What is Rehab Like? Exploring Life in Addiction Treatment

The idea of coming to rehab can be intimidating, whether you have specific worries or a general sense of unease about the unknown. From detox to the treatment process to the treatment environment itself, there are many misconceptions about what residential care entails. Even worries about fitting in with your peers, whether you can see your family, and whether you can maintain your sobriety after rehab are often significant barriers to residential treatment. But what is rehab really like? In high-quality programs, the answer will likely put your mind at ease and help you take the first steps toward recovery.

Realizing that you need have an addiction is the first step toward healing. But what comes after that?

It is widely recognized that residential addiction treatment is the best way to heal from addiction. Research demonstrates again and again that those who attend such programs have better outcomes than people who try to go it alone. Often, however, even those who recognize that they need help and know that residential addiction treatment is the best environment in which to receive that help can feel intimidated by the prospect of going to rehab. After all, it is a new and foreign experience and often one that seems shrouded in mystery. Or perhaps you think you know exactly what rehab is like based on sensationalistic media portrayals. Unfortunately, both fear of the unknown and fear of what you think you know can make residential treatment seem like an unappealing prospect.

It is true that rehab programs vary in quality and treatment approach. It is also true that some provide less than ideal recovery experiences. However, high-quality, private residential treatment facilities that combine the highest level of medical expertise with holistic care can offer safe, comfortable, and transformative healing experiences that help you create lasting sobriety. So what is rehab like in these facilities? By exploring the answer to this question, you can demystify the residential treatment process and feel confident in moving forward in your recovery journey.

The Detox Process


In order to heal from substance abuse, the first thing that must happen is discontinuing substance use. Unfortunately, many people fear the detox process, in no small part due to disturbing media representations that make detox seem like a traumatic and even dangerous experience. In the past, there was indeed a widespread belief that the detox process should be traumatic and that the discomfort would act as motivation for staying clean; you would think twice about using if you knew you had to go through detox again. Today, however, we know that that simply isn’t true, nor is it humane.

To make detox as safe and comfortable as possible, some high-quality rehabs now offer on-site medically supervised detox. Medically supervised detox programs are staffed by detox experts who will monitor your detox process and provide appropriate medications to minimize or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. In addition to medication, you will receive the psychological supports necessary to keep you safe emotionally. This is essential for ensuring a positive start to your recovery journey and helping you stay in treatment.

The Treatment Process


Many imagine rehab to involve endless group therapy sessions in which you rehash the painful details of your addiction. Others worry that therapists will take combative “tough love” approach that will make you feel shamed and dehumanized. And you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, you may picture yourself being pumped full of mind-numbing medication designed to keep you docile. In a high-quality residential treatment program, nothing could be further from the truth.

A high-quality addiction treatment program is rooted in the knowledge that addiction is a medical illness that must be treated using a medical approach. It will also recognize that each person comes to rehab with unique needs and that treatment must be tailored to those needs in order to create meaningful healing experiences. As such, treatment begins with an in-depth psychological assessment to explore your individual challenges, including the presence of any co-occurring mental health disorders. With this information, your treatment team will design a multidimensional treatment plan that treats you as a person and seeks to guide you toward sobriety, self-discovery, and holistic wellness.

Through a broad range of individual and group modalities, you can explore the roots of your addiction and create concrete strategies for moving forward. Traditional talk therapies are often critical to healing, of course. However, high-quality addiction treatment programs also offer innovative holistic and experiential approaches to healing that nourish you mind, body, and spirit. All care is delivered by compassionate clinicians who support you in realizing your true potential and looking forward to the possibilities of life after addiction, not shaming or blaming. Of course, your peers will be an invaluable part of this process as well, offering you camaraderie and a sense of belonging as you move through recovery together. The duration of treatment will always be determined based on your specific situation rather than a pre-determined timeline that may not be suitable for your personal needs.

If you do have a co-occurring mental health disorder, you will work with an expert psychiatrist who will design a personalized medication plan to help you relieve distressing symptoms while minimizing side-effects. The purpose of medication is always to enhance quality of life, not harm it, and the residential environment gives you the opportunity provide continuous feedback on how the medication is working for you.

