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3 Things Rehab Isn’t

If drug or alcohol use is starting to complicate your life, you may be ready to consider whether inpatient rehab is right for you. What should you expect when you check yourself in for help with an addiction? To better understand what rehab is, here’s a look at what it isn’t:

1. A Quick Fix

Some imagine an inpatient rehab facility as a place where you detox for a few days, get the substance out of your system, and come home cured. If only it were that simple. The reality is that addiction is a complex illness that actually changes brain circuitry and structures, affecting biology and behavior, and it takes time and repeated positive effort to counteract the damage. Addiction resets reward circuits, for example, eventually diminishing your ability to feel pleasure and motivation — not only from the substance but from other joys in life as well, even your relationships with loved ones. Addiction also affects the parts of the brain involved in judgment, decision-making and impulse control, which can complicate your efforts to change. And that’s just one part of the picture. Substance use is often set in motion or made worse by issues such as childhood trauma or co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Successfully treating the addiction means treating these as well. This is just a sampling of what must be overcome and it’s not easy, but the estimated 23 million people in recovery in the U.S. are living proof that it can be done. Still, when thinking of recovery, it’s better understood as a journey rather than a destination, and rehab can be the first step on that path.

2. An Escape

One of the benefits of inpatient rehab is that it takes you out of your environment and allows you to detach from daily stresses. This can be crucial in giving you the mental and physical space to concentrate on your recovery. But rehab should not be seen as a place to escape your problems; it’s where you go to face them. All the things that helped fuel your addiction back home — whether troubled relationships, pressures at work or home, or people or places that trigger your desire to use drugs or alcohol — will most likely be waiting when you return. This is the time to develop real-world coping skills that will boost your ability to handle whatever comes when you are beyond the protective oversight of your treatment providers.

3. A Last Resort

If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may find yourself wondering if your problem is “bad enough” to warrant a rehab stay. While you may well be able to address a newly developing problem with outpatient treatment, you shouldn’t shy away from inpatient rehab because you assume it’s only for those at the end of their rope. Rehab can help people in all stages of the recovery journey. It’s for anyone who wants to take advantage of the structure, guidance, medically managed detox, intensive therapy and sense of community it can provide. Above all, don’t buy into the misguided and dangerous notion that you must hit rock bottom before you’ll have the necessary motivation to change, so why bother with rehab until then. This mindset only ensures your problem will become more entrenched and tougher to treat and that you’ll do even more damage to mind, body and relationships. And there is always the risk that waiting for rock bottom means waiting too long. The good news is that motivation often comes as part of the treatment process rather than in advance of it. Research shows that even those court-ordered into addiction treatment do just as well as those who go voluntarily. That means you don’t have to wait until your life is in shambles all around you so that you’ll be appropriately inspired to make things better. The only question you need to ask yourself when trying to determine if your problem is “bad enough” is this: Is your substance use stopping you from living the life you want? If the answer is yes, it’s time to reach out for help.

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