Do I Need Alcohol Rehab to get Sober?
When people think of getting sober, they often think that rehab is the only option. Is this really true? This article investigates when you need alcohol rehab, when you don’t, and the alternatives to alcohol rehab.
Should I go to alcohol rehab?
Deciding if you should go to alcohol rehab depends on a few different factors, which are explored in this section.
The severity of your alcoholism
This is the most important element to consider when you are thinking about alcohol rehab. If you have been drinking for a long time and in large amounts, it simply is not safe to put down the booze without being around medical professionals.
If you have had a severe alcohol problem, then there is a risk of experiencing the Delirium Tremens (DTs). The DTs are a period of extreme withdrawal symptoms, characterised by shaking, shivering, an irregular heart beat, sweating and hallucinations. Sometimes people going through the DTs have a high body temperature or seizures that can result in death. This is why alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to withdraw from.
Your risk of the DTs is increased if:
- you have been drinking for a long time
- there is a history of DT or seizures
- you exhibit early withdrawal symptoms
- genetically you are predisposed to the DTs
- you are taking certain drugs or medications in addition to alcohol
Your financial situation
Rehab is usually pricey. The minimum you should expect to spend going to rehab in the UK is around £10,000 for a 12 week programme.
Most people stay in rehab after they have detoxed. Leaving after the detox period is possible, and could save you money, but if your drinking problem was severe enough to warrant a stay in detox, it is likely that you will benefit from staying for a while longer. Doing this will help you to gain the information and clarity you need to stay sober.
It is possible for you to receive funding from the government for rehab for a private rehab, but being awarded a place is extremely difficult. There is a lengthy waiting list and strict criteria that you need to meet. If you want to get funding for rehab you need to show that you are highly motivated and that you deserve your place. This can be difficult when you are in the middle of addiction.
Of course, you don’t have to go to rehab in the UK. Many people save money by going to rehab in other countries. Thailand and Bali are two of the most popular places to attend rehab. It is easy to see why, as they both have a tropical climate, and have lots of rehabs that are more affordable than in the UK.
Some people with alcohol dependence may feel they do not have the time to attend rehab. After all, it is a big commitment and takes many weeks to complete.
Benefits of alcohol rehab
There are plenty of reasons why you should attend alcohol rehab as it offers numerous benefits.
The benefits of alcohol rehab include:
You can see going to rehab as being a one-stop-shop for alcoholism. There is detox, therapy, group sessions and often much more under one roof. While it is possible to get these in different places, it may prove complicated. People usually find that it is best to keep things simple when they first stop drinking and are in early recovery.
Around the clock support
Stopping drinking can be a scary and dangerous experience. Having trained staff nearby 24/7 means that you will always have someone around who can reassure you when things are getting tough. It also ensures that you will always be safe if you encounter any health problems when you are going through the detox process.
Having staff around you also massively reduces the risk of you relapsing, as they will be able to encourage you to “play the tape forward” if you are thinking of breaking out of rehab to go and drink.
Time away from the “real world”
Rehab provides its clients with a safe environment away from alcohol and all the triggers of the real world. This allows patients some breathing space where the chance of relapse is significantly reduced.
Patients are also away from all the stresses of the outside world. This might involve the responsibilities of being a parent, a difficult relationship, and work commitments. The healing power of being taken away from all this for a short period of time cannot be overestimated.
Downsides of alcohol rehab
Here are some of the negative aspects of going to alcohol rehab. You may have to balance these against the benefits when deciding what is best for you and your recovery.
There are no two ways around it: rehab can be incredibly costly. The minimum you are likely to spend on rehab is about 5000 pounds for a one month stay, though most people tend to require a longer stay to dig into the issues that were causing them to drink. If you stay for multiple months, costs can spiral. Many rehabs do accept health insurance. This can prove a lifesaver for some.
Going to alcohol rehab is likely to be one of the most difficult things that you ever do. While every effort will be made to ensure that you feel at ease, the reality is that you are doing something that will challenge you. The detox period is testing, and the time you spend in alcohol rehab after detox can be equally demanding, as you take a good look at yourself. For some people, this can all be too much for them, and they throw in the towel.
Rehab usually involves taking time from the outside world to work on yourself. While some rehabs offer outpatient programs, these are not suitable for people with serious alcohol problems.
If you are thinking about whether you have enough time to go to rehab, it might be worth reflecting that if you don’t go to rehab you will likely spend far more time battling an addiction to alcohol.
Success is not guaranteed
The sad fact is that some people with alcohol use disorder go to rehab with good intentions, try their best, and still relapse afterwards. Some people with a heavy dependence to alcohol need to attend alcohol rehab several times before it “sticks”. Of course, not everyone can afford to go to rehab more than once.
