Tough Realities of Going to Rehab

Deciding to enter treatment for a substance abuse disorder is a big step- larger than most people give you credit for. Sobriety is more than completing a program and getting a fancy certificate: it’s a lifestyle change that takes a lot to commit to. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself, yes, but we need to get real about some of the realities of going into rehab.

There is no magic cure. If you enter treatment at any facility under that assumption, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s a reason this is called a recovery journey. The goal of rehab and continued care is to help you learn positive coping mechanisms to take the place of your chosen substance. That’s exactly why detox alone doesn’t work: without the life skills and tools you gain through counselling, relapse is almost imminent.

You have to put in the work. It’s not enough to begrudgingly trudge into a rehab center, plop down in a chair, and scoff. This journey is powered by you. It will reflect exactly how much effort and energy you put into it. No one is going to drag you to sobriety- it’s not possible. The longer you sit there with your arms folded, rolling your eyes and complaining about how rehab doesn’t work, the more you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Break that cycle of negative self-talk and doubt. Prove yourself and everyone else wrong.

Limiting contact to the outside world is a must. To people who don’t understand, cutting off external contact makes rehab sound like a prison. Critics and cynics will cry out that it must be because there’s something to hide- no. Addiction recovery requires a lot of self-discovery and internal focus. You can’t achieve that when you’re wrapped up in outside drama. While it is standard to have a line of communication for keeping loved ones up to date regarding your journey, limiting the focus on external trivialities is to help you embrace the journey, not alienate you.

You’re going to have to change. The saying goes that you can’t expect a different outcome if you just keep doing the same old things, right? That’s rarely more true than when it comes to addiction recovery. Getting into rehab is the catalyst for your personal metamorphosis. Changing the way you think and react to certain situations begins with recognizing the need for change. Embrace it- this is your chance to be the person you always wanted to become.

Blame shifting solves nothing. It’s easy to get angry and resentful at the process of addiction recovery. Looking for someone or something to blame is easier than facing your own shortcomings is easy. The treatment center, your therapist, your case manager, others who are in treatment- you can point the finger at all of them, but what will it do to further your journey of sobriety? The more time you waste looking for someone to blame, the longer it takes to work through your thoughts and emotions properly.

You are responsible for your behavior. Warring emotions and the heat of the moment can lead us to react poorly. Owning your emotions and your behaviors is a key part to moving forward into a life free of addiction. You always have a choice when it comes to how you conduct yourself and your responses- even when you react in anger or passion. Only you can make the conscious decision to remain sober and do what’s best for your future.

You are going to face cravings and urges. Walking out of treatment with that certificate of completion won’t erase the triggers, cravings, and urges. A few lucky people can walk away from substance abuse and never feel another desire to drink or use drugs again. Expecting that outcome is dangerous as it leaves you vulnerable to unanticipated triggers. Prepare yourself with a plan for coping with these occurrences before you discharge from care.

There’s going to be a lot of excuses to give in. Heartbreak, stress, depression and angst; both celebrations and mourning. Don’t let those fleeting feelings of a moment cause you to slip all the way back to the bottom. You know as well as I know that ‘just one’ never stays as just one. Don’t set yourself up for that failure.

Forget motivation and start being dedicated. Motivation is fleeting. Being dedicated is the conscious decision to live your life in accordance to your goals. In addiction recovery, this means waking up each day and making a commitment to remain on the sober path. It takes dedication to achieve the things you truly want in life.

All aspects of your life will change. Sobriety isn’t just about consumption of drugs or alcohol- it’s a lifestyle change. Sobriety impacts the way you relate to others- which is why a lot of your old crew likely won’t stick around very long. Being sober lets you focus on the things that matter like family and future. The things that we once assumed were out of reach suddenly become possible.

You choose where this journey leads. In the end, no one can do that part for you. In rehab you begin to put the plan for your new sober life together, but it’s up to you rather you implement that plan and what comes of it. Even if you make changes to your plan or have to find alternative routes to reach your dreams, you are in control of just how far you can go in sobriety.

You’re going to lose friends. I hinted at this earlier, but this journey is going to cost you something: your past and the toxic people in it. Rather your friends walk away because you don’t support their lifestyle anymore or you choose to cut those ties that no longer serve you, it’s okay to move on without them. In fact, it’s almost vital. Keep those who want to help you in your journey of sobriety, but don’t cling to those who do not.

Some people won’t let you move beyond your past. The second they hear you’re in recovery is the moment they decide your value is diminished. That’s okay. That’s fine because their thoughts have no bearings on who you are or who you will become. Their assumptions say more about who they are than who you are. It will be frustrating and disappointing- keep your head up.

Recovery doesn’t stop just because you discharge. Each day that you do something that helps you grow as a person and make your continued journey a little easier is a triumph. Even as the years add up, your number one priority must continue to be your sobriety. Use what you gain to encourage and instill wisdom upon others. Don’t be afraid to give back.

Being smart carries you much further than being strong. If you take nothing else away from this, remember: you don’t have to struggle or suffer through recovery. That’s not what this is about. Taking the time to think things through and consider the consequences will save you a lot of heartache and frustration. You don’t have to prove a thing to anyone, much less that you’re strong. We already know you are: you’re on the way to overcoming something that claims thousands of lives each year.

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