Month: May 2019

What If Rehab Doesn’t Work?

WomanWalkingForestI used to hear this a lot.

What if “it doesn’t work”?

I put it in quotes because it highlights exactly where an alcoholic or drug addict is, when they say this.


This individual is still in a place of “some external source has to to do recovery for me”.

In other words, not yet in a place of acceptance that, actually, the success of their recovery is up to them – and no-one else.

It’s not surprising of course – and I’m not judging this negatively – it’s just a great illustration of where people are at, at this stage in the journey.


There are scant resources available usually, in the public healthcare system, to offer true alcohol/drug rehabilitation, for those who need it.

What I mean by this, is that a proper program within a residential alcohol drug addiction centre, including spiritual and mental health support, physical exercise, and usually either SMART or 12 step mutual aid programs, meetings, etc combined together.


So most will end up admitting to a private healthcare facility, often via insurance policies.

This is a wonderful gift, and allows the needy to access help that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

The down side is that, where there is any exchange of money for a service, even if the money is not ours, we expect a certain amount of service, and we expect that to be done for us.

This doesn’t help addicts attempting to recover who need to move from a place of complete and total denial about their addiction, to a place of acceptance of responsibility, both now and in the future.


Of course we would expect a structured therapy program such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to take care of much of these core issues around the addiction itself – but the individual still has to be willing – and ready – to make these important changes.

Worse – a drug/alcohol addict admitting to a residential treatment centre too quickly – can be a recipe for disaster.


They don’t participate, have no motivation, blame their lack of progress on others, and use every opportunity to seek their substance of choice, constantly on the verge of relapse.

Once in treatment, the sooner we can accept responsibility for our addiction (Step 1 anyone?) and the damage caused, the more likely we are to get something out of the help being offered.

We’re less concerned with someone who says “what if it doesn’t work”, then actually engages in treatment properly and takes responsibility, than we are about someone asking the same question who has a history of relapse, short term detoxes, and non-engagement.


The lesson we need to learn in the short term whilst in treatment, is that my addiction recovery is up to me, and no-one else, regardless of how luxurious treatment is, who has paid for it, or what extras it includes – my focus should be on me – not the outside world.

With this attitude, even the most mediocre program can help get someone back on track.


They say that the opposite of addiction is connection.

And this is somewhat true, in my experience.


The connection is really secondary to the acceptance of life, on life’s terms, as opposed to connection with others in general, with no purpose.

I never really got this until my own sponsor explained it.


Let’s examine those who’ve been in longer terms addiction recovery, like 20-30 years.

How have they achieved this?

What patterns did they follow?

The answer is usually some combination of responsibility + relationships.

What I mean is, those actively in addiction are in a place of lack of responsibility, helplessness, and “at effect” of the alcohol that is consuming them (and not the other way round!).


With alcoholism or drug addiction comes the inevitable blame game – and victim mentality.

“I am a victim!” shouts the alcoholic.

“Everyone and everything is set up against me!” claims the addict.

Granted, this is how it often *feels* near the start of addiction recovery, since we’ve spent so much time denying that anything is our fault – it’s very very tempting to fall back into the pattern of blaming everything on someone else – what the psychologists call “external locus of responsibility”.


Whilst those with poor self-esteem often suffer from the opposite – an internal locus of all responsibility – the healthy approach is more like an 80%-20% internal-external balanced approach.

If we help the recovering addict or alcoholic in our lives to realise that:

– it’s ok to fail
– it’s ok to be responsible for something and to fail
– it’s ok to fail and ask for help
– it’s *not* ok to fail and blame it on others.


In the first few months after treatment, most will struggle with some element of life, a trigger recurring, or a previous situation that reinforces one or more negative self-esteem beliefs – that in the past, we would have turned to our coping mechanism to solve.

There is some, emotional resilience to be developed, for those new to recovery – a learned form of resisting the urge to make false conclusions, that don’t enable us to react well to the circumstances around us.


If you’ve worked hard in therapy, you’ll realise by this point, the triggers and “hot” situations that are likely to lead to relapse, and how to cope differently.

Sometimes this is by taking practical action like reaching out for support when you feel overwhelmed.


Other times this is about deciding, consciously, to draw a different conclusion, about what a situation means, rather than the default, old conclusion you would have drawn, that led to both negative self-esteem impacts and negative consequences in the outside world.

It’s tempting, I’ll agree, and a pattern that needs practice to interrupt.


But once you’ve broken the pattern once or twice, and seen that it’s possible to allow yourself to draw more functional conclusions – and that people are willing to help when you’re unable to do this – then it begins to truly feel like recovery is not only possible for others – but possible for you.