When we get to a certain age, we start to recognize that the big things in life—the really important things—deserve all the time that they may require. For drug and alcohol addicts, getting clean isn't just a life-saving choice, although that would be significant enough. For these brave and struggling fighters, choosing to give up the substance that has gained a choke hold on their existence is often the proudest moment they'll ever experience. It takes an immense amount of gumption, fortitude, and moxy to stand up and say "I'm taking my life back. It is MINE." For a choice so big, so bold, so important, we have to give it the time it deserves.
Long term treatment, (whether for alcohol or drugs) is a category referring to programs designed to fully immerse someone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction in an environment devoid of temptation, and buttressed by 24-7, trained medical and psychological staff. These facilities are designed for a length of stay that endeavors to completely do away with the stress of time constraints, so that patients can focus one hundred percent on getting better. True recovery takes as long as it takes, and sometimes people need to check out of their everyday lives to truly embrace recover.
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Twenty-eight-day (or almost month-long) programs have grown in popularity over the last fifteen years, but long-term rehabilitation programs still have massive benefits over the "quick hitters," especially for people who may not have a very supportive, nurturing environment at home or in their "real life." Studies show that people who remain in treatment for longer than 90 days show far higher rates of success, (meaning lower rates of relapse.) The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 90 days (minimum) for the treatment of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Long-term addiction treatment satisfies this requirement, while also affording a more comprehensive approach to care for someone, on a longer and more relaxed timeline.
Most long-term treatment facilities focus on developing and strengthening coping strategies (so that when patients return to their normal lives, they are better equipped, and less likely to relapse), balancing brain chemistry to reduce drug cravings, getting healthy overall (body, mind, and soul), restoring relationships with family and friends, returning people safely to work and functional status within society, and developing lasting relationships among the recovery community, so they'll always have a support structure to rely on.
A stay in a long-term treatment facility works well for individuals with long-standing or severe addictions, as well as patients that may have several co-existing disorders, such as a mental illness. It's also a great option for patients who have tried shorter stays in outpatient facilities and have relapsed. While there's no standard time requirement, long-term treatment usually lasts between six and twelve months and long-term facilities typically also have tailor-made programs specific to gender and age, which is a customization that can often be beneficial. Anyone needing a more focused approach could stand to benefit greatly from a program with the ability to customize treatment for each patient.
For years, long-term treatment has been a staple among celebrities in hollywood, famous musicians, and other artists from all walks of life. It's completely normal for a famous personality to "drop out of sight" for six months to a year and then re-emerge, refreshed and looking radiant, rested, and sober. So, if you're considering finding a treatment facility, you're in good company, you should find no shame in it! In fact, if anything, it should be a source of pride. If you're investigating your options for long-term treatment, it means you've not only decided to face your greatest enemy (addiction) but you're also willing to do it in the strongest, and most committed way possible. You're off to fantastic start!
Many drug and alcohol addicts resist inpatient treatment at first, because the idea of leaving their life and immersing totally in the act of getting clean can be scary and off-putting. After all, everyone has obligations, and checking into long-term treatment requires putting all of those on hold or making complex arrangements to ensure that things are handled while they are away. But as difficult as it can be, the challenges of prepping your normal life to allow you the time you need to truly get clean pales in comparison the crippling yoke of drug addiction.
Making the decision to check yourself into a long-term treatment facility is hard; it may just be one of the most trying times in your life. It means agreeing to miss potentially a year in the life of the people you love, a year of work, and year of other obligations. But we have to remember that your drug or alcohol addiction has an effect on everyone around you. It affects your family that loves you—they suffer every withdrawal with you, unable to help—as well as your work colleagues, who will probably need to carry more of the weight while you go through your recovery. It also affects your friends, who so often want to help but don't know how to begin. Try to be mindful of the fact that while you may be facing the most difficult journey in your life, there are others walking bravely behind you, feeling every mile.
What can you do to make it easier for the ones you love? Communication is key. Friends and family want to know that you're ok while you're undergoing treatment, and the more that you can communicate, the better off they will be. Communication has immense benefits for you as well, as having strong ties to your normal life will make you feel secure and grounded while you go through your recovery, and you'll be that much less likely to relapse.
