What to Expect From Rehabs While in Recovery

What is addiction and how can Rehab help?


This article will give you all you need to know about what to expect from rehabs while in recovery. Addiction is ravaging our society, killing thousands of innocent people – our brothers, sisters, parents and friends. The problem no longer affects ‘them’ but it is affecting ‘us’! Addiction is a destructive disease that not only affects the addict themselves, but their family and loved ones. 


Over the past few years, addiction has increasingly been accepted as a disease, rather than simply a moral failing. Rehabs recognise that addiction is not like other illnesses. When people develop diseases such as cancer or diabetes, they typically acknowledge that they’re sick. They go to a doctor and seek medical assistance and treatment. 


Rehabs do provide the necessary treatment for addiction. However, the very essence of the disease often prevents the addict from accepting the care and treatment they require. Denial often protects the addict from acknowledging that they require treatment, and presents challenges in getting a loved one into rehab. People are often scared to seek help, simply because they don’t know what to expect from rehabs while in recovery.


Rehabs - You are not alone


In rehabs, clinical professionals are often asked the question: Why don’t they just stop?


There is no simple answer to this question. Addiction is a bewildering disease, and most struggle to identify what is ‘broken’ or not working with the addict. Rehabs work with the fact that addicts are typically completely aware of the choices they’re making. They may know that they love their family, yet their family feels hurt and betrayed by their actions. They may know that they are losing their job, running out of money, and are left with fewer and fewer prospects in life, yet they cannot seem to stop.


what to expect from rehabs while in recovery, if often the bio-psycho-social model that addresses various aspects of addiction. This treatment model teaches the addict that they have the free will to choose to use their drug of choice. Just like they would choose what to wear in the morning. Although it is a disease and an illness, they still have the freedom to decide to stop using! A decision that only the addict can make, not the rehab, families and friends. 


Rehabs are effective in treating and dealing with addiction, despite the fact that there is no official ‘cure’ for addiction. At best, rehabs work towards equipping the individual to manage their illness as they would any other lifelong chronic condition. But the fact that it CAN be managed, and often is, is the hope that rehabs offer.


Far more treatment options are available now, including rehabs, psychotherapy, prescription medication, and support groups. Rehabs provide a safe and containing environment that allows the addict to process and understand their illness. It also provides an opportunity for them to connect with others who have endured similar difficulties. While rehabs can’t magically cure addiction, they can make it less bewildering. Rehabs help addicts work towards putting their addiction behind them for good.


What to expect from rehabs while in early recovery 


Although there’s no official definition of early recovery, professionals consider it as the first year after becoming clean and sober. Many are surprised that it is a full year but, according to recovery professionals an addict is still in early recovery during their first year. A good way to understand this is: addictions don’t develop in a day, and recovery doesn’t happen that quickly either. Rehabs understand that it takes a lot of time and effort to go through treatment and remain in recovery. The big mistake people make with early recovery – both addicts and their families – is to expect too much too soon.


The Pink Cloud


After rehab, addicts often feel a temporary rush of relief when the heavy alcohol or drug use starts to wear off. Sometimes the recovery process doesn’t initially seem as bad as they feared or imagined it would be. It is a false sense of “I’ve got this”, and is known as “the pink cloud”. This overconfidence can cause addicts to miss meetings and treatments and expose themselves to situations full of temptations. This frequently happens in rehabs, and often results in relapse.


Rehab - Clouds in pink Sky


A common mistake is that families often assume that when their loved one returns from rehab, they are healed. Families often expect that everything will go back to normal. These expectations may be too high and can put a great deal of stress on addicts, and undermine their recovery.


The Brain on and off Drugs


The brain has the ability to heal itself. This often begins with detox and rehab treatment. However, it is a gradual process that takes time. Once the addict gets past the initial symptoms of withdrawal, the brain will begin to repair itself. It generally takes about 3 months for the prefrontal cortex to begin to return to something like its normal state. Until then, the ability to make rational decisions is still unnaturally weighted towards using substances.


Rehab - Brain in mans head


Healing in the pleasure-centre part of the brain takes even longer. While addicts generally get back their decision-making faculties after approximately 3 months, the emotional impulses to use remain strong. The typical symptoms of this include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 
  • Mood swings
  • Tiredness
  • Depression 
  • An inability to concentrate
  • Problems sleeping


Re-learning EVERYTHING


The fundamentals of addiction treatment in rehab remain the same, regardless of the client’s drug of choice. Many addicts use drugs to self-medicate in an attempt to help them feel like they can cope with daily life. Therefore, when addicts go into rehab, they need to relearn how to handle aspects of their life in different ways.


