What to Expect from an Alcohol Treatment Center

What to Expect from an Alcohol Treatment Center


“What can I expect from an alcohol treatment center?”

Going to treatment for alcoholism is a scary step. It takes a lot of guts, because up until this point, the alcoholic has been medicating all of their fears by getting drunk. Most of the time, these fears and generalized anxieties aren’t even consciously identified by the alcoholic–they simply continue to cover them up with more and more booze. So when someone suggested that I go to an alcohol treatment program, in order to remove the alcohol from my system and attempt to learn how to live a sober life–the idea struck me as being absolutely terrifying. The idea of facing the world without alcohol was unthinkable. And, like many other alcoholics and drug addicts, I did not even know what my real fears were. I did not understand the fear and anxiety that lay underneath all the drinking. I didn’t really know what I was running from. But I knew I was running scared, and the thought of giving up alcohol was the scariest thing of all.

Eventually, I got miserable enough to give sobriety a try. I was at a turning point, in that I was no longer having any fun with alcohol, yet I could not live without it. But I definitely could no longer fool myself into thinking it was fun anymore. I was miserable, and as such, I finally agreed to go to an alcohol treatment program.

Going into treatment, I had no idea what to expect, and that made it a lot scarier for me. So my point in writing this is to inform people out there who are on the fence about treatment–people who might have a drinking problem, and thus need to go to treatment, but they are too scared or nervous to actually go through with it. I actually went to three different treatment centers before I “made it stick,” so I’d like to share with you what you can expect from an alcohol treatment program:

1. Detoxification – You can expect that an alcohol treatment program will have a full supervised medical detox, with some sort of 24 hour medical staffing. This is because alcohol withdrawal is so dangerous–it can actually kill you to withdrawal from alcohol. So expect a separate detox section, nursing staff, and non narcotic medication to help you through the alcohol withdrawals. In the old days, they used addictive medications, such as Librium, to detox people with, but now they have safe medications for withdrawal that are not addictive, nor do they have any abuse potential.

2. Residential – Most treatment programs offer anywhere from one to four weeks of residential, in-house treatment. This will generally consist of attending groups, lectures, and twelve step meetings. You can expect to watch some videos as well. You will probably also be asked to read certain materials, as well as to write a number to different things. For example, I was given a number of information pamphlets to read, as well as more traditional literature like the big book of AA. I wrote out step work, a client history form, and the treatment center also had us write in a daily journal. Residential treatment is about absorbing information that can help you life in recovery, while also exploring some of issues that might have drove your using behavior.

3. Therapy – You will likely be assigned an individual therapist to work with you one-on-one. The therapist can discuss deeper issues you might have that you’re not yet willing to share with the group, as well as to help you determine a specific program of recovery. A therapist can also help you to decide and set up any type of aftercare treatment options that you might be considering.

4. Peers – The wonderful thing about being in treatment is the sharing and bonding that occurs among your peers. You can expect that there will be both a wide variety of individuals and personalities that are trying to recover along with you, as well as a number of individual peers that you can relate really closely with. While the therapists might be the ones disseminating all the information, it’s the connections between you and your peers that make the real magic happen in recovery.

You do not have to be scared or intimidated by the idea of going to residential treatment. There are several benefits to doing so, and the staff there–along with your surrounding peers–are going to do everything they can to make you feel comfortable. Make the decision to go today!

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