6 Years of Sobriety, 10 drug and alcohol rehabs… I know What to Look For
When I got drunk for the first time at age 16 I had no idea that I would eventually become the go-to expert on rehabs. Did I go to school for addiction counseling studies? Kind of. I mean, that’s not what my degree is in but I can promise you that when I was in school addiction was the subject I put most of my time in to. You see, I’ve been to 10 different treatment centers in 4 different states. No, not as a visitor – as a patient. When you spend that amount of time in institutions trying to figure out why you can’t stop stealing money out of your mom’s purse to get high, you gain a lot of perspective. You learn the ins and outs or the rehab’s treatment protocols and I had 9 other drug and alcohol rehabs to compare them to. I was a walking, talking, real-life “Yelp” constantly in search for the best drug and alcohol rehab. In addition to living in treatment centers, some for as long as 6 months, I have also visited over 30 rehabs on speaking engagements since getting sober.
Shouldn’t I ask A Doctor What Makes a Great Treatment Center?
To many it might feel more comforting to ask a doctor or a therapist what to look for in a substance abuse center. I totally get that, but I disagree. Many times, the doctors and staff are not addicts or alcoholics. They read a lot about it, have done a great job helping so many of us find recovery, but they will never, ever know what it is like be addicted.
If you want to know what makes the Bronx Zoo so great you would ask the Zoo keeper. He’s going to tell you all about the humane practices at the zoo and about how much time the monkeys spend in the sunshine. But if you really want the truth, if you really want to know everything that goes on in the zoo, you must ask the monkeys. Today, I am the monkey.
The Best Drug and Alcohol Rehabs Will Have These 10 Things
#10 A Staff Filled with Addicts and Alcoholics
My eight-year-old sister was born without her right hand. Not a big deal, but she always felt so different from the other kids. One day she was trying to figure out how to serve a tennis ball at her tennis class. Lots of the kids tried to help, the instructor had a bunch of ideas too, but nothing seemed to work and my sister didn’t seem to pay much attention to their ideas. “Day have boaf hands how da heck can dey know how to swerve whiff just one?” She’s eight so those are not typos, it’s how she talks. Cute huh? Well it’s not as cute as the 12-year-old boy who showed up the following week of tennis camp, he had one arm and showed my sister what to do. She listened, she learned and she served.
That is why you need to make sure that the drug and alcohol center you are going to or sending someone to is jam-packed full of alcoholics and addicts. We need to be speaking to the recovering alcoholics who have been to the same places in hell and found their way out. One alcoholic helping another is and always will be the foundation of recovery. “Do you have recovering alcoholics on staff?” That would be the first question I would ask. I’ve been to a few places who didn’t have any recovering drug addicts working for them and it didn’t work, for me atleast.
License and Registration Please – Now You Get to Ask for It!
#9 Licensed and JCAHO Accredited
This should go without saying but it is so important, it needs to be said. You must ask the rehab in question if they are licensed by the state they are in and if they are JCAHO accredited. Any decent and credible drug rehab will be JCAHO accredited. JCAHO stands for The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and is known throughout the US and the gold standard in accreditation for many healthcare fields including substance abuse. As an independent, non-profit organization that certifies and accredits over to 20,000 healthcare institutions JCAHO will have its name on any rehab worth of sending the person you love. Yes, all 10 of mine had the JCAHO stamp of approval.
#8 Dual Diagnosis Treatment
When I went to my first rehab in 2002, the idea of dual diagnosis had been around for 10 years. This was good for me because I had a bunch of other stuff wrong in my head other than addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is the practice of treating co-occurring mental health disorders as part of a curriculum and not as seperate disorders. This is an essential component for any drug and alcohol rehab center that claims to be the best. We now know that there is not a hard line between psychiatric health and addiction, they are one in the same. Patients with bi-polar disorder and an addiction for crack should be treated for both simultaneously. The previous method of treatment required the addict to be clean and sober for months before treatment for the additional disorder would begin, an almost impossible task. Dual-Diagnosis is now common practice but not in all substance abuse treatment centers. If they don’t have dual-diagnosis treatment DO NOT GO THERE, even if you don’t think your loved one has any other co-occurring disorders. When my depression and anxiety was finally treated along with my addiction recovery truly began for me.
