I am not going to waste your time by floating a conspiracy theory about how the rehab industry is deliberately failing clients in order to ensure plenty of repeat custom. It is a business, and there are almost certainly people involved in it for the wrong reasons, but no rehab could survive if it was being purposefully ineffective. Rehab has helped lots of people create a better life, but there are some potential dangers with this approach.
There is money to be made in treating addiction, but if recovering professionals are providing an effective solution, they do deserve to get paid. The problem is the success-rate for all of these paid-treatments options is pretty depressing. It is expected that 60 per cent of people who leave rehab will relapse within a year. Rehab is by no stretch of the imagination any type of wonder cure, so is this industry a friend or a foe to the person caught up in addiction?
The Addiction Recovery Industry as a Friend
I’m sure I did benefit from the time spent in my second rehab (not so much my first). I’d made a complete mess due to my enthusiasm for alcohol, and I felt in way over my head. I just couldn’t function, and I ended up living on the streets of London. If I’d had the energy, I would have happily jumped off a bridge. That rehab probably saved me, so I’ll always feel grateful for it.
I got help that time from an organization called the Alcohol Recovery Project, I entered one of their facilities, stayed there for a year. I began to recover. I didn’t pay for anything, it was all a gift from the government – they even gave me a council flat when I left (I foolishly gave it up later), and a one year travel-pass so I could go to AA meetings. One of the therapists encouraged me to do some voluntary work and that this transformed my life far more effectively than any group therapy – I would never have guessed spending more time thinking about other people would have such a powerful effect on me.
Looking back, I suspect that much of the stuff I did in rehab was just ‘busy-work’, and I can’t think of much that was of practical value to my life afterwards. I only seem to be able to learn by dealing with stuff in real life. I suppose having things to do kept me busy and distracted, but the most helpful part of staying in this type of facility was it gave me enough space to sort myself out. Going to rehab also boosted my motivation initially because it involved making such a grand gesture to change my life.
The Addiction Recovery Industry as a Foe
I learned how to be an alcoholic when I entered my first rehab at age nineteen. The therapist told me I had an incurable disease and that relapse was a normal part of recovery. I was an alcoholic, and I’d be an alcoholic for the rest of my life – even if I stopped drinking. When I’m in a cynical mood, I say he taught me to become the ideal candidate for his services.
After rehab, I started to feel like a victim and I began to blame all of my difficulties and bad behavior on my alcoholism. If I woke up in a bad mood, it was because of my alcoholism. If I treated other people like shit, it was because I was a poor unfortunate alcoholic. No matter how big the mess I created, I always felt like the victim.
Later I met other therapists who were less pushy about the disease idea, but the emphasis continued to be there was something wrong with me and not that I was doing something wrong. This meant I never saw anything odd about feeling desperate to stop while continuing to abuse alcohol – of course I’m drinking, I’m an alcoholic.
The recovery industry thrives because it is always going to appear easier for people to try to give up an addiction than it is to just give up. It can be fun to keep building sand castles and kicking them down again. I finally broke free of alcoholism by letting go of the alcoholic identity and by removing the relapse option from my life. I stopped believing there was something wrong me and instead started focusing on what I was doing wrong. It all became much easier after that.
I would never tell somebody struggling with addiction not to go to rehab. I just think it is important to keep in mind the pros and cons with this type of solution. One of the common aims of rehab is to teach you how to be a ‘recovering alcoholic’, but some of us need to break free of the alcoholic identity completely. Of course, there is no reason you can’t take what you need from this type of program and leave the rest behind.