It’s Christmas Eve, you’re barely hanging on to your sanity and you’re desperate for the nudge you need to make that phone call, but you can’t shake the thought: Why should I go to rehab now?
As you family gathers to celebrate the holidays, with or without you, you may be wrestling with the decision to seek treatment for your addiction or alcoholism. Surely, part of you rationalizes, you can make it through the holidays. Surely you can wait until Jan. 1 and use the new year as the date you change your life.
Why, you might be thinking, should you wait?
Because waiting might very well make the difference between life and death … or at the very least, between embracing real change and continuing down the same miserable path that’s destroying you a little bit at a time.
Why should you go to rehab now? We’ve got nine good reasons:
It’s Not About the Drugs
Many people still labor under the assumption that addiction to alcohol and drugs is a choice — and it is, in the beginning. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out , “The initial decision to take drugs is generally voluntary. However, with continued use, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control.”
In other words, addiction hijacks the brain, and the simple decision to use drugs for recreation or for medical purposes slowly gives way to out-of-character thought processes and actions that can turn individuals into people their loved ones, and themselves, don’t recognize anymore. As researchers for Harvard Medical School put it , “Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.”
In other words: Over time, the drugs become the symptom of a much larger problem: the changes in the brain that lead to obsession, compulsion and repeated use, even in the face of negative consequences.
‘Why Should I Go to Rehab Now?’ Waiting Is No Bueno
The longer you wait to get help, the harder it becomes to actually accept the help when it’s available. According to the peer-reviewed publication Journal of Drug Issues, a 2006 study of 52 substance users  found that “being on a waiting list is frequently mentioned as a barrier, leading some people to give up on treatment and to continue using, while prompting others to view sobriety during the waiting period as proof they do not need treatment.”
What does that mean? “Longer waits for treatment increase the opportunities that other events will arise, thereby further interfering with treatment entry,” according to the study. In other words, the longer you wait, the more “life” shows up. The list of excuses you have to not get help today won’t diminish with time — they’ll be replaced by fresh excuses, and you’ll continue to kick the can down the road. Waiting until Jan. 1 will turn into waiting until spring, which will become waiting for your birthday, until eventually you’re sitting around on another Christmas Eve, asking yourself once again, “Why should I go to rehab now?”
The only honest answer to that question is: Because there’s no reason not to. You may have plenty of good excuses not to get help, but excuses aren’t reasons. When it comes to doing something about your problem, there is no good reason not to.
‘Why Should I Go to Rehab Now?’ Waiting Might Kill You
That may sound melodramatic, but consider: While drug overdose death rates have declined slightly since hitting a record high in 2017, the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market is claiming a staggering number of lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , “over 770,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses since 1999, and the total number of deaths jumped from 16,849 in 1999 to a high mark of 70,237 in 2017.”
That breaks down, according to the NIDA, to more than 130 overdose deaths daily , and for the first time since record keeping began, Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than they are in a motor vehicle crash, according to the National Safety Council . Addicts and alcoholics don’t often think about their mortality, and in some cases the allure of particularly potent drugs can overwhelm rational thought and all sense of caution … but the only 100 percent guarantee of not overdosing is to not do the drugs that might cause it.
‘Why Should I Go to Rehab Now?’ The Money
According to the financial website Money , December is one of the two best months to take advantage of your health insurance benefits. Why? Chances are, you’ve met your deductible, the out-of-pocket amount you’re required to pay before your insurance company picks up the tab: “If you’ve already met your deductible … or are close to it, medical care rendered before the end of the year may be covered at a lower out-of-pocket cost,” says Carrie McLean, director of customer care at eHealth.com.
In addition, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), then there’s a good chance you might actually lose the money in it if you don’t use it. Many FSA accounts have a “use it or lose it” clause, according to an article in The Los Angeles Times : “Typically you need to fully spend the account by year’s end or you’ll lose the money left over. On average, people forfeit about $120 each year, says Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer at San Mateo, Calif.-based WageWorks, which administers employer-based tax advantaged accounts.”
The caveat, of course, is that you get into drug and alcohol treatment before Jan. 1, and even then, some costs may be delayed, depending on your private health insurance plan. But if you can get the ball rolling, especially if you’ve met your deductible, then pulling the trigger and going to rehab ASAP is in your best financial interest.
‘Why Should I Go to Rehab Now?’ You can Detox Safely (and Comfortably)
If you’re a regular abuser of drugs and alcohol, then you probably know by now that you’ve developed a mental and physical dependence on those chemicals. To put it in scientific terms, in the body’s attempts to maintain a stable equilibrium, the sudden removal of those chemicals can cause the body to produce “counter-regulatory” mechanisms that have severe side effects, which present as everything from lethargy to DTs (delirium tremens) in severe cases of alcohol withdrawal.
According to an article for the National Center for Biotechnology Information , “The mortality rate from alcohol withdrawal and DT is high if untreated. Opiate withdrawal is uncomfortable, but fatalities are rare. Withdrawal from cocaine and amphetamine results in sedation and a state resembling adrenergic blockade, death is rare.” But even in cases where death is a rarity, the symptoms are unpleasant, the authors add:
- Alcohol withdrawal “may range from a simple tremor to a fully blown delirium tremens characterized by autonomic hyperactivity, tachypnea, hyperthermia, and diaphoresis,” in addition to alcohol hallucinations and seizures.
