They won’t leave you alone, will they?
Ever since family members have discovered that you use drugs, they keep bringing up that word: Rehab.
“You need to go to rehab,” dad says.
“Have you thought about one of those drug rehab places?” grandma suggests.
Even your friends may become part of the chorus: “Maybe you need drug treatment.” “Dude, I think you have a problem.” “Girl, you need to get your drinking under control.”
We get it. You’re just trying to stay in your own lane, but these people keep nudging you toward a place you don’t want to go. (Fun fact: On a list of places to visit before they die — the Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest, Coney Island — “rehab” rarely, if ever, makes anyone's list.) Maybe you’ve even come to your own conclusion that your drinking or drug use is out of control; you might, when you’re lying in bed in the dark of night, admit to yourself that you’re an addict or that you might have a drinking problem.
But rehab? No, no, no, as Amy Winehouse once sang. Whether you have a problem or not, that can’t be the solution.
Or so you think. If you’re being absolutely honest with yourself, however, you’ll see that whatever excuse you come up with for not going can be torn down pretty easily in the face of facts and reality. Here are some of the most common excuses for not getting drug or alcohol treatment, and why they’re relatively flimsy.
1: I Don’t Have a Problem
That’s usually the first thing out of the mouths of those confronted with the fact that they do, actually, have a problem. After all, people who don’t have drug and alcohol problems don’t have others encouraging them to get some help. That declaration can stem from the stigma that’s still attached to addiction and alcoholism — despite the fact that both are defined as diseases, there persists the idea that they’re rooted in moral failure or weakness of will.
Spoiler alert: They’re not, and they’re not uncommon conditions. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 31 million people around the globe have a drug use disorder — the medical terminology for addiction — and the harmful effects of alcohol kills 3.3 million people a year worldwide. There’s no shame in the admission that addiction or alcoholism are problems, so if that’s the reason you say you don’t in the face of concern from loved ones, it’s time to reevaluate.
But more importantly, if you’ve ever thought about whether you actually do have a problem, a good rule of thumb is: Those who don’t have a problem with drugs and alcohol, don’t sit around wondering if they do. Is it affecting your health? Your employment? Your education? Your relationships? Have you been arrested because of alcohol or drugs? Lost a job? Become estranged from family? If your answer is yes, it’s a problem.
2: I can stop on my own
“That’s one of the things I hear a lot, and I always ask, ‘Well, have you tried to stop before?’ And generally the answer is yes, so then I ask them how that’s worked out,” says Bill Lee, an interventionist and assistant program director at Cornerstone of Recovery. “Usually, they try and tell me how this time will be different, and I’m always listening for either the inconsistencies — things they tried but didn’t maintain that might have helped — or the consistencies in their lives that have kept them using.”
Once again, the public stigma surrounding addiction and alcoholism leads many of those who are afflicted to view going to treatment as a personal failure. Statistics, however, show otherwise. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug use and Health, 22.5 million people — 8.5 percent of the U.S. population! — ages 12 and older needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem. Because of the limitations of finances, insurance and availability, however, only 4.2 million of those individuals actually received it.
So if you have the opportunity to actually get some help, take advantage. Can you stop on your own? Maybe. Some addicts and alcoholics do. Others aren’t so fortunate, and they never get the chance to get the help they need.
3: I don’t have the money
What is your life worth? Because that’s what you’re gambling with by putting off getting help for your problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths … in the U.S. from 2006-2010”. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cataloged more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017 . Addiction and alcoholism are chronic, progressive and fatal diseases — why, then, would you spare any expense to treat them? If you were diagnosed with lung cancer, would you not use every available resource to battle it in order to save your life?
Yes, drug and alcohol treatment costs money. However, if you have health insurance, your behavioral health benefits may pay for some, if not all, of your treatment. You might also consider borrowing from your savings, your retirement or family members, and most reputable treatment centers will work with you to set up a financial payment plan. Look at it this way, Lee says: You’re already making regular payments on potential death.
“I usually ask them, ‘How do you afford your drugs? How much money are you raising to pay for them? How much money would you have if you weren’t buying them?’” Lee says. “They’re not looking at the total amount that they spend. They’re only spending in $10 or $20 increments, but they’re doing that a hundred times a week, and when you add that up, that’s a car payment.”
4: I can’t take time away from work/school/family
Once again, stigma keeps many individuals from seeking help and accommodation from their places of employment. However, the Americans With Disabilities Act provides protections for “those who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs,”  and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that employers must provide leave for those who need it to deal with a disability — including “obtaining medical treatment (e.g., surgery, psychotherapy, substance abuse treatment, or dialysis).”  Furthermore, according to the EEOC, “an employee with a disability who is granted leave as a reasonable accommodation is entitled to return to his/her same position.”
The same applies to students, who are also protected under the A.D.A. As for family — if you’re at a point where family members are encouraging you to get help for addiction or alcoholism, chances are good that your inebriated presence is doing more harm than good, and they would prefer you get the help you need so that you can return to them as a responsible, productive and interactive individual.
5: I’ll go after the holidays/after New Year’s/after my birthday
Again, we get it. No one wakes up enthusiastic about going to rehab. You can always find an excuse to put off going, but that’s all it really is: an excuse. Yes, Christmas may be just around the corner, but if you’re drinking and using and need help to stop, how is extending your addiction and alcoholism to infect one more family gathering going to help anyone? What was last Christmas like when you were using and drinking? You, your family and your holidays will be better served by attending to your problem instead of putting it off. And look at it this way — if your loved ones have been urging you to get clean and sober, then going to rehab is the best possible Christmas present you could give them.
