Published On: March 17, 20231522 words7.7 min read

For somebody who drinks excessively, needs withdrawal treatment and chooses rehab in a voluntary manner, it could be a helpful step – and then it’s important to be part of a community of support once they leave.

So says an experienced sobriety and life coach I know. I also know a guy who recently celebrated his 50th in a well-known rehab institution in Cape Town and he reckons that this, in hindsight, was for the best.

“Everyone’s journey is different, not the same, but I think that rehab gives u a great introduction to the tools we need, and how to get help – whether it is with a sponsor, a tribe or whatever,” says Peter *. He says that he is feeling quite content and positive where he is in life now since rehab, with one month sober already under his belt.

“I strongly believe that a three-week intervention for people who are really battling to stop is something that creates a great foundation/building block to continued sobriety. I can only speak for myself, having tried to stop on numerous occasions, which lasted a week or two weeks or even 6 weeks of drinking very little, but not 100% no drinking.

So being in an environment where you don’t have that option I think is valuable. One can learn a lot from others attending the same programme or at the same facility, and what they have been through. Obviously, they introduce you to the AA and the 12 Steps and mindfulness so it’s a good foundation to starting a structure – I don’t think I would be where I am today without this intervention.”

Medical Aid Perks

What’s more, acknowledges Peter, rehab is also covered by most medical aids for 21 to 24 days, so, from a cost perspective, it makes sense. Being cut off from the outside world can be a challenge but some rehabs are relatively lenient in only allowing you to have your phone before 9 am and after 4 pm which is not the end of the world.

“I actually found in my case that in being able to switch off from all the WhatsApp’s and all the work and that stuff was as therapeutic as the actual process itself!” says Peter who agrees that rehab is a very valuable experience and that while they probably all have their pros and cons it is definitely a starting point for some people.

“I believe that it’s important that when people make that decision to go to rehab, it must be their decision because if people go for someone else or if someone else has asked them to go I don’t think it is as successful. This is everybody’s own journey so you’ve got to be at a point where you are willing to accept and learn and move on.”

Intense Programmes

I know a woman who recently went to rehab as a general patient and she was able to observe the rehab programme from a distance – general patients are not permitted to interact with the rehab patients.  In this particular rehab, she noticed that the programme was based on the AA/12 steps one, was exceptionally intense and appeared to be aimed at people who have truly hit rock bottom and are unable to get sober without this kind of focused setup.

She agreed that if a person is not managing to keep sober using a ‘softer’ method then rehab might be what they need as everything is done in a very controlled environment. Because everything is managed for them (meals, medication, meditation, and more) and they get to apply their full attention to their recovery, without the day-to-day distractions and temptations of their home environment. S

he noted how vital it was for a halfway-type programme and regular sessions with a recovery coach or sobriety organisation thereafter. “Sobriety cannot be maintained in a vacuum.”

Rehab May not Suit the Addict but Can Save Lives

There are pros and cons to rehab and everyone has their own point of view about this, their own needs and their own stages of alcoholism to deal with. Remember that when a person reaches that point of having to consider rehab, it usually means that they are at that stage of reaching alcohol use disorder, dependence on alcohol and addiction to the substance.

In other words, the road to recovery is going to be long and hard, and many people have to learn along this road that will power alone will not cure them.

Drinkers who want to stop drinking need the right support because “alcoholism is a disorder that is responsible for many deaths in South Africa each year. The progression of this disorder may take years to acquire and thus, may not be easily healed as the habitual processes of alcoholism tend to ingrain themselves into the person’s “way of life”.

Alcohol use can kill, and detox can kill, so a person who has been drinking heavily for most of their life and needs to stop then requires special medical care, drugs and a safe space in which to detox.

According to Relapse Prevention, “…in a rehab treatment facility geared for alcoholics, they are provided specialist care of medical professionals who can help them go through the process and keep them safe while their bodies begin to heal. Rehabilitation uses detoxing as its first step and for those undergoing the process, it is just one small piece of the holistic health puzzle.”

Many Special Dimensions in Rehab

The essential dimensions to rehab include learning how to live again without that “friend”, that lifelong go-to for stress and grief, trauma and escape. Special therapy at rehabs is carefully planned to treat the behaviours that cause addiction. This entails group therapy and individual therapy to help them deal with their personal and social issues, to receive cognitive-behavioural therapy to help them cope – a vital part of the rehab process.

“Rehabilitation also involves physical activities, such as meditation and yoga, and these can be used in conjunction with the other forms of therapy to help patients mend their bodies and minds. Some rehab facilities will even have a life skills coach who will help patients learn how to take care of themselves and their needs without relying on alcohol and if they are not taught these skills, they risk relapse.”

In a nutshell, then, alcohol rehabilitation is a “form of treatment for alcoholism that takes the whole individual into account, from their physical to their mental needs and helps them find balance in their lives without needing to rely on alcohol. This is something that everyone struggling with addiction should experience and they need the services of a treatment centre in order to live a better life.”

WHY Do People Drink in the First Place?

There is a very important part of rehab that we need to talk about – WHY do people need it and WHY were they drinking in the first place? Rehab can be very difficult in that the drinker now has to face reality, make real-life decisions and talk about their feelings. Many addicts (alcohol or drugs) are running away fro their feelings so the real problem is that “when drugs and alcohol are removed, the real issues a person has been running from will begin to surface.”

Constance Scharff, Ph.D in Psychology Today points out these emotions that begin to surface for drinkers now going to rehab to get clean and these emotions need to be turned over and reversed:

  • Hopelessness – there needs to be hope again
  • Shame – accepting the mistakes made and making new plans for a better life is essential
  • Guilt – different from shame in that it involves self-blame for wrongdoings so again, acceptance of mistakes made is crucial and setting new goals, moving forward is vital
  • Frustration – being in rehab shows the person that there are some things they cannot change and now they have to follow rehab rules, society’s rules – and try to manage their feelings at the same time.
  • Anger – this follows the frustration and can be violent – in most cases, anger stems from fear, shame, grief, sadness and powerlessness. Rehab assist the person to deal with these emotions and gives them useful tools to go forward
  • Trauma – “Trauma is the shock of living through a greatly disturbing, often life-threatening experience. A large number of people who have a substance abuse disorder have experienced trauma that has not been resolved. Specialized therapyand coping tools are available …”
  • Lack of self-esteem – this is often a strong cause for people to drink in the first place, then when they get to rehab, they lose even more self-esteem and have to build it up again from scratch and learn that they have value in life.

Let us know your thoughts about rehab – have you ever experienced rehab for excessive drinking and did it help you? Your opinion could be very valuable for others who need to go to rehab. Meanwhile, listen to this podcast about a remarkable recovery from addiction and trauma, where rehabs played a role!

*Names have been changed.

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