The pain is just too great, your life is lying in a shambles around your vomit covered shoes and you’ve been racking up consequences like a cricket score. It doesn’t matter what this crisis is that brings you to the conclusion that stopping drinking and using is the only way forward. You may have had taken a serious legal or medical hit or simply feel so bad, so emotionally drained by the guilt and shame that living this way is no longer bearable.
Whether internal or external it is usually the penalties of addiction that drive people through the doors of rehab but with so many different facilities available, which one do you choose? Making a decision about whether to get out of bed or not is usually pretty hard at this stage of the substance abuse game, so how do you make sure that you choose the right place to undertake the important job of recovery. A big decision like this, at a time of crisis, is simply overwhelming for both addicts and their families.
Understanding the disease concept
The first thing to get your head around is the fact that addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol, is a disease, an actual illness of the brain and that there are a number of proven ways to treat this. People used to think that this was something that people gave themselves by overindulging in their substance of choice but the medical profession now widely accepts that for over 50% of people (probably more) this is a primary and genetic condition.
Recovery is your responsibility – the disease is not
This means that, more often than not, you are born with faulty dopamine production and poor neurotransmission. Dopamine is the body’s natural, feel good chemical and the addicts brain does not function like that of a normal person. This means that addicts struggle with boredom, lethargy and lack of purpose because they do not get the chemical rewards for the simple activities of daily living that regular folks do.
Environmental factors come into play too, with things like trauma and abuse also affecting the way the brain functions and predisposing people to medicating their problems. Additionally and rather ironically by self-medicating addicts further scupper their receptors and dopamine production.
Of course different drugs have different effects on the brain but all cause some sort of jiggery pokery. People who suffer from addiction need stronger rewards from life than normal people and once they discover something that works for them whether its drugs, booze, sex or gambling they are likely to keep flogging that horse to the bitter end, totally consumed by obsession and compulsion and powerless to stop for any significant length of time.
Addiction is a chronic and progressive illness, meaning that it will only get worse unless the sufferer takes action. The good news is that the brain is pretty amazing, malleable and able to recover and restructure itself. This is technically known as brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity.
Rehab is a safe, immersive environment to start this process of change and makes it far easier than trying to learn this stuff at home especially given that the pre-rehab environment of the addict and alcoholic is usually typified by some means of anarchy.
Everyone is different
Everyone’s particular brand of chaos is different from the raging street rat to the lone drinker hiding from the world behind closed curtains, just as there is a million different types of bedlam there are a million types of addict. Rehab is not about creating recovery robots, it’s about helping each person find their way back to themselves or to an entirely new self.
Changing the brain
Changing the way your brain functions takes time and studies have shown that it takes up to 3 months to implant a new way of doing things into our subconscious. This of course, is not and should not be, a one size fits all model but a base line and one of the reasons for that 90 day programs are often advocated as the best way to boost yourself into a new life. There are of course options for shorter stays with continuing outpatient follow up and different types of aftercare.
It is important to find out the ways that the facility you are looking at addresses this whole concept. What are the ways that they intend to help you act your way into a new way of thinking. Does the facility use the 12 steps? Do they provide Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, motivational interviewing and group therapy? Is there meditation and do they provide exercise programs? How do they address this many faceted disease and how do they strive to target the emotional, physical, psychological, emotional and social aspects of this complex problem.
Preconceived notions of rehab and expectations
People, more frequently than you would think, turn up at rehab with either their golf clubs expecting a country retreat for a few weeks or think they will be locked in a cell with trays of brown mush being slipped through the slot in their metal doors three times a day.
Addicts and alcoholics are notorious experts at making up stories to tell themselves and then being chronically disappointed by the truth. The most important thing is to ask the right questions and do some research into what your options are.
Choosing the right place is about asking the right questions
- What scientific evidence is your program based on?
- How much experience do your staff have?
- Do you have an onsite medical team?
- How long is the program?
- Do you provide a detox?
- What are your retention rates?
- Is your program tailored to my individual needs and how flexible is this?
- How many people are in the group at any one time?
- What are your aftercare options?
- Does the program include healthy meals?
- What life skills does the program teach so I can remain sober and clean long term?
- Does your program take clients to 12 step meetings?
- Is there a family program?
- What alternative therapies are on offer?
The benefits of recovery
It may be the diabolical consequences of your drug and alcohol use that brings you through the doors of a rehab facility but it is the wide ranging benefits of recovery that keep you clean and sober in the long term. Choosing the right rehab with a well balanced program that facilitates this sort of change, is therefore probably one of the most important decisions of your life.