Anyone looking for help to get sober or stop drinking has a number of options, which can make the process both a bit more confusing and a bit more difficult knowing which way to go.
Some people will get sober on their own without any intervention or help to all, but the majority will need some assistance, short-term and long-term.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the oldest and perhaps best known source for helping people to get sober, and there are a number of other 12 step fellowships that relate to different addictions, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous etc.
A number of people will go into residential treatment centers, or rehabs, and some will seek a variety of outpatient type sources of help, commonly referred to as partial hospital treatment.
Historically, Alcoholics Anonymous has been thought of as the go to place for anyone who has a drink problem, or wants to get help getting sober. For many this is still the case. People sometimes debate the effectiveness of AA, but for many people this is an academic exercise when trying to get sober.
If someone has a serious drink problem, then going to AA is inevitably a good first place to start. It is certainly fair to say that people have problems with some aspects of the AA program, normally centring around the God question, and these are not always easy to address.
On the other side, once someone gets sober and stays sober, they have a much greater freedom in their life to address any of the issues they feel uncomfortable with, either in AA or in other areas of their life.
One of the real aspects of AA at its best, is the freedom people have to simply turn up at a meeting, to stay or to leave at their own will – there should normally be no pressure within any meeting on any individual to disclose information about themselves or their situation.
The anonymity aspect of AA is a crucial part of giving someone who is newly sober a degree of protection, both within AA and outside it. This level of protection gives people some time and space to come to terms with what it means to be sober for themselves.
It is also fair to say that the reality of AA in terms of this level of freedom does not always add up or match the theoretical sense of how it should be.
People in Alcoholics Anonymous may often seem over keen or sometimes a bit overbearing in terms of trying to convince people that AA is the right solution. There are also groups in AA that very definitely have what could be called a cult dynamic, and anyone experiencing any group of this type would do well to run a proverbial mile.
Being aware of the failings of AA is not a criticism of such, simply an acknowledgement of its reality. Anyone newly sober or getting sober may not be immediately aware of these issues, but will probably come to acknowledge and understand some of them in due course.
Rehabs / Treatment Centers
The enormous growth of treatment centers over the last few years has led to a belief that anyone needing help for a drink or drug problem needs to go to a rehab in order to get sober.
Whilst this is not the case, as anyone can go directly to a meeting of AA or NA, many people find the idea of a rehab attractive in so far as it provides something of a bubble out of their normal life, away from family, friends and work.
In many ways a rehab or treatment center is intended to be something of a bubble, providing a safe space where people can address issues away from day-to-day distractions.
There are obviously benefits to this, as well as potential problems.
The main benefits are that it gives people time and space away from day-to-day life to begin to look at and address problems that may have been long seated and serious for their entire life.
People also have problems with the fact that a number of rehabs can seem quite institutional, and many have fairly strict rules and guidelines that cover every aspect of an individual’s life, from what clothes they can wear, to what music they can listen to, to what perfume they can use etc.
Many rehabs make a virtue of these types of rules and conditions, insisting they provide a structured framework that allow people to address more fundamental issues uncluttered.
On the other hand, many people find the rigidity of these rules and regulations incredibly oppressive, and as such it can have the opposite effect to that intended.
Having said all that, there are numerous different types of treatment centers around, although different from each other in many ways, and if time permits is normally possible to find one that seems to be in keeping with what the individual who is seeking treatment is looking for.
Treatment Cost and Programs
The other issue around rehabs and treatment centers is cost. Whilst most rehabs are fairly reluctant to give any idea of costs, Hazelden estimate that a 28 day stay in one of their treatment centres is likely to cost around US$30,000.
This is only a very rough estimate, and some of the high end luxury rehabs can charge three or four times this amount. It does however give some indication of cost, a cost that can often be covered by a health insurance plan
It should also be mentioned that most rehabs base their treatment programs on the 12 step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Whilst they don’t actually use the AA program itself, they take some elements of it and adapt them to their own type of recovery ideas.
In addition, most treatment centers will actively encourage residents to attend meetings of AA/NA etc whilst they are in treatment, and once they have left as well as a form of after-care.
Some AA meetings will take place on site at the rehab itself, although the meeting will be independent and have no connection to the center.