The Path to Sobriety and the Role of Drug Rehab

Starting our journey: deciding we want to change

The “path to sobriety,” and “the road to Recovery,” exist and offer real hope for the addict and the people who care for that individual. Anyone with any form of addiction can start on this journey.  However, there has to be that point when we say “enough is enough, I need help” because without making a commitment to make changes then we will never take that first step of starting out on that new journey of sobriety.

So, the first step to get on the “path” has to be a mental one. There might be several times when we believe we are ready to take that first step but we really are not. We will make excuses to ourselves and those close to us, as genuinely, whatever state our addiction has taken us to, we will still be frightened as to how we can manage our life without it and so there may be several false starts.

group friends travel road together

Going to a drug rehab clinic

Having finally made that mental decision then the next stage will usually involve being admitted to a residential addiction rehab or detox clinic because a medically assisted detox will be required to help us safely stop using our drug of choice. Our body will have become used to our increased daily consumption and will have become tolerant to the drug and it can be extremely dangerous to try and stop using ourselves.  This would be the first stage of recognising the need and actually accepting help from someone else. 

The role of the 12 Step Programme

The majority, possibly 98%, of residential addiction rehabs or drug addiction clinics in the UK use treatment based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Programme of Recovery.  This has proven to be so effective in helping individuals that its modality is being used by other addiction support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous etc. In fact, between the different support groups only one word is changed within the 12 Steps to make it appropriate for that particular group and that one word is in Step 1.  Step 1 states “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Each support group, other than AA, will change the word alcohol to whatever is appropriate for that group.

There is no ‘cure’ for addiction

By choosing to finally get help we are, in fact, unwittingly taking that first Step of AA and have finally placed our feet on the first step of the path to sobriety or Recovery.  At The Haynes Clinic, though, we still find that people’s perception of addiction treatment is that going into residential rehab treatment is like waving some sort of magic wand.  It is in the way that it helps you understand how you need to change but it is not an instant fix.  Just going into residential drug treatment for the recognised period of 28 days is not a cure, it is just the start of the journey.

The importance of structured therapy

When we go into addiction rehab treatment, we start to engage with the structured therapy plan. This gives us the beginnings of a daily structure that we need to build onto change our addictive behaviour and thinking and to make new choices.  We will attend group therapy that is facilitated by a qualified therapist and listen to lectures and complete written work to further our understanding of the 12 Step Programme.

The dangers of complacency

However, one of the early problems can be that as soon as we have detoxed and are not feeling the cravings of our drug of choice we start to think that we don’t need this 12 Step Programme and we will be fine and not make the same mistakes again. This is absolutely disastrous thinking and it will lead us straight back to the place we were in before we came in to addiction treatment – only a degree worse as a relapse often takes us to a lower level than before. We need to remember that it was our thinking that finally decided that we needed help and that was the reason we first went in to drug addiction rehab treatment.  Now that we are on the road to recovery we still need the help of others and this is key. 

One Day At A Time

The road to Sobriety is about a daily journey.  It is not about looking far ahead and saying “I can never drink again”, it is just about making a commitment that for “one day at a time I will not drink or drug. Whatever happens in my life today there is nothing that can happen that I will use as an excuse to pick up a drink or drug on because the worse thing that could happen to me today is to have a Relapse.”

Aftercare Support

Going into addiction treatment is just the start and for continued ongoing support then, for example, at The Haynes Clinic we offer ongoing support through Aftercare. This is one day a week either attending in person at the clinic or joining in Zoom meetings.  It is a time where we can share problems we may be encountering in the real world away from the safety of the addiction clinic and receiving direction, support and help.  Also, whilst in drug addiction treatment we will have been introduced to AA, CA or NA support groups and we will be familiar and understand how they are run. We will be firmly encouraged to attend these meetings near to where we live, several times a week, even daily if possible.

The Risk of Relapse

There is a very insightful graph showing that, having been discharged from drug addiction rehab, then the first 6 months are a danger zone where we need to ensure that our old addictive thinking and behaviour is not returning. The second danger zone for a relapse is around the first year, which is  a time when we might drop our defences and start to think that things were not too bad and we might be all right to have the odd drink. In effect, we start to negotiate with our addiction.  If your personal path to sobriety gets beyond 14 months then generally you will reach 5 years and if you get to 5 years you will not want to lose the life that you have found.

Our journey has a start date which is usually the day we enter treatment and that is the day that we can also start a life that is not determined by our addictive thinking and behaviour.  Getting a life is what the road to sobriety is all about.