Drug and alcohol treatment is a process. For some it can include detox, a stay of some length in a residential program and ultimately some kind of outpatient program or monitored sober living environment. It can also include an arrangement of one or more of those things, along with specific professional medical or psychological involvement.
Achieving and maintaining abstinence is different for everyone. This creates a situation, due to a variety of factors, where some people find themselves completing some kind of treatment, staying sober for a while and then eventually falling back into old habits and relapsing. It is a sad reality but a reality nonetheless. If they are fortunate enough to get back into treatment, it can create feelings of shame and guilt that will then affect their willingness to engage as a result of finding themselves in the same place they worked so hard to get through before. Unfortunately, this cycle causes many to think that maybe treatment won’t work for them at all.
Drug and alcohol treatment does work. There is also the reality that many clients do complete treatment and maintain abstinence for the rest of their lives. They are able to acquire coping strategies and life skills that do not involve drugs or alcohol. They are able to start looking at themselves and the world differently, and are no longer faced with the consequences of living day-to-day as someone dependent on substances. It does happen, and everyone has the opportunity to experience that freedom.
Often those who have tried again and again no longer have the desire to try one more time. They forget that getting sober is a process and there is no time limit or stopwatch; it’s not a race to sobriety. There’s hope; even if it takes multiple tries.
The fact that someone has been in drug and alcohol treatment multiple times does not mean they will never “get it.” Each time someone begins an episode of care, they are different. They are older, the people in treatment with them are different, the period of time that they were using was most likely shorter and their willingness has changed. They may have had a period of abstinence and proven that they have the ability to stay sober. They may have more support due to having participated in a 12-step fellowship or other group.
There will come a time in their current treatment where they will hear the same material, clichés and coping strategies, but they will hear them differently. The important thing is that someone who has been in drug and alcohol treatment once, twice or even many times can look at it as a new opportunity. What came before is only useful as a learning tool not as a reason to quit. Every time someone is lucky enough to make it back into treatment from a period of use can be the FIRST time with proper perspective.
About the Author
BHT Lead Supervisor – Pyramid Healthcare, Langhorne Inpatient