Whether you’ve decided to go to drug and alcohol rehab on your own, have been asked to by your friends and family, or are being whisked off to one following an intervention, rehab is scary. The idea of rehab, where you pack up your life and go spend several weeks to several months away from home for the sole purpose of changing your life and your habits, is intimidating. It’s natural that you’d feel scared. While all of us feel alone, isolated, and “weird”, in these kinds of situations, it’s natural that you’d respond to an incredibly difficult decision with feelings of anxiety and angst.
In fact, there are many things you might be having difficulty with. These commonly include a fear of failure and relapse. What if you really are “born an addict” and no amount of therapy can help? What if people judge you? What if withdrawal and treatment are horrible? What if?
The thing is, those fears will always be present. This article will attempt to tackle some common fears. Because, no matter how it feels, you are not alone, and you aren’t weird. Almost everyone experiences fear and drags their feet before going to treatment. The important thing is that you overcome it, go anyway, and continue to improve your life.
It’s easy to feel judged, especially in light of substance use disorders. The social stigma around addiction is incredibly high. It’s also problematic. The thing is, people don’t judge you working to get better, they judge that you used to begin with. Some will judge that you can’t just quit “on your own”, but everything we know about medicine tells us that it’s incredibly difficult and dangerous to carry out medical advice on yourself. That’s why we have therapists, psychologists, and addiction recovery clinicians. It’s safer, easier, and more reliable.
While you can’t help what other people think, you can help what you think. You can also suggest some reading material to your friends and family if you’re worried. And, if you’re very worried, going to rehab always allows you to go out of state, keep things quiet, and talk about it with your friends and family when you have the self-esteem and mental space to do so. There’s no rush and no pressure.
You might fail. A certain percentage of people will relapse. But if you don’t go, you fail automatically. And if you relapse stepping out of rehab, there’s nothing stopping you from starting over and trying again. Thomas Edison’s famous quote “I found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb” is especially salient to individuals with substance use disorder, who often go through multiple periods of trying to quit and failing. You’re not guaranteed to quit, you just have to find the right combination of sticking to it, building your life, working to get yourself into a better place, and giving yourself tools to succeed.
Withdrawal can be difficult. In most cases, it won’t be worse than having a bad flu. In other cases, you’ll need medication to get you through it. If you go to rehab, you’ll have medical professionals to monitor your condition and to ensure you make it through as safely and as comfortably as possible. Some treatment centers focus on safety and comfort by provided a medically-assisted detox. This means you’ll receive medication from day one to keep symptoms to a minimum. Others use social recovery, where you’re expected to sweat it out to get symptoms over with quickly. Both methods have pros and cons, but you can choose which you get.
Going to rehab can also be difficult. You’ll have to pack up and leave your friends and family. You might also be able to choose a local facility with visiting and family therapy. In other cases, if you have young children, you can simply bring them with you and leave them in daycare during the day. This is advantageous because you still get to spend time with family, can invest in family, and can easily bring children with you to family therapy.
And, if you’re afraid of being alone or lonely, rehab often takes steps to prevent that. Most rehab centers don’t allow you to room by yourself unless you have a specific medical condition. You’ll also take part in communal meals, communal activities, group therapy, and group chores. This means you’ll learn, grow, and act as a group. It’s almost impossible not to bond with at least some of your peers in that environment. Plus, every treatment center will offer staff who work in medicine because they care about people. You’ll always have someone to talk to, someone to share with, and someone to lean on when things are hard.
Rehab is about starting over, that’s true. And that can be intensely scary. Whether you’re fears relate to the fact that you have a stable family and a home and can’t change your environment, the idea that “nature” contributes to addiction, or otherwise think starting over is impossible. That’s fair. But addiction recovery doesn’t have to mean completely changing your life. It just has to mean changing routines, changing habits, investing in mental health and energy, and moving forward. Additionally, while factors you’re born with, such as epigenetics, can greatly increase your likelihood of addiction, and they increase risk factors. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be an addict. Recovering from a substance use disorder is about building behavior and habits that contribute towards living a healthy and drug-free life. Factors like genetics, your social conditions, your mental health, etc., make that easier or more difficult, but it’s your choices and the behavior you build which contribute to long-term success.
Essentially, you can always start over, in myriad small ways. And they don’t have to mean making huge, scary changes that require abandoning things you care about or your life. Instead, it’s about building small habits that contribute to a good life. Plus, rehab will help you to do that.
Going to rehab is an important decision. It’s also not an easy decision. But, it will help you to change your life for the better. Taking the step to go to rehab despite your fears is one of the first big steps you make towards claiming your life back and deciding that you are in charge of where and how you are going forward.
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