Drug Addiction and Alcoholism: Long-Term Recovery Programs

Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) states that, “Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical. The appropriate duration for an individual depends on the type and degree of the patient’s problems and needs. Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment. As with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug abuse can occur and should signal a need for treatment to be reinstated or adjusted. Because individuals often leave treatment prematurely, programs should include strategies to engage and keep patients in treatment."

This means, especially for families looking to get help for a loved one afflicted with drug addiction and/or alcoholism, that to offer the best chance for a life free from addiction, long-term treatment is the way to go. It is difficult, though not at all impossible, for a 30-day program to break the cycle of addiction. But the habits formed over years of substance abuse tend to require longer stays in residential recovery facilities.  It is best to transition slowly into life, rather than all-at-once, and a long-term program generally facilitates this type of transition.

Why 30-Day Residential Programs Are Usually Not Enough

Often, men and women who leave 30-day residential programs and return home are setting themselves up for failure. The first problem rests in their biochemical makeup. The body takes a long time to heal from years of drug and alcohol abuse. 30-days of sobriety is a step in the right direction, but medically speaking, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last as long as three years (as little as one).

Second, men and women who return home usually associate with the same “playmates, playgrounds and playthings.” These individuals invariably relapse because they are exposed to the same environment that nurtured, supported and developed addictive behaviors.

Finally, “30 and go” individuals fail to cement the principles, exercises and behaviors necessary for recovery. They return home with few, if any, recovery contacts. Recovery relationships, vital to sustained sobriety, must be initiated and cultivated again. All of the aforementioned factors stack the deck against “30 and go” individuals.

My experience with treatment programs followed a similar pattern. I had been to treatment twice, each time for 30 days, and returned home upon graduation. I associated with the same people. I visited the same places. And I always relapsed.

Drug addiction and alcoholism kept me in this excruciating cycle until I made the decision to get help. It was also encouraging to discover that relapse did not mean treatment failed. That was certainly my first thought, but I managed to stay sober 6 months both times. This hope, mixed with a strong willingness, help construct a backbone for reintroduction to sober-living and recovery.

Experience in a Long-Term Recovery Program

While at Discovery Place, staff encouraged me to stay more than 30 days. They reminded me I had tried 30-day programs before, and if I wanted a different result, I must do something different.

I was blessed to have parents who refused to enable my addictive behavior anymore. Mom and Dad resolved to say “no” to my pleas to return home. I faced two options: go out on my own or enroll in a long-term recovery program. After carefully weighing my options, I made the decision to go to a long-term recovery program

About 100 days after checking into Discovery Place, I ventured into the world outside of treatment. I practiced what I was taught, and today, life is pretty good.

One year later, I am still sober. I have a full-time job, a close relationship with my family and just bought my first home. Looking back, I can't believe I ran around bound to the chains of drug addiction and alcoholism as long as I did. But it takes what it takes to develop a willingness to “do something different.”

Today I have that willingness, and I hope for the perseverance to continue on the path of recovery. There's no doubt in my mind that if I persist, remarkable things will follow.

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