A rehab facility is often thought of as the last resort when dealing with a loved one’s addiction.  When all else has failed, someone steps away from society, going into a modern and urban form of hermitage as an assortment of doctors and therapists tool away at the body and mind like mechanics on a busted car.  Then, after a hefty check is written off to cover a substantial bill, you walk out the doors a changed person. When someone hits rock bottom, or the people around them get fed up with their nonsense; when some life-altering trigger happens, the safety net of modern science opens up to catch them.  That’s one of the more common views people have on the institution of rehabilitation– a view leading directly away from the healthy mindset and changes a person needs.

A Bastion of Last Resort

For the last few months, I’ve been listening to the same guy talk about the same problem every week.  His real name isn’t AJ, but we’ll call him that for the sake of this story. AJ does heroin. AJ doesn’t want to do heroin anymore, but he’s having a hard time putting it down.  Every week he tells the story of wanting to be clean. He is trying to stay away from dope but then continues getting high and hating himself. Every week he gets the same suggestion: enroll in an inpatient rehab program.  He has a whole pocket full of excuses he can throw out for not going to rehab. But the one reason he always winds up sticking with after the first few get brushed aside is that he’s not “bad enough off” yet.

Honestly, he’s not at rock bottom.  He’s at odds with his family, he’s struggling to get to work every day, and he can’t afford a place to live. However, as a whole, he continues to be able to make it through the day. He’s functional. In his mind, that’s reason enough to keep him from seeking out a treatment center. Unfortunately, that’s what’s holding him back from recovery.

Fear of Failure

AJ’s view of rehabilitation echoes a sentiment that I’ve heard a lot over the years.  Rehab, especially inpatient rehab, is something that people go to when they have nothing else to turn to.  When someone loses themselves or can’t function anymore, they surrender themselves to a structured institution which takes control and roots around in their mind and body to get them fixed up.  Therefore, they go to rehab when their addiction is at its worst. That includes after lawful arrests, loss of a job, financial ruin, or even suicide attempts.

Consequently, they don’t seek any help.  The safety net of just checking themselves into rehab is always present.  I see it lull people a mindset that keeps them from focusing on recovery with the focused energy that they need because of the tempting surrender of the last resort.  They may not consider themselves bad enough to seek out rehabilitation yet. Although, their focus is much less directed at the bad enough as it is the yet.  

Avoiding Rock Bottom

If someone convinces themselves that the easy answer to their problems lies at their rock bottom, then they commit themselves to reach that rock bottom.  I’m not saying that this is always the case. People can still address their addictions themselves, or through one of the countless programs available that don’t include inpatient rehab.  However, it’s all too common a sight to see someone who knows they have a problem and wants to confront it and work through it. Even though this person recognizes their addiction, they might kick the problem further down the road because they feel as if they can (or also need) to let their disease develop. Furthermore, if someone has themselves convinced that accepting help is a desperate act of last resort, then why would they want to?  No one wants to acknowledge failure and defeat.

Goals and Endpoints

Similar to what I said at the beginning of this article, a lot of people think of the rehab process as a product.  You take a person who struggles with addiction, run them through a system, then they pop out the other side “cured”.  The only thing holding people back from becoming whole and healthy is the idea of surrendering to a program. Sometimes these myths are even perpetuated by the clinics and insurance companies.  Some aspects of inpatient treatment, like the 28 to 30 day treatment period seen at a lot of facilities and programs, is completely fabricated.

Recovery as an Ongoing Process

The 28-day treatment program has its origin in the US military during the middle of the last century.  If a soldier started screwing around too much with booze or drugs, they’d have a 30-day window of rehabilitation if they wanted to avoid being reassigned.  Insurance companies picked this up and decided that 30 days sounded like a pretty good window of time to cover, and that became a widely accepted rehabilitation period.  Rehab today ranges anywhere from this 30 day period to 90-day treatments. Some even go up to extensive rehabilitation in sober living facilities and halfway houses.