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The Treatment Experience


Rehab is often imagined to take place in a chaotic, dreary, locked down facility where you are denied freedom of movement and creature comforts. But residential treatment doesn’t have to be that way. The best rehabs recognize that the value of healing in a serene, comfortable, and beautiful environment. These programs offer well-appointed living quarters with private and semi-private accommodation options, fitness facilities, and private chefs who prepare healthy and delicious meals. What’s more, these programs carefully choose their locations to allow you to enjoy the beauty of our natural environments.

High-quality rehabs also don’t keep you locked in. Rather, they recognize that getting out and re-engaging with the world around you can be a vital part of the healing process. As such, you will be invited to participate in outings designed to spark your sense of adventure and joy. At Alta Mira, for example, we give our clients the opportunity to participate in sailing on the San Francisco Bay, ziplining in the redwood forest, and horseback riding in the Marin Headlands. These activities aren’t just fun, they can also help build your confidence, enhance your skills, and may even make you discover new passions.

Peer Involvement


Many people worry that they will not fit in with the other clients at residential treatment programs. This is often especially true of high-achieving individuals and those who have maintained relatively high function in active addiction. However, people from all walks of life struggle with addiction and rehab programs are populated by a diverse array of clients with a broad range of experiences, personalities, and abilities. High-end luxury rehabs with specialized programming for executives tend to attract accomplished professionals who understand your unique struggles and will enhance your sense of belonging during your time in treatment. Of course, the shared experience of addiction itself can foster strong bonds even with those whose life experiences differ drastically from your own and you may find that your most important allies in healing end up those you least expect.

Family Involvement


Many people struggle with the thought of being separated from their loved ones during the treatment process and may even worry that treatment itself will negatively impact these vital relationships. High-quality addiction treatment programs recognize this and also understand that addiction affects the whole family. As such, they encourage family involvement through specialized programming designed to help you and your loved ones heal together. This involves not only psychoeducational programming specifically for them, but the opportunity for you to work together to resolve conflict, forge stronger bonds, and develop a plan for how to move forward collectively. Additionally, these programs provide dedicated visiting hours where you can simply spend time together during this critical stage in your recovery journey.

Of course, many families are spread out all over the country or even the world and cannot participate in the treatment process in person. In these cases, your rehab program should facilitate their involvement via telephone or video conference to ensure they are able to take an active part in healing.

Life After Rehab


One of the most difficult internal barriers to rehab is often the belief that treatment simply won’t work and that you will not be able to maintain your sobriety after you leave. This is indeed an important concern; after all, staying sober when you’re cocooned in the safety of a rehab facility is very different than staying sober once you return to your everyday environment. The best addiction treatment programs, however, work from the belief that the recovery process doesn’t end when clients leave the residential facility and the work done while in residential care must be in service to long-lasting healing rather than temporary containment. As such, treatment is designed to create a strong foundation for ongoing sobriety by creating both deep psychological and behavioral change and honing concrete relapse prevention skills that will help you cope with triggers in your everyday life.

At the same time, your rehab program should prioritize the development of a comprehensive continuing care plan to make sure you have a fully articulated strategy for staying sober beyond residential treatment. Depending on your individual needs, this may include stepping down into an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), relocating to a sober living environment, connecting with an individual outpatient physicians, therapists and sober coaches, and/or attending local peer support groups. High-quality rehabs often offer a variety of continuing care programs and services developed specifically to facilitate this process, including IOPs, relapse prevention and process groups, and alumni events. Your loved ones may also have continuing access to family programming to ensure they have the supports they need to heal while supporting your continuing recovery. With these resources in place, you will have every opportunity to preserve and build on the gains you have in treatment.

Take the First Step Toward Recovery


So what is rehab like? It can be empowering, life-affirming, and profoundly healing. In the right treatment program, you will connect with people who will help you realize your true potential. You will discover how to be in the world in a way that is true to yourself. And you will learn that you have both the ability and the support you need to create the life you truly want.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.