alcoholism–is trying to counter our efforts and lead us back to relapse. That is just how we have programmed ourselves because our drug of choice became our go to solution.
This is why they recommend that you go to 90 AA meetings in the first 90 days of recovery. No thought is required–you must only make one initial commitment to the program, and then you know that you are going to attend a meeting every single day, no questions asked. There is no room there for your brain to get in the way and try to sabotage your efforts. If the program suggested that you go to AA meetings “most days” then your brain would have plenty of wiggle room to work with, and eventually you would not be going to meetings at all any more.
This is also why it is smart to go to inpatient treatment. Sure, some people try to hack it “on the outside” by just going to meetings, maybe going to therapy or counseling, or doing some recovery groups. But this is never going to be as strong as going to inpatient treatment.
Why? For the same reason that you make the commitment to do 90 meetings in 90 days–now you no longer have to think about it. If you are at inpatient treatment for the next 28 days, you don’t even have to think about whether you want to get drunk or high today–that decision has already been made in advance, and now you are just along for the ride.
If you choose to stay “on the outside” and try to work your early recovery by hitting groups, therapy, and meetings, you are also going to have to constantly decide that you want to remain clean and sober. You have to keep doing that all day, every day, and that decision is going to wear on you.
When you are at inpatient treatment you only make that decision once: “I am going to rehab and therefore I will be clean for at least the next 28 days of my life.” Then you check in and you start following through with their programming and you never have to think about it again until you are “back on the outside.” You get 28 days of sober living without really having to work too hard for it. You just ask for help and check into a rehab.
If you want to shape a more positive future then you need to adopt more positive habits for your day to day existence. Trade out the bad habits that are left over from your life of addiction (such as self pity or resenting others, for example) and substitute in new, healthy behaviors (such as meditation, exercise, going to AA, etc.).
This is the essence of recovery–exchanging your bad habits for healthy habits. Once you do this consistently then you adopt a new lifestyle and you learn to live and enjoy life as a sober person. The problem is that this takes some time to establish before it starts feeling really good, so you need a way to resist those temptations that are bound to pop up in early sobriety. Going to inpatient treatment is the single best way to insure that you get at least 28 days of recovery under your belt before you have to go back out to the real world. This is the best possible way to shape your future and rebuild a life that is worth living in recovery. Good luck!