Rehab can be a great experience. People can learn much about themselves, their current state of affairs and what to do about it now. The trouble starts when the repetition does. If you’ve been to rehab once, there’s no reason for you to go again. It’s supposed to work the first time around. Yet, people get bullied into thinking a new exotic locale with more personalized care and, oh, more sunshine and horse petting or something else will lock in a sufficient reprogramming. What do multiple visits usually get a patient in terms of net results? Just a collection of rehab mugs.
Rehab costs are prohibitive and unless you have world class insurance it can wipe out a middle-class family’s life savings real quick. (As a side note, a simple tax raise on alcohol could provide state of the art treatment for all in need, but that’s a pipe dream.)
Until then, here are some alternatives.
Individual therapy For those who can afford it, individual therapy may be the way to go. Usually the transformative change credited to “rehab” is usually a result of a workable patient-therapist relationship developed at the center. Groups can be effective and helpful, but also devolve into venomous gossip pits. Plus IOPs are a great place to find your next running partner if you’re itching to go out. (And someone always, always goes out.) Stay out of groups and high school structures if you want individualized care.
Medication assistance. It cuts the the death rate by 70%. That’s far too much to be ignored. Nobody finds any range of recovery if they are dead. Medication in many forms can help manage many of the reasons people became substance abusers in the first place: Anxiety, depression, chronic pain, existential crises. Antabuse, Vivitrol, antidepressants all work. And, sure, sometimes drinking is actually the only problem for a particular set of alcoholics. Those people stop drinking and, presto, they’re perfect. More/Most people have co-existing mental health issues that are sometimes accelerated with abstinence. That’s always fun! It’s not, obviously, so sometimes your defect is more than spiritual, it’s mental. So you should be on meds to help you feel less insane while you get sober.
Mutual Aid Groups. Millions have found aid and comfort in AA, Smart Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Celebrate Recovery (SUPER SUPER CHRISTIAN SO WATCH OUT!) and other mutual aid organizations. It may be one of the only true egalitarian systems in America.
Vigorous, heart pumping exercise. It’s shown similar results to anti-depressants. 160 BPM sustained for 20-30 minutes usually gets rid of the urge to shoot up or whatever. It helps the hamster wheel of obsessive thoughts. As a bonus, it’s free or it can be. Feeling squirrelly? Go for a run. Go do a push-ups until you puke. Or burpees on the driveway. If you don’t want to be that crazy guy doing burpees on the driveway then yoga, spin, or boxing classes are all great options. It’s very difficult for depression to hit a moving target. Move. Breathe. Breathe like an athlete, four counts in through the nose, four out from the mouth. You’ll feel better.
Harm Reduction. Harm reduction IS recovery to some people. I define recovery as ANY positive change. Using sterile needles to inject is better than needles found in the gas station bathroom. The truth is that people who make their living pontificating abstinence don’t want you to know is cannabis manages risk by 99%. People who successfully switch from alcohol to cannabis have vastly improved lives. They aren’t risking vital organ function and there is no risk of lethal ingestion. Alcohol kills 88,000 Americans per year and cannabis kills zero. Cannabis can mitigate or eliminate other drug use. Many people are extinguishing their use of high risk pharmaceuticals with low risk cannabis. Is it without risk? No. Does it manage risk? Without question. Fully -formed adults in a controlled environment are perfectly safe using it.
Accept you’re a drug user. Any drug use is not a pathology or a crime. There are plenty of people who don’t need criteria. Not all people have to be “fixed.” There is a whole subculture of Rehab Kids floating around Del Ray Beach, Florida who’ve been abandoned by their families and handed over to the Rehab Industry. They go to treatment, clean up, relapse, and pop up at some other 30-60-90 at another bucolic setting, this time in the northeast. Here’s a good composite of who I’m talking about: male, white, under 30. At some point it’s just about honesty, so let me suggest that they call their parents and tell them they’d just rather use drugs. Rehab becomes their identity and a badge of honor. “I’ve been to 14 rehabs!” shouldn’t be a point of pride. America is one of the largest consumers of drugs the world has ever known, so why hate drug users? Is being a drug user really the worst thing a person can be?
Joe Schrank is Executive Editor of The Small Bow. If you would like to complain to Joe about his attitude email us here.