What to expect from alcohol rehab
The thought of going to alcohol rehab can be a daunting one. While rehab can certainly be challenging at times, the rehab environment is designed to make you as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Staff at alcohol rehab
At a good rehab, there are staff on site who are trained to support you and will listen to you without passing judgment. The staff at rehab centres are often in recovery themselves, and have probably also been to rehab. This means that they can understand what you are going through and empathise with you. This can make things a lot easier.
Alcohol rehab programme
If you have a severe alcohol problem, the first thing that you do will be to go through detox. This is one of the toughest parts of rehab, but it is essential for you to start recovery.
After alcohol detoxification, your treatment program will start in earnest. The exact activities differ from rehab to rehab, but usually involve:
- One to one therapy. The style of therapy depends on which rehab you go to. The most commonly used method is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you to see problems with your thought processes that can lead you to drink, and can also help you to stop drinking. You can also work on trauma, which when not addressed can cause you to keep drinking.
- Group sessions. These sessions often consist of relapse prevention, reading life stories and looking at ways of changing your life and thinking to better fit with sobriety.
- Group activities. Rehabs usually encourage patients to bond together, and there is often time set aside so that patients can watch movies, play games and other activities. Some rehabs even take patients out on trips to the surrounding area.
- Holistic therapies and complementary therapies proven to treat addiction. Most rehabs have a comprehensive holistic programme and include such treatments as meditation, fitness, art therapy, music therapy, animal therapy, acupuncture, nutrition, personal development, yoga, this chi etc
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
If you go to an alcohol rehab when you are trying to quit severe alcoholism, you will be given MAT. These medications will not only help keep you comfortable but will also keep you safe by reducing your chance of seizures.
Medications that can assist alcohol detox and continued sobriety can include:
- Benzodiazepines. These are the most frequently used drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. They can calm your central nervous system, and reduce insomnia anxiety and muscle spasms. Two of the most common types of benzo are
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium). These can also help reduce the risk of seizures.
- Naltrexone. This drug helps to reduce alcohol cravings during detox, and can also reduce the high from alcohol, should a relapse occur. Naltrexone comes in two varieties: injectable and pill form.
- Campral (Acamprosate). This drug can help your brain to start working again without the use of alcohol after you have been drinking for a long time. It is also sometimes used to reduce Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms and cravings in people.
- Disulfiram. If you drink while taking this drug, it will make you very ill. This can help people break a cycle of alcohol abuse. Disulfiram does not reduce cravings to alcohol or help to restore brain function following drinking.
Note that you should absolutely not use these medications without the guidance of a medical professional.
Alternatives to alcohol rehab
While alcohol rehab is the best choice if you have the time and money, there are alternatives that can help you effectively deal with your alcohol problem in the community.
You do not need to get counselling when you are at alcohol rehab as it is included in part of the treatment. If you prefer to stay at home, you can get counselling near where you live, or you can access it online.
Make sure that you choose a mental health professional who practices a style of counselling that is suitable for you. You should also check what qualifications the professional has, to make sure they are up to scratch.
Note that it is possible to get talking therapies on the NHS, though there is often a long waiting list.
Before you seek out a mental health professional, you should first detox. If you believe that you may suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms, then you should make sure you speak with a trained medical professional first.
Recovery support groups
Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery can help you get the support that you need to stay sober. Support groups usually involve following a program, and the people who attend them can share their wisdom to assist you on your path of recovery.
If your dependence on alcohol is mild, it is possible to do a detox at home. During this detox, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms, but they should not be too unpleasant, and will be gone within a few days.
If you intend to do this, make sure that you set aside a week off work and other responsibilities, as detoxing can be tough on the body and mind.
You should make sure that you have plenty of healthy food in the house, have movies or books for when you are bored, and have someone who sympathizes with you to talk with. Ideally, this person should stay with you during withdrawal. If this is not possible, try to have someone that you can call when you need some encouragement.
NOTE: If you think you might experience strong withdrawal symptoms, you need to do an alcohol detox with the support of professionals. Attempting a severe alcohol detox can result in death.
The life or death balance
Going to alcohol rehab is a monumental decision and is a massive commitment, both time-wise and financially. On the other hand, putting off going to rehab can mean serious illness or even death.
If you have the financial resources to go to rehab and need to go, you should go. If you do not, then you should explore the other options that are discussed in this article.
However you decide to get sober, we wish you the best of luck in what will undoubtedly be the most exciting journey of your life.
For free sources of support you can access live meetings within our platform. Our knowledge hub also offers a plethora of education and information on addiction and recovery. Here, we are all in recovery and are here to support you in any way that we can.
- Medications for treating alcohol dependence: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1101/p1775.html
- Alcohol detox and rehab programmes: What you need to know https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-detox-programs#1