Common Rehab Tall Tales

Common Rehab Tall Tales

During the course of a stay at a treatment center, the emotions of the AP will change. Sometimes you will notice great resolve from your AP to commit to change and other times it will feel like they can’t see the forest through the trees. They don’t see the entirety of their addiction and the pain that it caused. 

One of the most important elements of rehab is sober time, the more time someone has the better their chances of staying sober for the long term.  When your AP is in treatment, you will often hear convincing arguments about why their treatment should be different or shortened. 

These utterances come up with just about every treatment center placement.

This Place is Like a Jail

Day-to-day life at a treatment center is very structured compared to the lifestyle of using drugs and alcohol. Learning structure is an important part of recovery, getting up at the same time, eating a healthy diet, and going to bed at the same time. These habits might have fallen off during use and treatment is a chance to reestablish a structured life. 

Treatment centers do have a lot of rules, phones may be restricted, patients are encouraged to attend all sessions of therapy, and the men are separated from the woman. Rules are in place to keep everyone in treatment safe, ensure that no one will accept the delivery of drugs in the facility,  and give people the time to focus on getting the most out of their time there.

“You’re sending me to Jail” tends to be a manipulation by the AP. They are attempting to get someone to feel sorry for them and call the whole thing off.  A good treatment center is more like a fancy resort, a far cry from a jail. Lean back on the research that you did on the treatment center. They may need to be reminded why a treatment center has rules.

There is an Executive Program that I need to be in

Most treatment centers have an expensive executive track. These pathways offer more liberties, like cell phone access and time to work. An AP might try to guilt someone into paying for these expensive tracks by saying something like, “I will only stay if I can go to the Bespoke Program.” All of a sudden there is hostage negotiation going on at the door of the treatment center.

There is no correlation between money spent and successful recovery, most people do better when in the general program, if the AP is paying and would be invested in the executive program, so be it.  But if the family is paying for the treatment, you should not feel guilted into paying.  

Your loved ones’ addiction and behavior got them to rehab, you are not making them go.  You are providing enough and don’t need to play a game of paying more for them to have the upgraded program.

My Friends Left and I am Ready to Leave

The lifecycle of being in treatment runs on a 30-day cycle, from new guy to senior guy, a full lifespan happens in 30 days.  When someone “graduates” it is a significant moment and it’s celebrated.  As someone becomes senior in the program they are given the opportunity to take new people under their wing and do service and welcome them into the program. 

Attrition of friends is a normal part of treatment, this attrition is the opportunity that your AP has to do service and help the newcomer into the facility.

*a word about “friends”.  Friendships develop fast and are very deep in treatment. People share honestly about deep aspects of their lives in group sessions. After treatment people go a million different ways, the friendships made in treatment tend to be just that, friends in the facility. It is rare that these friendships are lasting.

I Could Teach the Classes

In an attempt to trick you, an addicted person will claim they are the “best in the class.” They have been put into leadership positions. This is the addiction hinting that they can leave early. They may think they are looked at highly by the other clients and staff, but that is irrelevant.  

I don’t know of any treatment center that promotes clients to a position higher than their peers. Most people in treatment are trying really hard to break free of their habits. They would not tolerate another client telling them what to do. The staff certainly doesn’t regard someone with 2 weeks of sobriety as a leader in treatment. 

There are opportunities for clients to share their stories, this is an important part of 12-Step meetings and therapy.  By sharing openly, you are doing service and helping others, you are not the de facto leader of the group.  Everyone is given an equal opportunity to share their story with the clients.

Most treatment centers have a list of chores. Participating in service work is an important lesson. The chores are small, like sweeping the floor in the living area or making coffee. The clients are not the cleaning staff, they are simply expected to respect shared areas and take responsibility for keeping them clean.  Usually, there is a culture among the clients that this is expected of all.

Everyone Else Here is Worse than Me

Every person that I have ever helped go to treatment has mentioned this phase, every one of them.  There will be some people in the treatment center with really rough stories. There will also be people there that self refer into treatment, and decide to address the problem early. It is unlikely that your AP is in better shape than everyone else. 

It is important not to compare one addiction to the other. The reality is that if a loved one qualifies to go to treatment, they are in the right place. I encourage people that I work with to compare themselves to the people that aren’t in rehab instead of the few people that are.

Everyone Here Agrees with Me

Do the other clients agree with your AP, or does the clinical team? 

Most of the other clients in treatment want to be there and want to take the advice of staff members.  There is not a culture of other clients giving advice – and one should be very wary of taking the advice of someone else that is new in recovery.  The culture of recovery is to take advice from people that have been successful at it.  In a treatment center, clients know not to give advice.  When a loved one says “everyone” they are probably not referring to the treatment staff. 

The Facility is Only Out for Money (It’s just a business).

Treatment centers are businesses, let’s just accept that fact.  A reputable treatment center is very interested in a successful outcome for your loved one.  The front-line staff of a treatment center makes recommendations that are clinically based and in the best interest of your AP.

