The goal of residential addiction treatment is to help people break free from their addictions and achieve long-lasting recovery. So how do the lessons learned in addiction rehab continue to help people, years after they complete their programme?
In this blog, George describes how investing in residential addiction treatment 10 years ago still reaps rewards today.
10 Lasting Lessons from Residential Addiction Treatment – George’s Experience
I need people to challenge me constructively
“One of the best things to happen in my residential addiction treatment programme was being challenged on my beliefs and behaviour. It was done in a constructive way – not judgmental or negative (though back then, I didn’t always see it that way!).
“One of the therapists in my addiction rehab, Michael, I’ll never forget him. He called me out on things I didn’t even realise I was doing – like avoiding certain questions in my recovery work or when I laughed in a group session about overdosing. It made me angry at first when he challenged me on things – I remember thinking, why is this guy having a go, who does he think he is?
“10 years later, I know how life-changing it is when people tell me the truth. Good friends in life call you out. They help you see when you’re off key and how to put things right. It’s not always easy for me to take constructive criticism – but it usually does me a favour.”
Residential addiction treatment taught me that feelings aren’t wrong
“I learned in addiction rehab that it’s alright to cry. Emotions are a part of life. I don’t need to cover up sadness.
“Before going to rehab 10 years ago, I thought crying was weak and embarrassing. I never cried in front of mates. I got angry instead. There was this time when a good mate died from drugs. We were all at his funeral. I took a load of drugs to handle it. For months afterwards, I got so angry over the smallest things.
“A few days into my residential addiction treatment programme, I remember seeing a guy crying. I was watching to see how everyone responded, expecting people to laugh, or at least try and calm him down quickly. But instead, they just let him cry until he was done. I’d never seen that before in my life – someone just being sad with no-one trying to change it.
“Today, I don’t think about using drugs anymore but I still have times when I get uncomfortable feelings. Something always kicks in though – those memories I have from rehab, especially that guy crying – and I remember it’s completely normal to feel down or sad sometimes.”
Talking to others is a great way to works things out for myself
“Before my addiction rehab programme, I didn’t see the point of talking about your problems to mates. Why talk about something that makes you unhappy? Just do something else instead.
“I also didn’t see the point of talking to counsellors. How could some stranger have any idea about your life? What would they know about how to sort stuff out? It made no sense to me at all.
“10 years ago in addiction rehab, I learned that the best therapists and peers allow you to talk – they listen, sometimes they share some of their experience or make a suggestion – but mainly, they let you work things out for yourself. With help, I get to decide the best way forward in my life. It’s not about being told what to do.”
In addiction rehab, I learned I have choices in recovery
“Residential addiction treatment gave me power because it made me responsible for myself. My rehab helped me put down drugs and alcohol and then they showed me ways I could live without them.
‘When I left rehab, I had to decide whether to follow a suggestion about finding local recovery support. I found a meeting close to my home and took it from there.
“10 years on, I’ve moved a couple of times with my work – but I still go to recovery meetings, wherever I am. It’s part of what I do now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
It’s fine to say no to people, including family
“So often in my addiction, being around my brother was like throwing petrol on a fire. We both drank heavily and took cocaine – even more so when we together.
“In rehab, I learned that I have a choice about who I spend my time with. I don’t always have to say yes to people. My brother still drinks and uses today. Sometimes it feels alright to hang out with him – other times, I know to pass up an invitation.”
Most things aren’t as important as I first think they are
“This was a massive lesson for me in residential addiction treatment – and it still helps me today. Stepping back from my problems, talking about them, often I see that they’re not as big as they first seemed.
“In rehab, they taught me ways to stop reacting straight away to situations and things people say. It gives me a chance to reflect on what’s really going on. It saves me so much energy today, knowing the battles that really aren’t worth fighting.”
When I’m sick, I have a day off
“In my addiction, nothing stopped me drinking and taking drugs. When I was sick, I’d still go out all night – I thought I could smoke and drink and use through any illness.
“When I get sick now, I have a rest. I get myself better, then I’m back on my feet quickly. It’s about self-respect really. I have so much for respect for myself today. That includes taking it easy when I need to – not trying to push on through like a machine!”
There are needs you can’t ignore for long
“It’s pretty basic stuff but before going into residential addiction treatment, I had no clue about feeding myself properly or sleeping right. Drugs and drink were my fuel. My days revolved around using.
“Ten years on from rehab, if I’m feeling really off key, I go back to basics. Have I had a good plate of food today? Did I sleep okay last night? Who can I call for a chat? Nine times out of ten, simple things like that make me feel so much better.”
Good memories are powerful in recovery
“Spending a month in residential addiction treatment, 10 years ago, was one of the best experiences of my life. Once the drugs and alcohol were out of my system, for the first time in such a long time, my thinking was clear. I laughed a lot and I learned so much. I made some good friends and great memories. A decade later, I still think back to that time as the most important turning point in my life.
“Rehab showed me how to live well in recovery – to spend time with good people, to have fun in recovery and make good memories. Because every time you do, it’s another reason not to go back to your addiction.
“I look back on my addiction today and wonder how I ever convinced myself that I was having fun. By the end, I was doing the same thing, in the same places, with the same people – over and over again. Everything is such a blur too – such a contrast to how it is now.”
If in doubt, look out for someone else
“One of the things that made a big impression on me in residential addiction treatment was the peer support groups. People who had completed rehab came back to talk to us about their experience in treatment and how they were getting on now. They were usually a few months or a year into their recovery, some a bit longer. It gave me hope to see people succeeding but also it baffled me a bit – why would they give up their evening to come and talk to us?
“Then I started to get it towards the end of my residential treatment. I’d see people arriving in rehab, all battered and broken, not knowing what was going on. I could say to them, “look, I was where you were and it gets better.” And more often than not, it made both of us feel better.
“Still today, if I get stuck in a rut or I don’t know how to sort out a problem, I try to look out for other people. Don’t ask me how it works because I really don’t know – but it always seems to make my problems a bit easier to handle.”
Residential addiction treatment changes lives. If you’re addicted to drugs, alcohol or an addictive process like sex, gambling, shopping, disordered eating, internet use or gaming, then please get in touch with Addiction Helper. We don’t judge. We assess your addiction confidentially, so we can advise you on the best treatment for you.