It’s hard to admit this out loud, but rarely do we master something new on the very first try. While this fact of life is totally acceptable when learning to ride a bike or baking sourdough bread, it’s rarely permitted in the world of recovery. “You went to rehab! You should be ‘fixed’!” How can we reframe rehabilitation as a journey, not simply a one-stop destination?
Rehab: A Turning Point
People enter treatment centers for help for many conditions. Maybe they’ve not had success yet managing mood disorders or the effects of trauma or PTSD. Perhaps they’ve discovered alcohol or substance use has negatively impacted their health, relationships, and daily life. Or they suspect that a process addiction, such as gambling or shopping, is a genuine concern, but they don’t understand why.
In these and other situations, immersive professional care is often a critical first step toward healing. And after 30, 60, or 90 days as rehabilitation residents, many individuals have more clarity and confidence to move beyond their previous way of life and begin a solid recovery path.
Choosing to release struggle by going to rehab is a turning point. What happens once you get there is a completely different story.
An Example of Beginning Care
Quality rehabilitation, with dedicated professionals and individualized treatment, has a respectable success rate. However, here’s the inevitable “but”: nothing is 100 percent guaranteed. Let’s use an example.
Bonne had a difficult time growing up, filled with numerous adverse childhood experiences. Then, when she was a young teen, her mother died, and Bonne didn’t really have a support network to help her deal with the grief of losing her only close family member. Instead, she entered the foster care system until she aged out at 18. She did well in school and managed to get loans for college. But it was challenging to balance classes, a full-time job, and paying for all her expenses. So she used alcohol to cope with the stress of life and an undercurrent of depression. Bonne developed alcohol use disorder, coupled with depression and, buried beneath it all, unresolved grief and trauma. As a result, she dropped out of school and lost her job.
For Bonne, there are layers of life to unpack. Maybe she’d tried addiction treatment at a facility, since that was the primary disturbing factor in her life. She got “clean and sober” but wasn’t equipped to delve deeper into all the complicated factors leading to alcohol abuse. Bonne left rehab after 30 days and went to AA meetings dutifully for about three months, but still felt she was spiraling from depression, grief, and the circumstances from her childhood. She became overwhelmed again and started drinking, much more than before.
Rehab & Relapse
Did rehab fail because it didn’t “fix” her? Should she abandon hope of getting help? Or try a different rehab facility that can address some of her other issues?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates addiction is a chronic illness that has to be managed, just like other medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or hypertension. “Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.”
It often surprises people to learn that the relapse rate of people in recovery is 40-60 percent. Interestingly, the NIDA states the relapse rate of people managing asthma and hypertension is 50-70 percent. However, rarely will you hear anyone say that going back to a physician for a different asthma treatment means that all previous care “failed” and that an individual should feel bad about themselves for needing additional care.
No matter what condition you have, it’s an ever-evolving process for better health.
Start the Journey
Tab W. Hoyt is the chief of medical services and a nurse practitioner at Cottonwood. In an interview, he said, “Some psychiatric problems may originate from medical issues and/or are compounded by them, and are often overlooked. [The assessments we do] allow us to truly treat the individual from a whole-body approach. The treatment plan may change with a resolution of problems or new findings. In some cases, diagnoses may change.”
So it’s true: for some people, the first stay in rehab isn’t enough to connect all the puzzle pieces and resolve deep-rooted issues. To admit this is a sign of strength, not weakness. Even if your life doesn’t quite resemble our Bonne example, you inherently understand that you’re ready for the next phase of healing and that your level of recovery could be stronger. If that means recalibrating a treatment approach in a professional setting with a more unified and constructive continuum of care plan, so be it.
Remember, your courage to enter treatment the first time is the foundation of how far you’ve come so far. To master health takes time, but it’s never a wasted effort. If we can help you continue to forge your wellness path, please reach out.