Often, when people call to inquire about services, they believe that if they send their son/daughter/ sibling/spouse/parent to detox, the drug and/or alcohol problem will be solved. The desire is for a minimal investment (both in terms of time and money), the individual will immediately have a clear mind and be ready to take on a life of recovery.
Sadly, it does not work this way. Recovery is a process and each step of the process is just as important as the next step.
The role of detox is to rid the body of the toxins in a safe, medically-supervised environment. It is truly the first step in a series of activities associated with living a life in recovery. Think of a stay in the detox unit as being comparable to an ER visit. You go in experiencing a problem and they make sure you are stable, in no immediate danger and run diagnostic tests to rule out life-threatening issues. Once you are stable, more than likely, you will be discharged and advised to follow-up with your primary care physician or a specialist if necessary. The role of the ER is not necessarily to make you well, though in some cases they do, but the beginning of a process that may involve more tests, surgery, treatment or changes in your diet and/or lifestyle.
Like your primary care physician, your primary counselor at a residential substance abuse treatment facility will steer you in the direction of wellness. Often, your success depends on how well you follow medical/clinical advice. A primary counselor will work with you to develop a treatment plan, which is a list of goals to accomplish in order to maintain your sobriety, chart your progress and guide you through challenges. Some treatment goals relate to dealing with past events and/or traumas that may have led to substance abuse, while others are about learning new coping mechanisms and ways of dealing with stress or turmoil of everyday life. Without this knowledge and work, there is no way to advance to the next level of recovery, the transition to either a sober living facility or back to your home.
Going back to the medical analogy and ER visit, let’s say the patient presented with chest pains and has a family history of heart disease. The ER doctors ran tests to determine that the patient was not in eminent danger and recommended following up with a primary care doctor for further testing. Those test results showed the patient needed by-pass surgery due to arterial blockage. The surgery was a success. The patient was given specific post-operative steps to take before leaving the hospital and to begin resuming a normal life. These steps may have included exercise and physical therapy, a change in diet or a change in routine if stress is a factor in the heart disease. Each step of the process is important and can only be done in one order. Recovery from substance abuse is the same type of process and includes stabilization, diagnosis, treatment plan development and a realistic transition plan.