Getting the Most Out of Treatment for Addiction

If you really want to quit your addiction, your best bet is to enroll in a professional addiction treatment program at a certified facility. Addiction treatment won’t guarantee that you will never suffer a relapse, but – especially for intractable addictions – if offers the greatest likelihood of success if you stick with the program. Still, addiction treatment is expensive, takes time, and a lot of commitment. So, how do you get the most out of treatment for addiction? Here are some tips that may prove helpful.

Pick the Best Facility

Don’t just go for the easiest route – the neighborhood clinic that does some addiction counseling. Sure, they may be certified, but is it the best facility for you to beat your addiction? For chronic, long-term addicts, residential treatment facilities offer perhaps the best outcome. In addition to in-house detoxification programs, residential treatment facilities offer full-service treatment modalities, leisure activities, accommodations and amenities ranging from modest to ultra-luxurious. If, however, your addiction is of short duration and you believe you’re best served by going to treatment on an outpatient basis, by all means choose the facility that best meets your needs.

Where do you find treatment facilities? Call 1-800-662-HELP for a referral or go to the treatment facility locator (//findtreatment.samhsa.gov/) maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Give it Your Wholehearted Commitment

Once you make up your mind that you’re going for treatment, be sure you are really ready to go. There’s no sense doing it half-way, thinking you’ll go for a while to see if you’ll like it and leave if you don’t. That’s like half-baked bread – the results are unpalatable. You need to fully commit to the process of overcoming your addiction. While the facility you choose may be high-class and welcoming, don’t think that addiction treatment is a breeze. It isn’t, although it’s harder for some addicts to go through than others. Part of this has to do with the mindset. If you go kicking and screaming into treatment, expect it to be worse than if you agree at the outset that you know you’ll be a bit uncomfortable at times, but the end result will be worth it – coming out of treatment clean and sober.

Stick With Treatment for the Long Haul

Just as you need to commit to treatment before you step through the door, you also need to be prepared to stick with it for the long haul. For some long-term addicts, this may be a period of months in treatment following detox. For others, the traditional 30-day treatment (after detox is complete) may suffice. There’s simply no way around it: You need to stay in treatment for the duration in order to obtain the maximum benefit. Many addicts who think they’re fully capable of returning to their own lives and quit treatment against their therapists’ recommendations soon find themselves in full-blown relapse. This means going back to square one and, while it doesn’t mean they won’t ultimately overcome their addiction, it does prolong the process.

Quit Looking for Short-Cuts

While you’re in treatment, you may think you can fool the therapists and counselors by saying what you think they want to hear. Many addicts become quite adept at spouting good stories or boasting of progress in an attempt to shorten their treatment time. The truth is that the professionals in the addiction treatment facility have heard it all before, and they’re knowledgeable about all the tricks that addicts have up their sleeves. Not that you go into treatment with the intention of skipping out, but it’s a natural inclination to want to shirk away from some of the responsibilities and self-introspection that addiction treatment requires. There just are no short-cuts that work. Expect to be here for the duration. When you’re ready to leave, your treatment staff will let you know. Chances are, you’ll have arrived at the determination at the same time as they do. It is, after all, very much a collaborative process between you and your therapists.

Expect it to be Tough

If you expect treatment to be easy, or think that you can breeze through it without any discomfort, disavow yourself of that notion right now. This is all unknown territory to you – unless you’ve already been through addiction treatment and have suffered a relapse, in which case you know how tough it can be. Nevertheless, there are tough times and easy times. After a while, you get into the rhythm of the routine. You know when your sessions are scheduled for individual or group therapy, when you go to lectures or 12-step group meetings, when it’s leisure time or family-therapy time. Some of these are going to be very difficult experiences for you. There’s no getting around that. Go with the flow and understand that it won’t always be this way. In other words, expect that there will be some discomfort and anxiety, anger and denial, on your way toward understanding of the disease of addiction and learning how to overcome it. It will get easier, honestly.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Think you can’t cut it because you’ve been addicted for too long, or have done terrible things, or are ashamed of how you mistreated your family, friends, co-workers and others? You need to cut yourself some slack. There isn’t an addict in the world that hasn’t had to face up to his or her own shortcomings – real or perceived. Blaming yourself doesn’t do any good. You need to get beyond self-recriminations, self-doubt, and guilt in order to progress in your treatment. There’s a lot of stuff that you have to go through – and get rid of – before you can open yourself up to healing. So, when you feel yourself becoming self-critical, cut yourself some slack.

Follow Your Therapist’s Recommendations

You’ve entered addiction treatment to overcome your addiction. You’ve done this because you know you can’t kick your addiction on your own. Therefore, you’ve accepted the fact that these are treatment professionals who know what they’re doing. Remember this when your therapist or counselor recommends something that you don’t want to do, or encourages you to explore that part of your subconscious that you’d rather leave in the dark. Exploring emotions and underlying reasons for addiction are difficult and often painful. You have to trust that your therapist is doing this for good cause – and it will ultimately help you become stronger and better able to cope with cravings and urges that may occur at any time in the future.