However, it’s important to ask how long you or your loved one truly needs in recovery.  Even after reaching out for help, the lifestyle and mind of someone suffering from substance abuse have been altered drastically by years of dependence on drugs and alcohol.  The wiring of the brain, the receptors for pleasure and reward, and the day-to-day lifestyle are all things that mold into biological and behavioral systems of chemical consumption and processing.  No matter the endpoint of the rehab, the endpoint of the struggle with addiction lies much, much further down the road. A good rehab facility knows this and will specifically make a point to help set up the structure, philosophies, and lifestyle necessary to maintain sobriety.  Going into rehab with this mindset– that the rehab is the beginning of the recovery process as opposed to the guaranteed ending of it– is essential.

Expectations vs Reality


Going into rehab with the expectation of coming out the other side sober is a pretty good way to find yourself or loved one back in rehab in the next few years.  Out of all the people I know who have gone through the experience of rehab, only one of them has successfully been through once. I have one friend who, from the age of 15, has been through various rehabs for all kinds of different issues.  In his early 20s, he even went through a 60-day program for video game addiction after his parents found the game system he’d been hiding.

His family, with no idea what to do with him and no time to get to know him, moved him from one facility to another, waiting for the miracle cure to stick.  Every time, he came out more and more defeated, struggling with the fact that even what he understood as the “last ditch quick fix” couldn’t cure him. He would come out clean from one type of substance, then immediately switch to a different kind of inebriant with the belief that he was finally clean from whatever he had been sent to rehab for in the first place. Not only was he jumping from one vice to another, but he also never had the means to address the root issue leading him to stay addicted.


For many people, the struggle with addiction is just a daily fact of life.  As a comparison: they need food, sleep, and water. Similarly, they may feel a hunger for the drug of their choice.  The recovery process and rehab especially create goals and endpoints, which allow for failure in a way that the day to day life of an addict does not.  For someone struggling with daily substance abuse, this introduction of failure can go hand in hand with the financial and familial pressures of rehab to create an extremely stressful situation for someone in a fragile and vulnerable state.

Is Rehab for You?

To begin to heal from trauma, you need distance.  First, you need physical distance between you and the problem.  Second, you need distance in time. Lastly, you need emotional distance.  Rehab’s ability to give you this distance from chronic stresses and traumas is one of its most important facets.  It takes you away from the problem physically and gives you a new location to help change perspective. By committing to the timeline of the program, you create distance in time between the present and the last time you used.  Finally, the caring professionals at the program should teach you coping skills and help you reorient yourself emotionally. This way, you can continue to journey through your recovery after the treatment with awareness and the helpful tools you need.  

The transition back to healthy life after completing a rehab treatment is the real challenge of the program.  Rehab programs create safe spaces of sobriety. Places where a person can feel comfortable, safe, and productive in the healing recovery process.

Inpatient rehab is not going to cure anyone or everyone’s addiction.  You’re not hiring a mechanic to fix your car or tech support to get a virus off your computer.  If you’re thinking of sending yourself or a loved one to rehab, then you need to understand this aspect of it.  You’re not purchasing sobriety. Viewing rehab as a magical solution is not going to help anyone achieve what they’re looking for.

Progress, Not Perfection

If the rehab you’re looking at claims to be able to do this, that’s a place you might want to avoid. A proper, effective rehab will give someone the tools they need to begin the process of recovery. Addiction is not just behavioral, its biochemical.  Overwriting the changes in brain chemistry that happen through drug dependency requires time, and it requires treatment on multiple fronts. Rehab can give the opportunity for an addict to come to terms with this. Rehab can provide the structure and discipline they need in order to see the process through.  It can help strategize and plan the transition back to a healthy life which follows a stay in rehab.

If you’re asking yourself whether rehab is right for you or you’re loved one, then the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no.  Search for a rehab center which can help. Talk to doctors and therapists and research what sort of treatments and resources they offer. Be wary of rehabs that sell themselves on the luxury and avoid centers which guarantee success.  Understand that by entering into a rehab you’re not entering an instant promise of sobriety. You’re not surrendering control to a program which someone else will work for you. You are, however, gaining the resources and tools you need to enter on the journey to sobriety.

How to Find Treatment if You Think it’s Right for You

If you want to avoid rock bottom or if you’ve already been there, you might be ready to commit to the process of recovery. Whether that’s inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, or other methods of support, Prevail Intervention has answers to help you. Call our free helpline if you’d like to speak with a professional about getting sober. We can find you the right recovery resources for you and your specific needs in recovering from substance abuse. Let us help you on the journey to sobriety.


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