 It would be a rare (unheard of) recommendation for a treatment center to leave early, again distance (time) from last use is very important and there is no way to shortcut this.

 The answer for addiction is always more treatment and a longer stay.  For most people, 28 days is not enough time between using and going home.  It is very common that the treatment center will recommend a longer stay, and they will always recommend sober living.  If the treatment center that you choose has extended care, they will recommend theirs as the staff there believe in it and already know your AP.

Treatment centers will work with you to create an aftercare plan that is affordable and will accommodate the requirements of the AP.

I am Following the After-care Plan that the Facility Recommended.

 Aftercare recommendations always start with the most intense options as the recommendation. The most successful aftercare plan would be to stay at the facility for an extended period, but due to costs and time constraints, few people can make this commitment. 

 If staying at the facility is not an option, the treatment center will recommend sober living and intensive outpatient treatment.  If your AP will not agree to sober living, the treatment center will make other recommendations. This creates a “race to the bottom.” The treatment center recommends the highest and best course of action, and the AP negotiates down.

 When having the aftercare conversation with your AP, make sure you understand what the treatment center is actually recommending. 

Responding to Rehab Feedback

Most people at treatment are grateful for the opportunity to go to treatment. They are grateful to the staff that are trying to help them out.  Be wary of any story that your AP is telling you otherwise. 

 If your loved one has a complaint about the facility or seems to have a plan that doesn’t make sense, always ask your AP’s case manager what is going on from the facility’s perspective. Don’t take action just based on what your AP tells you.

I encourage people entering into treatment to stick with the winners. Like any program in life, there are people very dedicated to making change. For those just going through the motions, going to rehab is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can make the most of it by sticking with the people that want to make the best of it.

I learned my lesson (by seeing people worse than me).

Thirty days of treatment cannot be summarized into one lesson to learn – that things can get worse.  Your loved one has already seen people worse than them before; they have already had negative consequences – they have had plenty of opportunities to “learn their lesson” before they got to rehab.  

Treatment is not simply learning one lesson or being scared straight.  If this were true, people would stop drinking after the first or second negative consequence.  We know that people that leave rehab early rarely, recover.  One of the most important parts of treatment is the 30 days, people need distance from their last use and there is no shortcut for time.

It is a blessing to go to rehab early, addiction is progressive, it always gets worse, if your loved one isn’t as bad as others, there is no need to wait until they are.

There is an upcoming event that I can’t miss.

There is never a good time to take 30 days off to go to rehab, absolutely everyone that has ever gone has a schedule of future events.  It is a matter of deciding what is more important, one event or a lifetime of recovery.  

Like clockwork, your loved one will look to the next important event and use that as a reason that they can’t do rehab now.  Upcoming class reunion, the next holiday, a child’s birthday, their birthday.  It really doesn’t matter what the upcoming event is, that is the excuse that they will use.  

Occasionally there truly are events that can’t be missed. A treatment center can work with major life events, but not for things like a 4-year-old’s birthday party or a high school class reunion.

It is time to decide what is more important, treatment for a life-threatening illness or the next event.  The people that attend the event would most likely be thrilled that your loved one has chosen rehab versus the event.

I am only here because (my wife made me do it)

Absolutely everyone that goes to rehab is pushed into it by someone that cares.  It is almost unheard of that someone to send themselves to rehab.  While a family member might have been the one to say, “Enough is enough”, they were not the reason that someone goes to rehab.  

Your loved one is in rehab due to what they were using and the consequences of that use.  Your loved one ended up with an intervention and going to rehab

I am upset at the way you went about (the intervention)

“You should have just addressed this with me one-on-one, you shouldn’t have told my family”. 

When family or friends step in to help someone out, we are taking agency away from the addicted person.  Sending someone to treatment is a bit unfair. The family steps in and determines the day and time someone goes to rehab. That isn’t at all what your loved one had planned for that day. It is common that them to respond with anger.

The reality is that family members have addressed the addiction one-on-one in the past and that didn’t work.  Intervention is addressing addiction in a new way. 

We can armchair quarterback the process that we used and the people we involved in getting someone to go to treatment.  Intervention is everyone trying their best to get someone’s help. We might make a few mistakes along the way, but we are trying our best.

Common Enemy

Your loved one may attempt to split the group up by choosing a scapegoat that they can turn everyone against.  Common enemies are the strongest person in the intervention group, the person that organized the intervention, the treatment center staff, or the interventionist.

“Bill overreacted, this was blown out of proportion” or “The treatment center doesn’t know what they are talking about”.  Your loved one is attempting to get people to join their side, and if they can get a few people on their side, they can manipulate to blow up the entire process.  

Your loved one is an expert at blowing up attempts by loved ones to help them recover.  They don’t think that this time is any different and they will make several attempts to sweep this all under the rug in hopes of making it all go away.

About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail come from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach. Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one.

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, and the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally.

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