Rehab Romances, The Main Reason I Went To 10 Rehabs
#7 Gender Specific Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Once the drugs and the alcohol left my body I ran straight for the other thing that made me feel great, girls. At the first 9 treatments, I went to I had 9 rehab romances, 9 new girlfriends in rehab. All day long I thought about them, impressing them, finding ways to sneak out and make out with them. I never focused on me and what I needed to do to recover. Until the last rehab when I was told I would be kicked out on the street if I even spoke to one female patient. Nothing scared me more than being homeless, so I complied. What I found was that I could focus on myself and focus on the things inside of me that needed to be changed without worrying how It would make me look in front of Sally. It also helped me create better friendships and bonds with the men at my rehab, the friends I would rely upon when treatment concluded.
#6 Aftercare Treatment Program
When my family was considering a rehab for my second stint I told them, “It has to have something for me to do after treatment is over.” See, the first time I went right back to my old stomping grounds and, well, I got stomped. An aftercare program offers therapy in both the group and individual settings on a less frequent basis while still providing a high level of substance abuse care. Many believe that after 28 days, the journey is over. This couldn’t be more untrue. I was at my best when I followed the recommendations of the treatment staff and was held accountable by the team involved in my aftercare. I have found involvement in an aftercare program to be the difference between making it to one year of sobriety and not.
The Patient Is the Family and The Family Is the Patient
#5 Family Addiction Program
I can tell you that the biggest reason I went to 10 rehabs instead of 11 is because of a family program. My parents, brothers and sisters needed to understand all the ways they are helping me stay sober and all the ways they were helping me get high. These are not easy to understand and vary based on the individual. Family must be involved in the treatment process if recovery is going to be possible. It might seem like a good idea to make sure your son’s car has gas in it so he can get to a meeting after he leaves treatment, right? WRONG! If he wants to stay sober he needs to get his own gas. If you keep doing everything for him he has no incentive to do anything himself. Trust me I learned this the hard way. I rode a bike, took the bus and ate expired burritos from Walgreens for a year, I never wanted to go back to that, so I never picked up drugs again. The family program took my parents enabling away and in turn I stayed sober. No family program? No Go!
#4 Alumni Recovery Program
“Hi, my name is Jimmy I went to treatment her 3 years ago and this past May I celebrated 3 years sober.” Nothing is more powerful than that. Alumni programs are awesome because they put current patients hand in hand with former patients who have their lives back on track and who used to sit in the same seat as the person with one day sober. The amount of hope supplied by an active alumni program cannot be overstated. Besides hope alumni take patients and bring them into their sober circle of friends and even jobs. I never felt more alone than when I was drinking, I never felt more alive than the first time my alumni buddy picked me up and took me to the movies with 10 other sober people.
“Everyone Has Issues, At Least I Know What Yours Are” – My Boss
#3 Vocational ProgramsF
I had never had a job outside of the family business. The reason was that any other place would have fired me for sleeping in the dressing rooms and using painkillers at the register. I never went on an interview or wrote a resume. A vocational program takes care of all those things and helps the addicts and alcoholics re-integrate into society. Yes, an addict is not a great person to hire. But a recovering alcoholic or drug addict is many times the most productive, kindest and hardest working person on the staff. People in recovery live their life by a certain set of principles that are sought after by employers. My boss loved that I was in recovery because it gave him insight into my issues and created an open dialogue in the office. Now, you should not rush into an interview and say I’m an addict thinking that will get you hired. There is a certain way to do that, and a solid vocational program will show you how to do it.
#2 Reputable Halfway Houses in The Area
You got out of rehab, now what? I moved in with my rehab girlfriend then relapsed, I moved in with my parents then relapsed, this last time I went to a halfway house and have not used since. Areas that have a high population of reputable halfway houses or sober homes usually have one of the best drug and alcohol rehabs close by. People in recovery need other people in recovery to stay sober and they need to learn how to live again. Sober homes are great places to hold the addicts accountable and help them learn how to do all the things “Normal” people do. Many cities do not have these resources available so make sure the treatment center you choose to go to has an adequate network of sober homes available before you check in.
#1 People Who Love Their Jobs
Ask the admissions person if they love their job, if they do there is a good chance you have nothing to worry about.