The first step was the hardest, but now the panic has set in: What in the world, you may be wondering, have you gotten yourself into?
Yes, addiction or alcoholism has virtually destroyed your life. Yes, you found the willingness to pick up the phone and call an addiction treatment center to ask for help. You’ve worked out the logistics, arranged for an admission and scheduled a time to arrive.
But what, you may be wondering, is drug rehab going to be like?
If you’ve never set foot on the campus of a drug and alcohol treatment center, then all you have to go on are examples lifted from popular culture, and let’s face it: Movies don’t exactly paint a serene picture of addiction treatment. After all, an enthralling narrative best benefits from compelling drama, and what better drama is there than the hero or heroine, gasping and sweating and screaming through hardcore drug withdrawal?
If that’s your perception of what rehab is like, hit the pause button. Take a deep breath. Do your best to banish those thoughts from your mind, because chances are good that reality, especially at a facility like Cornerstone of Recovery, looks nothing like what you envision.
First of all, every recovery story is different. On top of that, at Cornerstone of Recovery, we pride ourselves on working with every patient to craft an individual treatment plan that provides the best collection of emotional, mental and spiritual tools to stay clean and sober after treatment. However, the in-between, that period of time that begins with your arrival and continues through to your completion of care, can be summed up with some common denominators that everyone who comes to us for help will experience.
So what should you know before going to rehab? These things, for starters:
... be uncomfortable. We get it — there’s comfort in familiarity, even if the familiar is miserable. Right now, your life may be falling apart because of your addiction or alcoholism, and you may be in sheer mental, emotional and physical pain … but at least you know what it looks like and feels like. In a treatment center, you’ll be pushed out of that cocoon by design, because while it feels like there’s a certain sense of safety in where you’re currently at, that’s an illusion. You’re like Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie in the first “Star Wars” film, stuck in a trash compactor with the walls slowing grinding you and the garbage around you into paste … and you don’t even realize it. Getting out of that predicament is going to involve a certain amount of mental, emotional and physical distress, but keep in mind …
... Be miserable. Misery is what you’re feeling right now. Discomfort is unavoidable, even if you think you can get clean and sober on your own. Trust us — whatever discomfort you might feel going through our safe, medically supervised detox, during which you’re monitored around the clock by nursing staff and administered a regular regimen of comfort medication … it’s going to be a lot worse on your own. Whatever discomfort you might feel looking at the things you’ve done in your active addiction that bring you shame, it’s minuscule compared to the crushing guilt that manifests when you try to deal with them on your own. Whatever discomfort you might feel processing the issues and traumas that might contribute to your addiction, it’s far better than attempting to suppress them and pretend they never happened, only to find yourself dwelling on them night after night.
... Get clean. Our detox regimen is designed to remove the toxins and pollutants known as drugs and alcohol from your system. You’ll be administered medication to help your body cleanse itself slowly and as comfortably as possible, so if you envision padded rooms and straitjackets, banish those images from your mind. You’ll be evaluated regularly by our trained medical staff, and we’ll keep you in Medical Detox for as long as it takes — usually 3 to 5 days — until you’re physically and mentally healed enough to transition to one of our residential inpatient programs.
... Be a prisoner. Cornerstone of Recovery is not a lock down facility, and while we’ll certainly do our best to talk you out of leaving, you’re free to walk out the door at any time. “But I might lose my job/marriage/freedom!” you’re probably thinking. And that may well be the case — but the choice to stay or go is still yours. We’ll point out all of the things you stand to lose, as well as everything you could possibly gain if you complete the program, but unless you’re under the influence or pose a danger to yourself or others, we won’t keep you against your will.
... Think about leaving. We’ll be straight up with you: Of course you’ll think about going home! No one puts “drug and alcohol rehab” on a list of dream vacation destinations! You’ll be away from your home environment, away from loved ones and away from the comforts of home. You’ll miss those things. But here’s the deal: You’ll have folks you can talk to that will help you process those emotions. From your peers who are going through this journey with you to counselors who have been in your seat (have we mentioned that 90 percent of our clinical staff is in recovery themselves?), there’s no shortage of those willing to lend you a sympathetic ear and offer you some constructive advice. And trust us — once you get out of Medical Detox, your time will be occupied, and …
... Be bored. At Cornerstone, we advocate for a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to recovery, meaning we engage your body, mind, heart and spirit in the recovery process. You’ll be in our on-campus fitness center several times a week, and often the first sober milestones you achieve will be physical ones. It’s amazing to watch someone who needed help to walk into Admissions be able to walk — or run! —a mile on the treadmill. It’s inspiring to see someone who never thought they could enjoy leisure time without drugs and alcohol get involved in a basketball game with their peers. There’s also Activity Therapy, where you’ll take part in any number of therapeutic and team-building exercises. Ever been on a ropes course? No? You will here, because we have one on campus. There are educational lectures to teach you about this disease you have, processing groups that will help you work on your issues, assignments you’ll receive to dig deep into the emotional pain you carry and meetings both on and off campus that will introduce you to a larger recovery community. Factor in meal times and one-on-one meetings and family therapy, and you’ll be active from the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning.
... Learn what recovery involves. There’s a difference between being abstinent and changing your life, and the latter is what we offer at Cornerstone. It’s our belief that the substances to which you’re addicted don’t matter nearly as much as why you’re addicted to them, and that’s what we’re here to help you discover. After all, if it was just about the substance, you wouldn’t need us. You would be able to put them down and walk away, and you certainly wouldn’t keep going back to them even when faced with negative consequences. Your addiction isn’t an on/off switch, and recovery is about so much more than getting clean. We’re here to help you figure out the difference.
... Be cured. We’ll be straight with you: There’s no diploma waiting for you on the other end of this process. You don’t “graduate” from addiction or alcoholism. We can’t give you a cure-all medication or wave a magic wand and take away everything that’s made you an addict or an alcoholic, because science and medicine tell us these are chronic, progressive, incurable diseases. They are, however, treatable, and they can be arrested, so that …
... Find a new way to live. If you’re sitting in squalor, unable to pay bills or work or be with family or find any meaning in life, are you seriously wanting to get that life back? Most of us, upon realizing the potential that recovery offers, recognize that the lives we were living as addicts and alcoholics, or as miserable human beings who hadn’t found our way to drugs and alcohol yet, weren’t worth getting back. No, we had to find a new way to live — one that didn’t involve using chemicals to change the way we feel and instead allowed us to change ourselves so that we can accept life on life’s terms.
And that may be the most important thing you need to know before going into rehab: You can change your life. It won’t be easy or comfortable or pleasant, but change rarely is. However, on the other side of the recovery process that we offer, you’ll discover a freedom you never imagined, peace of mind that you never thought you’d obtain and acceptance — of yourself and the larger world — that you never knew was possible.