From the Desk of Greg Tiritilli, BA, RAC

Entering into a rehab program usually means that things are falling apart.
Mostly likely you are having to come to terms with the fact that you messed up, got caught, ran out of money, or ran out of time, you got sick, you got fired (or about to be fired), you flipped out, or, in very rare cases, saw the light. You are facing problems with the law, or with family, friends are angry, bank accounts are empty, and you’ve run out of options. In the world of addiction treatment and recovery these are common consequences.

So, now you painted yourself into a corner and have to do something. As the treatment option becomes realistic, it’s inevitable that certain fears and misconceptions will arise in one’s imagination. Now, the idea of rehab is blowing your mind with all of the imagined whining and carrying on, the caterwauling, coffee and cigarettes, groups, droning on and on about who knows what! How could that possibly help? Complaining and consoling, consoling and complaining and no hope of fun.

We’ve compiled a list of a few of the most common fears and misconceptions about getting sober:

    1. I’m about to be bored and lonely because you’re gonna make me give up all my friends.

      The truth is, in the first few days, this is sort of true. Going from a life of drama and conflict, avoiding police, managing secrets and lies, and getting loaded the whole time to a life of 12 step meetings and therapy group will be a jolting change. Most people have to fight the urge to stay in bed and isolate, depression and fatigue are normal parts of early sobriety. And as far as giving up friends, you’re all grown up and you get to decide for yourself who should and shouldn’t be your friends. Treatment can help you understand how to make those decisions. You may have to make certain sacrifices, both temporary and permanent, for the greater good. If you can hang on and weather the storm of being new, things will get better. People don’t get sober to be removed from life, we get sober in order to get back to the things we really want. With some effort and open mindedness you will be able to replace all that you have to give up. Remember, the goal is not boredom, the goal is staying out of jail, keeping your marriage, keeping your job, and living a healthy life.


    1. AA/NA and treatment are lame and I don’t want to belong.

      This is a tricky one. It seems like whenever you defend something as not being lame it becomes more lame than ever. It’s easy to fall into the stereotyping fallacy when judging the 12 step programs from the outside looking in. Popular culture has made this negative impression very easy to conjure up. The problem and solution is that you will find what you’re looking for. In other words, if you go in expecting to hate everything and everyone then you will probably fulfill that expectation. However, if you look for people with similar interest and sensibilities you will definitively find that too. As stated in the above section, the change from what you know will be jarring, and most people resist change, but if you can embrace something different for the greater good then you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. The truth is, just like in everything else, some things you’ll like and some things you will not like.


    1. The opiates were my problem not alcohol, or the alcohol not the pot, the cocaine not the pills, or the needle not the bottle, etcetera, etcetera, etc.

      Trying to navigate early recovery can be difficult and scary. A lot of preconceived notions about substance use and addiction will be challenged. Without a full clinical assessment and history it’s really hard to determine exactly what is occurring. But if a person meets the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder then he/she will have some hard truths to face. The reality of cross addiction suggests that if a person has an addiction to one substance then there is a very high likelihood that that person will have addiction problems with all classes of addictive substances. We have seen, time and time again, people relapse on a substance that was not there drug of choice, only to be led back to their drug of choice or to begin using the other substance inappropriately. Sometimes it helps to think of the substance use as if it were a vehicle to get you where you want to go. Some people prefer a car, others a motorcycle, and still others like trucks, but they are all vehicles. Personal preferences, functionality, and brain chemistry determine which drug does it for you and once a substance is ingested the addiction takes over. The safe bet is to abstain from all mood altering chemicals to give you the best chance of not falling back into the clutches of active addiction.


    1. I just need a chance to get past the withdrawals then I’ll be fine.

      Initially, the thing that scared most people away from recovery is the thought of detox and withdrawals. The expectation of getting sick is so scary to some people that they will continue using or drinking long past the point of enjoying the substance use. Once the decision is made to check in to a detox program or work with a doctor to dry out, things start to get better. Often times, the expectation of sickness was far worse than the reality. After a few days the person starts feeling better, thinking starts to clear up, they may even become excited about the future. This “flight into health” is a very dangerous time in early recovery. Getting the substances out of the system is a vital part of the process, but it is only the first part. Without continued treatment and therapy a person will not be prepared for when the flight into health ends, which it inevitably will after a few days or weeks and they fall back into the feelings that led to the addiction in the first place. Engaging in treatment and therapy can help a person to address the underlying issues that contributed to the inappropriate substance use. It can also provide new healthier coping skills and tools to prevent a return to drug/alcohol use. Sometimes getting sober is easier than staying sober.


  1. I’m not really an addict I just need to learn to control it.

    Gosh, that sure would make life a lot easier if this were only a phase, or a part of growing up, or college, or a rut from depression. If the use could be easily explained and dismissed as a symptom of your circumstances then you would be normal and you could get back to being happy like you were before this whole mess got started. Letting go of this fantasy is crucial in moving ahead with your life. The fact is you got to where you are now in spite of your best intentions. No one planed on getting a DWI or failing out of school, most likely, the plan was to have some fun or blow off some steam. If this were a phase or something you could control then why didn’t you? How could you, someone who has been successful at so many other things, let this happen? As a person gets further into their addiction they begin to lose control of their life. An addicted person becomes powerless over choosing not to use or drink and the consequences begin to pile up. Without a full clinical assessment it’s difficult to determine is a person is an addict, however if you are in a place in your life were you are considering addiction treatment, regardless of what is motivating you, it would behoove you to take a close look at how you got into this spot. Often times treatment is not about selling you on addiction so much as it is about helping you take an honest look at your life.