Do I Have Time for Rehab?


It’s a serious decision. Will the time, money and commitment needed to attend rehab be worth it? How can there be time for rehab when I can’t even manage a solid vacation?

How long does it take?

Experts recommend at least 90 days of residential rehab for a serious addiction problem. That’s considered a minimum for effective treatment – longer is even better.

Three months?! That’s a long time. If you suffer from an addiction, you probably haven’t had even a week clean and sober, much less 90 days. Three months seems like forever on the timescale most addicts have: how long till the next chance to use?

Why so long?

The short answer is: Because the statistics show that’s how long is needed.

Think about what happens in rehab: First, there’s the withdrawal and getting your body used to being without your drug or alcohol. That’s the easy part. Next comes something harder, getting your mind used to operating without drugs. And finally, the hardest part – learning to live clean and sober.

The reason it takes so long is because you are committing to reinventing yourself. You are asking the treatment facility to take in a broken human being and fix him or her. This takes time. The time spent is similar to rehab for other medical conditions, learning to use your body after a stroke or how to use a prosthetic after an amputation.

Three months is barely a semester of college. But in rehab, you are learning much more than what a few classes can teach. You are learning how to be a different person, a much better version of yourself.

Setting aside your life for rehab

“I can’t afford to miss work,” or, “I can’t afford to put my life on hold,” or any of a number of objections leap to mind.

It is a serious business and a serious decision – one that thousands of people make every day. They choose to set aside their current life because it has become unbearable, either for them or their loved ones.

Would you say, “I can’t miss work,” if we were talking about rehabilitation after a heart attack? Drug or alcohol addiction will kill you just as dead as heart failure. And along the way, life will continue to be an unmanageable wreck.

Certainly, there are some good things you will have to give up for rehab. You may put your employment at risk – it depends on the employer. But drug and alcohol addictions are already putting employment at risk, along with risk of jail, divorce, accident, financial ruin… Get the picture?

Putting time in its place

One of the best responses I’ve heard to the objection about not having time for rehab came from a very nice and very wise therapist. She asked, “What were you doing three months ago and where would you be now if you were finishing up rehab?”

The obvious part is that time slips by no matter what we do. The holidays roll around. Birthdays come and go. You can no more capture time than hold back the tides. It moves on relentlessly. And here’s the secret: time after rehab is much more productive. Life is better. The universal statement from recent rehab graduates is, “Why did I wait so long?”

Time in addiction is time squandered. It’s lost to the pursuit of an unattainable goal, a better buzz or chasing after some balance that doesn’t exist. Addiction is about avoiding the pressures and stresses we feel. It’s about escape. But what we escape in the end is a full and satisfying life. Only by sacrificing a short time can we get the rest of our time on earth returned to us.

Quit punching the clock of addiction, start on the road to getting better instead. In those terms, contrasting the time in rehab with the time you have remaining, rehab is pretty damn short.


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