6: I’m scared
Let’s face it — most of us don’t want to admit when we’re afraid, but for addicts and alcoholics, the fear of the unknown is extremely powerful. There’s comfort in familiarity — even if the familiar is miserable. You may hate your life in addiction or alcoholism, but at least you know what to expect: when you’ll need to start drinking and using, how much you’ll consume, when and where you need to get more, the lies you’ll have to tell, etc. After a certain period of time, drugs and alcohol become your security blanket, and like Linus from the old “Peanuts” cartoon, you panic at the thought of it being taken away.
But take a closer look: That security blanket looks more and more like a plastic bag that’s being wrapped around your face, slowly cutting off all of the things you need to truly live. If alcohol and drugs were truly the balm for the soul they pretended to be in the beginning, would you be where you’re at today? Probably not. Yes, going to rehab can be a frightening concept, but do your homework. Look at the facilities you’re considering online. Read recommendations from former patients. Call the Admissions Department and schedule a tour. There are a number of things you can do to ease your mind so that, even if you don’t want to go, you won’t be consumed by terror at the idea of rehab.
7: It won’t work for me
Addicts and alcoholics often suffer from what’s known as “terminal uniqueness” — the idea that no one will be able to understand or empathize, and therefore will be unable to help them.
“When they say that, my first question is always, ‘How do you know? Have you tried it?’” Lee says. “That’s always a good opportunity to educate people about the non-biased approach of addiction. It has no respect for income levels or geography or anything like that. Addiction is defined by the consequences of your use, and every addict experiences those.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter why you started drinking or doing drugs — the reasons are often varied. Some do to cope with childhood trauma; others endure senseless tragedy; others have genetic factors at play; others just like the way they feel when they’re drunk or high, and they’re never able to turn that switch off. The similarities are found in the way addiction and alcoholism affects those who suffer: the sense of utter despair, the humiliation, the shame, the guilt that they feel for continuing to return to a substance in spite of negative consequences.
Those are the bonds that those who go to rehab will forge with others on a similar path. They may come from totally different backgrounds, but addiction and alcoholism are common denominators that obliterate any differences between them. Most of all, you’ll discover a sense of overwhelming relief at the discovery of those similarities, because they’re proof that you’re not alone.
8: 'I’m not like those people'
You’ve kept your job. Your family is still together. You’re not scavenging for meals out of a Dumpster or living in a box under a bridge or stealing to support a drug habit. OK, but does that make your problem any less of one?
If stigma affects how society perceives us, it can certainly affect how we see ourselves and those who suffer as we do. It may be that, to you, an addict is a homeless junkie. That’s an illusory veil, however, that glosses over the fact that addiction and alcoholism aren’t about the substances, but about why they’re used — and how detrimental they can be.
“We’re talking about some pretty common consequences — legal, work-related, etc. — that everyone has experienced,” Lee says. “That gives us an opportunity to educate them about the illness of addiction. It’s a disease defined by consequences, and the consequences we hear about are really very common.”
In other words, addiction and alcoholism are equal opportunity destroyers that have no respect for boundaries of age, race, sexual orientation, religion, lack of religion, education level or vocation. Those who suffer may look at external differences to set themselves apart, but the underlying similarities, more often than not, look exactly the same.
9: It’ll take too much time
A lot of addicts give in partially to the idea of getting help, but rehab? That’s too much of a commitment, they believe, because in their minds, they’re going away for 30 days.
And that might be the case. But it might be less. Or it could be more. The idea, Lee says, isn’t to commit to a full spectrum of care: It’s an acknowledgement of a problem and an agreement that steps need to be taken to address it.
“If you show up to the ER with a hurt leg, they’re not going to start wrapping a cast on it immediately,” he says. “They’re going to run tests, they’re going to draw blood, they’re going to do X-rays. Those are the things that dictate the treatment protocol. It’s the same with addiction — the evaluation process dictates what sort of treatment is recommended. All we’re asking them to do is to be admitted, get go through medical detox if they need it, get evaluated and follow the recommendations of the professionals.”
And really, even if it does end up being 30 days — isn’t that a drop in the bucket compared to the listless existence you’ve endured as an addict or an alcoholic? Thirty days to improve your life isn’t a whole lot of time, even though it may seem like it. After all, you didn’t become addicted overnight, and you won’t get better overnight, either.
10: Nobody understands why I use
It may indeed be true that nobody understands why you started to use. In fact, you may have endured trauma or abuse you’ve never discussed, but you found a panacea in the chemical numbness of alcohol and drugs. Why you continue to use, however, is what’s become a problem.
“Why they’re using is relative to where they are in this process,” Lee says. “Why we start using is, many times, really different than why we continue using. It may be something as simple as stress in the beginning, but now they continue to use because they’ve built up a physical tolerance, and their bodies and minds are physically addicted.”
In other words, what started out as a solution has become a problem all its own, and that’s now presenting as the most pressing concern to others — and, perhaps, to yourself.
The good news is that a reputable drug and alcohol treatment center will address both the acute issue of your substance use and the chronic emotional, mental, physical and spiritual problems that you’re dealing with as well — in some cases, far longer than your actual drinking and drug use. And because many facilities employ recovering addicts and alcoholics as part of their clinical staff, you’ll receive treatment from individuals who understand exactly what you’re going through — because they’ve walked in your shoes.
No doubt, there are other excuses for not going to drug or alcohol rehab, but know this: There are never any good ones. You can try to come up with some, but everyone would be better served if you said yes and committed to go. It is, after all, your life we’re talking about. When that hangs in the balance, what do you have to lose?