Category: Front Page

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When Rehab Doesn’t Work

Continuing from our last piece, let’s imagine that in fact you’ve already gone along to a treatment facility in the past, and relapsed on alcohol or drugs since then.

What could have gone wrong?

What can you learn from this?

Well, we’ll assume that you wanted to be there in the first place, since rehab treatment programs are generally voluntary.


1) Did you take part?
I know this sounds simple. But part of the intial progress you need to make, is moving from a place of denial, prior to treatment, to entering into a place of accepting your addiction, and owning it.

This often means “giving in” to some extent. Meaning, allowing yourself to be absorbed into the program of treatment, and making a positive assumption that it will help.

Importantly, it also means actually taking part, actively.

Sitting at the back of the room, in group therapy, staying silent, and hoping you’re not picked on, won’t do any good.

Not for your confidence, or your progress.

No-one wants to jump in at the deep end your first day there. But consider truthfully, did I willingly and actively engage in what the treatment centre had to offer?

Did I raise my hand? Did I ask questions? Did I interact with other clients on the same journey?

Did I show the vulnerable, emotional parts of myself, that are necessary to work on, in order to make progress on this illness?

This requires an odd combination of vulnerability, and grit.

Overcoming alcoholism at a rehab clinic requires humility, and trusting enough, to show your weaknesses in front of people you’ve just met.

But you also need to be determined enough to *do* it, work the process, and commit.

If you’re not invested… nothing will happen.


2) Did you get rehab…or just detox?
I get it – at the start of the process, when we’re drunk, desperate, and feeling as low as we’ve ever been, the only focus in our mind is to *feel* better…. as quickly as possible.

It’s difficult at that point to see through the haze and consider the bigger picture of longer term sobriety, and how to ensure that, after detox is finished.

Likewise, once we’re physically detoxed, it’s really easy to conclude “I can do this on my own!”…..”I don’t need anyone, or anything!” and get carried away with simply how good we feel, that we forget to take longer term abstinence seriously.

So, being honest, when you signed up, was it for detox, or for rehab?

If you went through the full rehabilitation process, and still floundered, well…we’re coming to that.

But if you left after detox, consider now, if that was the best move. It may be possible that you got exactly what you wanted, but simply didn’t do enough to secure longer term sobriety.


3) Did you set up aftercare?
When you were in treatment, what arrangements did you make for when you leave?

It’s all too easy, in the safe confines of the clinic, protected from the usual stressors in life, to assume that things will somehow automatically be different, after you leave an addiction treatment centre.

But what have you done to ensure this?

In the outside world after treatment, it’s up to you.

If you didn’t set it up, consider doig so now. What supports do you need, to maintain recovery (or get back on track), and what will help you achieve this?

What will your daily routine look like? From your up-to-date knowledge of your addiction history and weak points, what supports will you put in place to prevent relpase during those weak moments, when stressors hit?

Thinking back to what you learned about yourself during treatment, what specific *types* of h elp might you need, to get things on track again.

It’s not as easy when back in the reality outside the clinic, but it can be done.


4) Triggers
Triggers, and events you couldn’t have anticipated during treatment, are almost always at the top of the list, as reasons for relapse.

Did you properly understand the triggers you have for addiction behaviours, during therapy time in treatment?

Did you fully take account of these, across different contexts and scenarios in life, and make arrangements in your aftercare planning for this?

Did you compare your history with alcohol – similar events where you binged, or used, to learn more about your patterns of usage, and likely trigger situations?

If not, do so now.

The self-insight and learning we can gain from these types of comparison exercises is huge.

It needn’t be complicated.

Just right down a list, now, of times when you binged *extremely*, or events where your drinking got *really out of control*.

Note the dates next to each of these, and do this across as many years as you can remember.

Now, examine the events carefully, and look for the commonalities.

What are you trying to get out of these situations? What gains do you make, by going to excess with alcohol, during these events?

What potential losses are you trying to avoid, by drinking, in these scenarios?

These are the clues to your patterns in alcoholism, your triggers, and the reasons why you drink – this is the gold.

Use it, to plan around situations in future that you think could trigger an alcohol episode.

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.

Treatment Center Reviews

LiftOffWe have lift off!

We’re introducing a new reviews section soon for treatment centers, for those of you just starting out on the addiction recovery journey.

We don’t have sponsors and we won’t have any in future- so these will be the closest thing available to impartial opinion, as is available.

We’ll be bringing you inside experiences, and personal accounts, of how our users have experienced the alcohol and drug treatment programs, in a variety of addiction centers, across the globe.

This will be a useful point-of-reference for those seeking treatment, or thinking about it, and should make clear what each center expects of you (and what you should expect of them!)

Everything from daily routine in a center, to funding availability, alcohol/substance types treated, etc.

These centers do tend to vary wildly in what they deliver, and to what standards.

So hearing from the community on these topics will be important.

Do you have any specific requests? Please let us know at Thanks!