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Treatment takes time, so buckle up for the full ride

 Thoughts from John Perry, owner of Clean & Sober Recovery Services

Two to three weeks into treatment, we often spot a resident’s overconfidence rearing its ugly head. It shows up as the faulty thinking that “I’m all better now, and I’m ready to return to my real life.” That’s a really bad plan for so many reasons.

Two or three weeks into treatment, residents may sincerely believe they are better. They aren’t trying to sneak out of treatment, but they simply believe they don’t need it anymore. Yes - they look better, they feel better, and they sincerely and truly believe they are now equipped to navigate life without drugs and alcohol. Their intentions are as “pure” as they can be, given that their brains and logic are altered by substance use disorder. Their cognition and judgement are severely compromised, so the newly-sober resident should certainly not be calling the shots about treatment duration.

For that matter, the family of the newly sober resident needs to steer clear of the “I’m all better” siren song. It’s easy to give in to a loved one who seems so much better now that he or she has left the bottle or the needle behind. Hope or denial or misinformation about the severity of this brain disease may give rise to parent or spouse’s faulty reasoning. So, here’s the best guidance I can give: Three weeks of sobriety and the concept of true recovery are many miles apart. That pesky little heroin problem or a decade of drinking isn’t going to go away in the blink of an eye.

The hardest part of recovery is NOT stopping the drug or alcohol consumption or even cleaning up the messes we’ve made. The hardest part is stepping away from the familiar (albeit bad) choices of the past and forging a future without drugs or alcohol. That takes open-mindedness, trust and time.

Our residents have to trust that they arrived at our doorstep because they weren’t making wise decisions. They are in treatment precisely because their brains have been hijacked and aren’t working well. They need to be committed to the full ride, even if they consider it unnecessary. They need to let the professionals choreograph the optimal treatment plan. When you’re fighting a potentially-deadly disease that has an extremely high relapse rate, why wouldn’t you let the experts drive the bus?

We’re confident that treatment for addiction and acloholism can work. And we’re equally confident that treatment has to run its full course to work well.

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