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6 Misconceptions About Addiction Treatment

Of all the people in the US who have a substance use disorder, only about 10 percent ever get help for it. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that a lot of people have mistaken ideas about what addiction treatment programs are like. These misconceptions, along with just not knowing what to expect at all, scare people away from treatment or at least give them plausible-sounding excuses not to go. Although treatment for addiction certainly has its challenges, it might not be what you expect. The following are some common misconceptions about treatment.

“You Have to Hit Rock Bottom for Recovery to Be Possible”

The most common myth about treatment for a substance use disorder, and the one that probably does the most damage is the idea that you have to hit rock bottom in order to recover. This idea keeps people from seeking help when they consider their own substance use only mildly problematic and it prevents family and friends from encouraging someone they are concerned about to get help. In reality, “rock bottom” is whenever you want it to be. It’s when you decide that you don’t like the direction your life is heading and you want to make a change.

It’s not even really necessary to be committed to getting sober. Pretty much everyone feels ambivalent about entering treatment but many of these people do pretty well. Some people don’t even want to get help. Consider drug courts, for example. These courts give non-violent drug and alcohol offenders the option to seek treatment rather than serve jail time, an opportunity most defendants take advantage of, even if they are far more enthusiastic about staying out of jail than about getting sober. Despite their reluctance to enter treatment, research shows that drug court participants typically have much better outcomes–less recidivism, better employment status, and so on–than people who serve jail time.

“Treatment is Too Expensive”

People see that some celebrity or other has announced they’re entering treatment and they draw the conclusion that treatment is only for the rich and famous. While there are posh treatment facilities for the upper crust, these don’t necessarily have better treatment outcomes. At luxurious facilities, your money often goes to amenities rather than treatment and so more moderately priced programs typically offer a better value.

What’s more, treatment has never been more affordable. Because of the opioid crisis, there is now more federal money available for treatment, and state and local governments are also offering more assistance as well. For most people, insurance will pay for at least some of their treatment and most quality treatment programs work with several insurers. In short, treatment is probably more affordable than you would think. Contact a few programs you’re interested in and see if they can help you pay for treatment.

“Detox Is All You Really Need”

Detox is often a major obstacle to recovery. Many people are so afraid of withdrawal symptoms that they just keep drinking or using. It might make sense then, that many people believe that if they can just get over that particular hump, then they’ll be fine. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how it works. Every stage of recovery has its own challenges. Once you get past the detox hump, you still have to deal with cravings, friends who don’t support your recovery, co-occurring mental health issues, and so on. Addiction is a complex problem and physical dependence is rarely the only factor.

“Treatment is Boring”

A lot of people imagine treatment as going to some sterile facility where they don’t know anyone, following a strict schedule, spending endless hours in classes and group therapy sessions, interrupted only by sleep and bland meals. Perhaps even worse, you may imagine having to participate in some kind of pep-rally style positivity. In reality, there is a lot of variation in treatment programs.

The best programs are designed to be challenging and engaging. There will always be challenging times, like facing your demons during therapy but much of treatment is also about finding out what brings you joy and connects you to other people. At various times, you might engage in exercise, sports, outdoor activities, art or music, and any variety of activities. Recovery works best when it’s about discovering joy and meaning rather than relying on grim determination.

“You Have to Find Religion”

It’s no secret that AA and similar groups were originally based on the idea of religious conversion. You can’t beat addiction on your own, so you rely on a higher power to help you. There are certain corners of the recovery community where people believe that a spiritual awakening is the only path to sobriety but it’s just not true. Plenty of people enjoy a strong recovery without such an “awakening.” Recovery is always an individual journey.

Many of the principles work for many people, but in the end, you have to do what works for you. Even in the 12-Step approach, more people typically benefit from the group support and the systematic process than from any religious conviction. If your faith helps you recover, then great, but it may not be for everyone and it doesn’t have to be.

“Recovery Ends After Treatment”

Finally, a lot of people have this idea that you can go into a treatment program, they fix you up, and you’re no longer addicted when you leave. In reality, treatment is more like a training camp. You learn a lot of recovery skills, interpersonal skills, emotional regulation skills, and so on. You find out if you have any co-occurring mental health issues and you begin treating those.

However, you have to carry all this work through to your regular life after you leave. To that end, it’s typically a good idea to step down levels of care or at least pay special attention to making a smooth transition through therapy and regular attendance of 12-Step meetings. Treatment is really only the beginning but it can give you a good head start and a map for the road ahead.

There are somewhere around 14,000 addiction treatment centers in the US and whatever negative preconception you have about treatment is probably true of at least one of them. However, good treatment programs know that real change comes from engagement and self-discovery, not from being badgered or bored into compliance.

At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that joy and connection are the keys to a strong recovery. We offer a variety of services, including interventions, individualized treatment, and transitional care. To learn more about our program, call us today at 833-801-5483.

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