Some have compared this process to a right-handed person having to learn how to do everything with their left hand. Although this is possible, it takes time, practice and above all patience. Rehabs determine success for an addict in recovery as staying clean and sober. This requires the individual’s entire focus to be on staying that way during early recovery. It is not just the top priority; it’s the ONLY PRIORITY!


What addiction recovery is like for families


Rehab clinics do a lot of family interventions. These interventions provide support for the addicts’ loved ones. They help them in understanding addiction, as well as assisting them in setting and maintaining clear boundaries. The early stages of recovery can be extremely difficult for family members after the addict has returned home from rehab. They often experience them as acting selfishly, putting their own needs above others, and focusing all of their attention on substance use. Essentially, during early recovery, this is all still true. Addicts need to focus exclusively on themselves and their own needs to stop from relapsing into old addictive behaviour.


Families often feel let down, as they expected and wanted to get back the person they used to know. Instead, they may be living with someone who is moody, depressed, irritable, and self-absorbed. The addict is also probably unable to take on full responsibility for themselves as they had previously. It takes time for the person to process living without addictive substances, and adjust to a new way of living. They need to develop a mastery of the skill of being clean and sober. It’s important to remember that this demands a lot of mental attention. The person may therefore not have the capacity to focus on the needs of those around them.


During early recovery, it is a mistake to expect the addict to take responsibility for all the hurt, pain and anger that they caused. Family members may still be feeling all of these emotions that don’t simply vanish when addicts attend rehabs. They often think that the addict will finally pay attention to them and make it up to them. However, paying attention to the emotional needs of others is a skill that most addicts only regain slowly over time.


Rehab support for the whole family


Rehabs therefore assist families in managing their expectations when their loved one comes home. We also help to prepare families in taking care of themselves during the addict’s early recovery. Rehabs place emphasis on the setting and maintenance of clear, healthy boundaries. These will allow the addict in recovery – and their loved ones – to navigate early recovery with a little more ease.


Aftercare Planning – Life After Rehab


Addicts in recovery still require ongoing support. Most rehabs will assist addicts with some sort of aftercare planning, such as:

  • Therapy
  • Drug treatments
  • Support groups
  • Meetings
  • Recovery coach/ sponsor


In early recovery, a persons brain is still recovering, and is in a fragile state. Therefore, adhering to the aftercare plan is crucial during this period. What to expect from rehabs while in recovery often includes drug or alcohol testing. This is to ensure that the addict is staying sober, catching any relapses before they spiral out of control. This allows for a sense of accountability and can be a valuable tool to regain the trust of loved ones.


Rehabs provide a contained, safe space that allows addicts to explore and process their pasts. We understand their addiction, as well as the damages that resulted from their active addiction. This allows an addict to finally forge a path towards recovery. 


Solving the underlying problem


Looking back, many can acknowledge that their lives during active addiction was a desperate attempt to solve a problem. Those problems could be anything, but some common examples are: 

  • Emotional pain
  • Overwhelming stress 
  • A loss of connection 
  • Loss of control 
  • A deep discomfort with the self

What to expect from rehabs while in recovery is a focus on unearthing where this deep emotional pain originates from. We ask why it is there and how they could address it and process it in a healthy way so as to avoid futile attempts at self-medicating.


Addiction temporarily ‘solved’ the addicts’ problems by taking away their feelings of depression, loneliness, low self-esteem. However, the fact that the addict has finally stopped abusing substances doesn’t mean that the underlying feelings have gone away. Discovering exactly what drove that individual to take drugs in the first place is a good place to start. People who feel good about themselves tend to avoid things that put their mental, physical and emotional well-being at risk. Rehabs focus on questions such as:

  • What did drugs offer you?
  • What did you like about taking drugs?
  • And what did it give you (in the short-term) that you craved or liked so much?

Rehabs process and address these underlying emotions that lurk beneath the surface of addiction. Our treatment programme encourages clients to explore and become more curious about their internal world. We show them that only they can set themselves free. Therefore, rather than asking the question Why the addiction?”, we ask “Why the PAIN?


Are you considering rehab for yourself or a loved one? Rustenburg Addiction Care provides expert care and top class facilities for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. If you would like to learn more about our treatment programme, click here.


Rehabs - man walking on path 


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