Stumbling Blocks to Recovery in Addiction Rehab

stumbling block

Getting our priorities right

Everyone of any age will have a different perception of what goes on in a residential addictions rehab or private detox clinic.  However, given that most people who contact The Haynes Clinic for help and advice with their addiction have reached a point in their lives when everything around them is slowly or even quickly being destroyed by their addictive thinking and behaviour, it is perhaps surprising that we are more often asked  “is there a gym that I can use?”  than told “I will do anything I need to do to get well and not let my addiction continue to destroy me.”

Access to a gym in addiction rehab

Actually, some addiction clinics do have access to a gym facility and The Haynes Clinic is one of them but the point about being admitted to a residential rehab unit is not about the gym, reading a book, having access to your mobile phone or laptop or having a television in your room.  It is about the ability and willingness to address your old thinking and to start the process of thinking in a different way. Within the very limited time that we have in addiction treatment we have to start to get on the road to Recovery from our addiction.

Can young people become addicted?

The age of people accessing addiction treatment has changed drastically over the last 10 years and due to a perfect storm of a pandemic leading to people drinking more at home, easier access to drugs  and an increase in gambling and food related issues that are associated with boredom, and also to relieve mental health problems, this has now led to many more younger people in their 20/30s needing help. Some 10 years ago it tended to be people in their 50/60s. So, immediately, there is the first stumbling block.  Someone in their 20/30s is told that they have an alcohol or drug addiction and they need to abstain from using their drug of choice.  Their thought process is usually one of “why me,” or “I’m too young to have an addiction, I drink/use the same amount as my friends.”  Its almost as if they see it as being unfair for them at their age, as they haven’t had a long enough “using time,” before their body has become dependent.

Access to a mobile phone in an addictions clinic

Certainly a medicated detox will take away withdrawal symptoms and cravings and for some there is the reassurance of accepting that they are in a place of safety being looked after by people who understand them.  However, it is usually within those first few days that they start to feel vulnerable and the feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, anger and remorse will surface. During this stage, people will react differently as they do not have their drug of choice or addictive behaviour to supress these feelings as they have done in the past.  They could become withdrawn or angry or just want to leave as they find it hard to deal with these feelings without their old coping mechanism.  At The Haynes Clinic we take away people’s mobile phones for the first 7 days. This stops the constant communication between the person in treatment and family and friends or even their dealer.  They can still phone home up to once a day, using the clinic’s phone, but calls are limited and monitored. Usually, after 7 days they become more settled in treatment and will not be wanting to make constant phone calls.

Written work in addiction treatment centre

As people’s emotions and feelings start to surface, a daily structured therapy programme is essential as it helps and supports all those in treatment to face these feelings and to discuss them openly and honestly within a group environment. Group therapy is facilitated by therapists that are usually in recovery from an addiction themselves and thus have been through the stages of residential addiction treatment.  However, the daily therapy sessions are not just about talking and sharing, there is quite a lot of written work that is completed outside of group time, usually each evening and then individually presented to the group the following day.  This written work could consist of a daily feelings diary, a detailed life history showing how our addiction has impacted others around us  or work around our understanding of the 12 Step programme. 

95% of all residential addictions units or detox clinics have a modality based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Programme, which has helped many thousands of people get well and has been incorporated as a model used by all other addiction support groups.  Usually all written work will need to be completed during spare time, generally in the evenings, so this leaves very little time to be watching TV or reading a book (other than the AA book!).  This is another stumbling block as many comment that it feels like they have “gone back to school” and in many ways they have as they are having to learn and understand a new way of thinking in order to change their old way of behaving. 

Taking constructive feedback in addiction rehab treatment

A further stumbling block is that people’s written work will be dissected and commented on in what is a positive and constructive manner but due to their heightened feelings they can view this in a negative and destructive manner.  Many will find this challenging and harsh but the reality is that the feedback to their work or understanding is facilitated by people who have been in treatment, exactly the same as them. For many, then, treatment will consist of an emotional rollercoaster.  There is a very old theory that in treatment they knock you down and then rebuild you.  This is just not true, it is help with understanding and grasping the concept of how to get well that is hard to engage with as fundamentally addicts don’t like change and don’t like being verbally challenged when they think they are right. 

Watching television in an addiction treatment centre

Some addiction clinics or residential rehabs in the UK will have shared bedrooms but at The Haynes Clinic we not only have single bed occupancy but also the accommodation is based in generally separate male and female houses (though sometimes these are mixed for practical reasons for a short period of time).  There are no TVs in the bedrooms for the very simple reason it would encourage people to go to their rooms and isolate with their heightened feelings – and addicts need to learn to socialise usually following a spell of isolation before going into addiction rehab .  

Cooking is another example of the power of the group working together and even finding fun with what we used to find a chore and everyone will always congregate in the kitchen as the centre of the house. For some this will be the very important relearning of a life skill for when they return home. 

Going into treatment for any addiction is the start of a journey. This is the first step on a bridge to normal living. Recovery, like every journey, will have parts of the journey that we find harder than others.