- Barbiturates and benzodiazepines (drugs like Xanax) “can also produce withdrawal responses that resemble alcohol withdrawal syndrome,” including seizures.
- Opiate withdrawal resembles “a flu-like illness characterized by yawning, sneezing, rhinorrhea, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and dilated pupils” that can last from 3 to 10 days.
- Individuals withdrawal from cocaine and methamphetamine “will develop marked depression, excessive sleep, hunger, dysphoria, and severe psychomotor retardation.”
However, a reputable treatment center will provide a Medical Detox program that includes around-the-clock medical care, comfort medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, provided meals and comfortable accommodations … all of which is far better than kicking drugs and alcohol on your couch because you shrugged your shoulders when asking yourself, “Why should I go to rehab now?”
Your Family Will Thank You
There’s an old saw in the rooms of recovery that addicts and alcoholics are usually the last to know about their problems. In other words, while they may feel confident that the façade they present to loved ones is flawless, their problems likely aren’t as invisible as they’d like to believe. Often, family members suspect something is wrong, even if they don’t know for certain; in other situations, loved ones may have been dealing with a family member’s addiction or alcoholism for months or even years.
In other words, they know you have a problem. If you’re continually asking, “Why should I go to rehab now?,” the idea that doing so might shock your family probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list of concerns. Chances are, they know something’s up, and if they truly are your loved ones, they want the best for you. Even if they don’t understand the nature of addiction and alcoholism, they don’t want to see you suffer, and the knowledge that you’re seeking help for a problem that could very well take you from them permanently will doubtlessly ease their minds.
You Can Deal With Your Issues
At this point, you might be thinking, “issues? I’ve got no issues!” And you may be right. But maybe there are things you’re not looking at — childhood trauma, grief, depression, bipolar disorder and so many other things that contribute to your continued use of drugs and alcohol, even in the face of negative consequences.
It’s important to understand that mental illnesses are simply that — diseases of the brain caused by chemical imbalances. As the American Psychiatric Association points out , “Many people experience both mental illness and addiction. The mental illness may be present before the addiction. Or the addiction may trigger or make a mental disorder worse.” In the case of the former, those who suffer from mental illness may find a semblance of relief in the euphoria of drug use; in the latter, the use may trigger latent psychiatric episodes that become so enmeshed in an individual’s life that untangling them from addiction is critical for recovery to be sustained.
A reputable drug and alcohol treatment center will offer an array of psychiatric services to treat underlying mental disorders, as well as a number of therapeutic modalities to treat emotional maladies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Trauma Therapy … all are evidence-based psychotherapeutic tools that can help you deal with issues, problems and mental health conditions that have longed plagued you but you’ve been unable to resolve.
You Can Improve Your Health
Let’s face it: Addicts and alcoholics aren’t exactly models of physical health. According to the NIDA , “People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues, which could include lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions.” Sustained alcohol use can damage a number of bodily systems; in addition, that NIDA article states, “methamphetamine can cause severe dental problems, known as ‘meth mouth’ … opioids can lead to overdose and death. In addition, some drugs, such as inhalants, may damage or destroy nerve cells, either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord). Drug use can also increase the risk of contracting infections. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (a serious liver disease) infection can occur from sharing injection equipment and from impaired judgment leading to unsafe sexual activity. Infection of the heart and its valves (endocarditis) and skin infection (cellulitis) can occur after exposure to bacteria by injection drug use.”
Even if you feel you’re not at risk for those particular medical conditions, when was the last time you engaged in any sort of exercise? When was the last time your heart rate was elevated by physical activity instead of stress? When was the last time you ate a decent meal? A reputable drug and alcohol treatment center takes this into account as well, because good rehabilitation should focus on the entire person, including his or her biological systems. Fitness Therapy and Activity Therapy are crucial to engaging the body while psychotherapy engages the mind, because long-lasting recovery from addiction and alcoholism depends on improvements in the overall quality of a patient’s life.
‘Why Should I Go to Rehab Now?’ Because There’s No Time Like the Present
Whether it’s Christmas Eve or the Ides of March … Father’s Day or Flag Day … there’s never going to be a time when you wake up overjoyed to be going to rehab. No one in recovery ever planned on becoming an addict or an alcoholic, and everyone who now enjoys a fulfilling and peaceful life on the other side of addiction and alcoholism once stood in your shoes, scowling and asking themselves, “Why should I go to rehab now?”
What they often discover, once they begin to learn about the illness that afflicts them and the underlying issues that contribute to it and the overall improvement in all areas of life that recovery can bring, they start to ask another question: “Why didn’t I go to rehab a long time ago?”
We get it. There’s comfort in familiarity, and going to rehab represents a complete and total upheaval of the status quo in your life. But if the status quo is misery, even if it’s familiar misery, why should you continue to choose it? The only reasonable answer is: You shouldn’t. You deserve better. Why should you go to rehab now? Because you deserve a better life than the one addiction and alcoholism is currently providing, and a drug and alcohol treatment center can be the first step on a journey toward it.