A Few Words About Treatment and Recovery
What is treatment?
Treatment for alcohol and drug abuse is learning about chemical dependency, how it has affected the substance user (alcohol and/or drugs), his/her family and friends and how to avoid returning to life problems related to alcohol or drugs. Treatment is going through the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual changes that occur when the body is detoxing and the mind is clearing up from alcohol or drugs. Sometimes the withdrawal is physical, as with alcohol, heroin, and many prescription drugs.
With cocaine there may be little physical withdrawal. The patient often becomes upset or angry during the treatment process and will not understand or believe that their being upset is really a craving to use or drink that his disease has disguised as anger, depression, or other emotions. They might blame the treatment program or others for their difficulty during the early phases. This happens frequently and we understand the difficulty of going through treatment.
Once use has completely stopped, the substance user may have dreams about their drug of choice. This is usually a new experience because when no longer using substances, the part of the mind that has become accustomed to the using experience subconsciously wants to repeat the experience even if the conscious mind does not. Dreams are often of using substances, attempting to obtain the substances, or the getting the substance and ending up in an undesirable situation. These are just a few examples of “using dreams.” These are not an indication that the person will relapse or that they aren’t serious about recovery; they happen to most a large portion of people who have stopped using. AA members sometimes say it is a “freebie” that doesn’t cause them to have to pick up another white chip!
First Step Services, LLC has three levels of treatment: Individual, Outpatient, and Intensive Outpatient. Sometimes an inpatient treatment is necessary before entering the First Step Services outpatient program. Inpatient begins with Medical Detox, a period of 1 to 4 days of getting the worst of the drugs out of the body. With certain drugs, small amounts may linger in the system much longer than the detox period, but the patient is usually ready to function after a few days. Marijuana may be present in sufficient quantity so show as positive on a drug screen for 6-8 weeks. Surprising to many people, detoxing from alcohol is the most dangerous.
After the treatment and recovery process has begun, and all the substance are out of the body, the former substance user usually goes through up and down emotions. Their emotions may be all over the place for a few weeks to a few months. This is not unusual and should not be unexpected. This is a period of the brain trying to find a new normal without use of alcohol or drugs. Known as PAWS or “Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms,” causes one to feel uncomfortable, sometimes angry, anxious and/or significantly depressed. Most patients get through this challenging time without medical assistance. However, if it would cause relapse or serious life problems, the patient should see an Addictionologist. An Addictionologist is a medical doctor, usually a psychiatrist, who has special training and credentials in treating substance use disorders and the changes that go with becoming sober.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOP) consists of a minimum of 9 hours of treatment per week. Clients generally start off attending three 3-hour groups per week. The Intensive Outpatient Treatment program generally lasts for 90-days and then an aftercare program is recommended consisting of 1 or 2 groups per week. When a person comes to First Step Services for help, a counselor will evaluate the person to determine the level of treatment recommended for that person. Once the recommendation is made, the person may be admitted immediately. Treatment begins when the patient reports to begin the program. For patients using insurance, some companies require entering the program within 72 hours of the assessment.
Outpatient treatment referred to as general outpatient, or non-intensive outpatient, consists of groups, much like IOP above, but less than 3 sessions per week are attended and medical oversight is not required. Counselors talk with patients individually but most of the work is done in groups. Patients gain a significant amount of insight and support from their peers. The changes people go through in just a few sessions of outpatient treatment can be almost miraculous. When patients come in they are often physically ill. Their families often have been put through a long nightmare. Patients and their families are mentally and emotionally injured by addiction. Many are in trouble with their schools, employers or the police. For a few, the drugs and alcohol have taken everything from them.
After treatment, patients often become much healthier physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Many have begun to practice a spiritual life that they never knew existed for them. They have places to live and they get jobs so they learn to be responsible for their own lives. They learn that they have skills to live and work in the world, skills they either did not know they had or that they had forgotten how to use. In addition, recovering people usually do not commit crimes or need frequent emergency medical services that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Recovering addicts and alcoholics pay taxes and live responsible lives. Treatment not only works for the substance abusers and their families, research shows treatment saves $7-$8 for every $1 it costs. It also gives people new direction and the human value is beyond measure!
Completing a good treatment program is usually not easy. The participants in the program sometimes become angry at everything and everyone. The good news, though, for substance abusers, it is the best possible investment to make in one’s self. The rewards will last a lifetime.
Henry Tarkington, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS
“When I first started this program at First Step , I was on quite a tough road. I was also skeptical about how well the program would work for me with having been through many treatment methods. I remained skeptical for the first week or 2 but being with such comfortable people and hearing so many perspectives on all sorts of problems that I took to heart. My counselor has been one of the biggest influences on me throughout this program. I’ve tried many ways to quit and had no clue on what to try next that should really work for me. Kim really helped me get started on a very strong relapse prevention plan that is still working and have been over 70 days sober. I enjoyed it so much here and it truly helps that I am writing this letter after I completed my treatment plan and came back for additional groups.” Anonymous