Seeking Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Is it Needed (For You)?

Things to Consider When Choosing a Facility

Culturally, America has a long and sordid history with Alcohol. A new nation almost went to war when President Washington suggested a tax on alcohol in an effort to pay the war debt and reduce use. The Volstead act in the 1930s made criminals of millions of Americans for imbibing their favorite intoxicating beverage. Americans love their cocktails; there is no doubt about it. Often we look the other way at drinking and it moves stealthily among us wreaking havoc in communities, families, and individual lives. When is it that one has tipped into “problem drinking”, “alcoholic” or just having too much of a good thing? When does treatment become necessary? Sadly, most come into treatment on the heels of a crisis despite having had many warning flags along the way.

Ask 100 people “what is an alcoholic” and they are likely to give a range of answers but the themes will be the same, “someone who can’t stop drinking” or descriptions of the cliché Hollywood depiction of a down on his luck older man carrying a bottle around a sketchy part of town. While alcoholism may be an accurate diagnosis for that individual, it’s a far advanced stage of the disease. Most people are looking for this level of impairment before they are willing to do something. That doesn’t make sense, this is a health issue. Would you say “I have some issues with diabetes but I think I will wait until I need a limb amputated to do something about it”? No, that would possibly be the worst plan ever and the same holds true of alcoholism. Here are a few things to look for:

  1. Cutting back. Ask yourself, if it is not an issue, why the need to cut back?
  2. Drinking more than intended. “I’ll only have a glass of wine with dinner” only to push the envelope.
  3. Getting defensive or annoyed if someone brings up your drinking;
  4. Inability to hold the social contract: “I’m a bit buzzed but just a few miles from home so I will drive slowly”.
  5. DUI, anytime there is a legal consequence your relationship with alcohol must be examined closely.
  6. Missing work or other major obligations.
  7. Continuing to drink even when it is obvious it is causing problems in your relationships.
  8. Withdrawal. If there are physical symptoms when you don’t drink, seeking help is long past due.
  9. Drinking to alleviate other symptoms of mental health issues. For example, depression responds to drinking in the short term only making it worse in the long run.
  10. Ignoring medical advice to stop drinking.

So, you think you might need rehab? Finding treatment is a daunting task, filled with Internet pitfalls and coercion. It is also full of self-ordained experts who claim they have the answer for everyone based on their own experience. What can you do to negotiate this maze?

Things to Consider:

If you’re seeking treatment for yourself, do not base your selection on location, that may or may not be the best fit for you. Geography is a consideration, but a small one. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission. Do not think of treatment as a declaration of defeat or a white flag concession to a life of boredom. It is not that simple. It is much more of a process than an event. You are learning not only about alcoholism, but about what might be the best fit for you. There are few people who have success scaling back their drinking to a level where there are no consequences, and it is an option, but an ill-advised one. Here are some things to ask yourself and consider:

  1. What is the philosophy of your treatment? If the response is, “AA is the ONLY way” then that is information you should have. If that is the answer, why not go to AA for free?
  2. Is there a staff psychiatrist? If so, how often will I see him/her? Remember there are reasons people drink, be open to the idea of depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue. There is much rhetoric about alcoholism being a disease, so shouldn’t you see a doctor?
  3. How qualified are the staff? Recovery ‘culture’ lends itself to the self-ordained recovery guru who may or may not have any clinical training or experience. Not all of these people are bad, some may be quite helpful but if the treatment center relies solely on this, think twice.
  4. How do you measure success? Most people will say, “If you never drink again!” which is a very poor metric. Success can be many things: financial stability, better employment, caught up on taxes, reconnecting with kids, there are many things that can define “improvement”.
  5. Who will I be in treatment with? This is a common concern and one that is valid to a point. The truth is we can all learn from each other and all human beings are valid but if you are a lawyer , do you want to be in a group with tattooed kids who ride skateboards? Maybe not.
  6. How much emphasis is placed on god and spirituality? Some people find this helpful, others do not. Be conscious of what you like. If you end up in a treatment center filled with people who do not think like you do, how helpful will that be for you in the long run?
  7. How many individual sessions will I have weekly? This is an important question. While group therapy can be very helpful, alcoholism is a very individual thing; no-one’s problem looks exactly like yours. Everyone’s life is different and, because alcohol permeates so many areas of your life, your recovery will not look like anyone else’s. It is as individual as a thumbprint
  8. Ask practical questions about food, sleeping accommodation and bathroom arrangements.
  9. Ask if you can or can’t have your phone. There are benefits to both so be honest with yourself about what will help you
  10. What level of family involvement is there?

Ultimately this is your recovery and you will need to make some concessions, but the right fit with a treatment center is critical to a positive experience