Build Your Support Network

While you’re in treatment, you should begin to build your support network. Many recovering addicts remain friends with fellow treatment participants long after treatment concludes. Most residential treatment programs have 12-step group meeting requirements as part of the overall treatment plan. These groups often meet on-site at the treatment facility. Even if you go to an outpatient treatment facility, you’ll likely be required to attend regular 12-step meetings in the community.

The reason 12-step group meetings are a requirement for many treatment programs is that it lays the foundation for the recovering addict to have a support network in place following treatment. There are 12-step groups all over the world, in major U.S. cities, suburbs and rural areas. There are in-person meetings, telephone meetings, and online meetings. In fact, there’s a meeting available somewhere almost any day of the week.

When you are in recovery, you will need the support and encouragement of others who have gone through similar experiences of addiction. While everyone’s story is different, the common thread is that each one genuinely wants to remain clean and sober. Build your support network while you are in treatment so that it will become second nature to you to make use of this resource when you are in recovery. Your support network may be the lifeline to keep you from relapse during tough times.

Pay Attention to Relapse Prevention Training

Speaking of relapse, the best addiction treatment programs include relapse prevention training as part of the overall program. It’s one thing to go through detox and learn about triggers and cues and cravings and urges. It’s another to know how to deal with the anxiety and sleepless nights and depression and out-of-the-blue cravings that strike months and even years down the road. You need a capable toolkit that includes effective strategies you can employ when you need them. In your search for an addiction treatment facility, be sure to inquire whether relapse prevention training is included. If it isn’t, look for another treatment facility that does include it.

Arrange for After-Care or Continuing Counseling

After-care, or continuing counseling, is another benefit of the most effective addition treatment programs. Again, there is no guarantee that just because something is included in the treatment program that it will produce the desired results. This all depends on the individual patient’s motivation, length and type of addiction, frequency of use, family history, environmental factors, and many other considerations. But the availability of counselors or therapists following the successful completion of treatment adds to the likelihood of lasting sobriety. It’s like an added safety net for those who have come through treatment and are now in recovery. Rather than be out on your own, you have the benefit of being able to talk with your counselor or therapist when you need it – for example, when cravings become so insistent or you experience unexpected depression. It may be included, or it may be an extra-cost option. In any case, after-care or continuing counseling is well worth the money and peace of mind.

Prepare Yourself for Early Recovery

Early recovery doesn’t mean that you’re getting out of your addiction treatment program any sooner. Early recovery refers to the first few weeks and months of your newly attained sobriety. It is the time when you most need the support and encouragement of your allies – your counselors, family, friends, and 12-step group sponsor and fellow members. Relapse is very common among addicts in early recovery who don’t have an adequate support network.

Many times, addicts will need to make lifestyle changes in order to give themselves a better chance of a successful recovery. What this means to you may include a change of residence, finding new non-drug or alcohol-abusing friends, getting a job or changing jobs, adopting more healthy behaviors, and working through family difficulties. There may be financial obligations that you will need to tend to, necessitated by your treatment expense, family responsibilities, children’s or spouse’s needs, or others.

If you’re embarking on a drastically different life, you may want to look into additional training or getting financial assistance to get around temporary shortfalls. In any case, you don’t want to walk out of treatment and into the same old circumstances that got you in trouble to begin with. You need to prepare yourself. You need a plan.

Arm Yourself with Your Recovery Plan

Your recovery plan is one that you will create with the help of your therapist during treatment. Together, you will examine what your short- and long-term goals are and you will put down on paper your ideas based on this collaboration. This recovery plan is not set in stone. It is a living document that you should feel comfortable changing as new opportunities present themselves, or as you accomplish various items on your list. In other words, your recovery plan includes goals that you will achieve at varying times, or they will change according to new desires, interests, talents, and opportunities. Some may be discarded as no longer applicable or because they don’t involve enough of a stretch.

In the months and years ahead, you will find yourself becoming more self-confident, more self-assured, and better able to see your unfolding potential. This is the best part of recovery - when your clean and sober lifestyle has become part and parcel of who you are. You are not defined by your addiction. You are who you strive to be.

Give the Most to Get the Most

Confucius said, “The longest journey begins with the first step.” You take that first step when you make the decision to go into treatment and fully commit to becoming clean and sober. Through many months and a lot of hard work and determination later, you will be in recovery and looking forward to achieving your hopes and dreams. The sky’s the limit, to coin a clichéd phrase – which actually turns out, in this case, to be true. There isn’t anything that can stop you once you overcome your addiction. Sure, you’ll always be an addict, but an addict who is in recovery.

To get the most out of treatment for addiction, then, involves giving the most that you can – of yourself, your commitment, enthusiasm, determination, willingness to help others, and belief that you not only have the strength but the ability to change your life for the better.

Go for it.

Posted on May 5th, 2010

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