This is a guest post from Don Troutman, Founder of Clean & Sober Transitional Living
People used to think that recovering from chemical dependency was a one-shot deal like taking “The Cure,” and that once you took “The Cure,” you’d be OK. They didn’t view addiction or alcoholism as a continuing process or a chronic disease. Even the structure of a the 28-day treatment model adds to the illusion that this disease can be vanquished in 28 days. In truth, the 28-day treatment concept was designed to comply with the insurance companies and their willingness to finance a finite number of days of treatment.
People who are in a treatment program are shielded from – and don’t have to pay attention to – the outside world. And then they are very vulnerable when they leave the treatment program, only to discover the same people, problems and situations lying in wait right outside the door.
There is no magic 28 days to achieve a cure from alcoholism or addiction; instead there needs to be a continuum of care that addresses the physical, psychological and social elements of this potentially deadly disease. We call this the bio-psycho-social approach to recovery.
So, 28 days of treatment doesn’t fully prepare anyone for sustained sobriety because it takes time and effort to:
- Rebuild the brain’s neurotransmitter system.
- Repair a body that has been ravaged by drugs or alcohol.
- Develop the self-insight, determination, skills and strength to navigate life’s ups and downs without the numbing effects of drugs or alcohol.
- Find work, start earning a paycheck, or go to school.
- Build a network of sober and supportive friends.
- Rebuild family ties that have snapped under the pressure of alcohol or other drugs.
- Replace shame with self-esteem.
This all takes support, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Just as a baby learns how to walk with one step, then another, a sober living environment helps people reclaim healthy and productive lives, one step at a time.
When I opened my first sober living home in 1989, I found it comforting to know that there were others nearby who could relate to me. I wasn’t alone. I could help them and they could help me. I also found that when you live in a sober living environment, you have a sense of responsibility to your peers. I didn’t want to face my housemates and do “The Perp Walk” if I started drinking again. Sometimes, it’s more powerful to be accountable to others than to yourself. Sometimes the simple presence of others who are committed to sobriety gives you a reason to walk away from danger.
28 days isn’t a magic number. But there’s plenty of magic in a sober living environment that helps people learn how to stretch those 28 days into a lifetime of recovery.
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