The Misconception That Addiction is Completed
Ready for some news you might not like? Addiction doesn’t “go away”. That’s right. Their is no pill, therapy or intensive 60 day rehab that will cure addiction. Even though this might not be what you wanted to hear, it isn’t necessarily bad news. But more on that later.
But haven’t we all been told by doctors, rehabs and pharmaceutical companies that if we follow their program, our drug or alcohol problem will be fixed? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Why doesn’t 30, 60 or even 90 days in an intensive, clinical, therapeutic setting cure addiction if it’s a disease though? I’m glad you asked.
Recovery is Not a Car Wash
Depending on drugs used and the length of time – recovery of the brain and physical health can take up to a full year. This means that contrary to what we may be told in advertisements, 30, 60 or 90 days does not even give physical recovery enough time to take place. It’s a great start, and 1 month of sobriety is most certainly an accomplishment to be proud of, but if the brain has not even recovered from the damage of drug use yet, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of long term recovery.
The thing to understand about addiction and recovery from addiction, is that it isn’t really about the drugs and alcohol in the first place. The reality is, drugs and alcohol are a solution used by addicts for deeper, underlying issues. Self-esteem, trauma, depression – all of these things are going on alongside of addiction much of the time. The bottom line is, addicts use drugs and alcohol to cope. If the problem was really just about the drugs and the alcohol, getting people sober would be easy! Just take their drugs and alcohol away for long enough, and they would be cured!
To truly deal with addiction and facilitate real recovery, a lot more has to happen than just being abstinent from drugs and alcohol. A lot more than can realistically take place in a couple short months.
So the saying “recovery is not a car wash”, doesn’t mean that someone can’t clean their life up. It means that it just isn’t as simple as going into a treatment center and coming out to find everything is fixed. Recovery is not something that just happens once and is completed. It is a process that takes time, effort and consistency in order for it to last.
The First 30 Days
So what actually happens in those first 30 days or so inside of treatment? Well potentially, a lot of really important things! It can give someone some time to step away from a deeply negative environment. It can expose someone to the concept of internal work and a healthier direction in life. It can help someone to remove the drugs and alcohol long enough to give sobriety a chance. Those are all crucial components to a long lasting sobriety. But in and of themselves, they are not enough to maintain long-lasting sobriety.
What the first 30 days don’t do, is provide enough time and consistency to fundamentally change a person’s character. Just as importantly, they do not provide enough time for someone to do the real digging necessary to uncover the things underneath their addiction. While there can surely be powerful work done in that time period, the kind of digging that long-term sobriety requires can’t be completed in a few short weeks.
In order for this process to take place, there is a level of self-honesty that has to be present. This generally takes time to develop. The beginning parts of sobriety are more focused on getting out of the mental and emotional fog that prevents this type of self-honesty from even being possible.
The first 3 months can set the stage for this process though.
Long-term sobriety requires a fundamental shift of character to take place. This is a long process that is formed by experience, mistakes and growth. Learning to live life with a whole new set of motivations, approaches and perspectives to the daily circumstances that make up life on life’s terms. The true uncovering of self that allows long term sobriety to be maintained is a lengthy process. This isn’t a bad thing though!
While learning to cope without drugs and alcohol is a long process, and the uncovering of self can be very uncomfortable, these experiences provide immense freedom! But the journey takes time. Approaching recovery with a quick fix, destination mentality can be very harmful to anyone that is looking to truly adopt a new lifestyle. Placing a time stamp on recovery that is defined by a few short months leads to relapse. Not because a program was terrible or ineffective necessarily, but because of the misconception that this is even enough time to “fix” the problem in the first place!
The work that takes place after those first few months is just as if not more important than the initial drying out period. This is where someone begins to truly build self-esteem through changing the way they live their life. Not just in a couple isolated instances, but over time and consistently. This is where someone has an opportunity to get in touch with the things that they drank and used over in the first place and confront those issues. This is where a framework for a long lasting and sustainable recovery is strengthened and tested.
In It For The Long Haul
The expectation that recovery can be completed in a few months is dangerous and doesn’t give someone enough time to truly repair the damage that they have cause in their addiction. Having enough time to truly do the work that this requires can be the deciding factor in whether or not someone stays sober. So many young people have been through short term treatment center after short term treatment center only to return to their old lives and relapse shortly after. Giving them the tools and support to prevent this from happening takes longer than a few short months. We need to let go of the fallacy that addiction can be “fixed” in 90 days and start making decisions that will help those seeking recovery set themselves up for success in the long haul.