Before you enter a long-term treatment facility, you must be sure to take care of family and work obligations. Make sure that you disclose your upcoming rehab stay to your employer, both verbally and in writing, and the sooner you can let them know, the better. You are legally entitled to up to 12 weeks of medical leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, and your job will be protected during your stay in rehab. After the twelve weeks of medical leave, you'll need to speak to your employer about how much longer you expect to be gone. It's imperative that you properly disclose and document what is happening.
It's imperative before you enter long-term treatment that you make arrangements to handle any obligations you may have that will need you while you're away. Children, pets, and older loved ones who need care need to be considered; you will need to make special provisions for them to be cared for while you're away completing your treatment. You won't be able to easily help them once you enter the facility, so make sure you think of everything that may arise. Make sure you make arrangements with someone you trust so that your mind can be totally at ease while you're away and recovering. It's also extremely helpful to take care of any financial loose ends. (It may be prudent to make a list for yourself, so that none slip your mind.) If bills need to be paid while you're in treatment, you can sign up for automatic payments, so that all the bills are taken care of. Your journey through treatment and recovery will be difficult enough, and you do not need to come home to a mountain of financial mess.
Write letters or keep a journal. Documenting your journey and your progress is extremely helpful throughout your recovery, and you'll want to be able to check in with yourself and express your feelings. So, in addition to clothes and supplies for a long-term stay away, be sure to pack a blank journal or diary to bring with you and be ready to commit to writing in it every day. You might want to reflect on your feelings after its all over, and this way you'll have a record. Journaling is also a wonderful way to keep your mind active, focused, and positive. Your thoughts committed to paper will come in handy down the road, long after you've finished your treatment, because you'll be able to read back through it, remember how everything felt, and this will help to keep you from relapsing.
Following a detox protocol, treatment at a long-term facility usually involves a great deal of individual and group therapy, as well as wellness activities, and fitness classes. Other elements may include: group therapy to address chemical health, individual chemical health assessments and therapy, integrated mental health services, medical appointments, family program participation, nutritional assessment, educational and experiential workshops, and continuing care planning. Many long-term treatment facilities also try to address spiritual health. These programs may or may not be religiously affiliated, but if that element is an important part of your life it may be a good idea to find one that closely aligns with your spiritual beliefs.
The most successful programs offer no standard set time frame for leaving treatment, and your timeline for checking out of treatment will depend on your progress and how fully you commit to the hard work of recovery. Once you are, indeed, ready to leave and return to your normal life, it's helpful to prepare yourself for what can be a jarring and difficult transition back to the real world. Preparing yourself will give you the best chances at staying clean.
Before you arrive back, ask friends or family to remove any tempting substances (like alcohol or drugs) from wherever you plan to stay. It's important that there's nothing around to make it harder for you to stay sober. Also, make a point to speak to your family and friends--candidly--about the need for them not to bring those substances back into your environment or use them around you. They care about you, but it may not be something they automatically know unless you tell them specifically.
Use a calendar to mark down your (known) schedule before you return home. Mark down the obligations you know that you have (like taking kids to school every day, doctors' appointments, and going to work, etc.) If you mark everything down in one place, you will be able to see what your time obligations will be like over the long term. This will help you know what's coming, and to get prepared for it. The whole point of is to reduce any unexpected life stressors that may encourage you to break your sobriety. The more you can plan ahead, the better your chances of staying clean will be.
After you get back from long term treatment, it's important to get back to taking care of your obligations, but it's also important to remember to find your joy again. Plan a couple carefully chosen activities to do with friends that will not involve illegal substances. After you've been in treatment for a while, you'll want to return to doing the fun things in your normal life, but you need to make sure that they are safe and free of the temptation to relapse. Your friends will probably be wanting to hang out but may not know the best way to approach you. So, you make the first move and schedule some activities that will be enjoyable, and safe.
It's important to give yourself credit for making the choice to undergo long term treatment. It's not an easy road, and it's one that lots of people find they can't walk down. Finishing treatment takes a great deal of courage and conviction. If you're planning to enter long term treatment, you're making a choice to put yourself and those that you love before drugs and alcohol, and that is a noble choice indeed. So give yourself credit, be proud, and get focused on the road ahead. You're on the right path.