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Can I Do It On My Own?

Getting sober on your own can be difficult and dangerous. Find out how you can increase your chances of sustained sobriety by entering a treatment program.

Getting Help for an Addiction

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Deciding whether or not to go to rehab is a big decision. You may be facing concerns about spending time away from your loved ones, how to cover the cost of treatment, or even the negative stigma surrounding addiction and rehab.

This may raise questions about whether you should try to get sober on your own.

While it is understandable to have hesitations, rehab can help you in so many ways — and dramatically increase your odds of a successful long-term recovery.

Treatment centers are designed to create comfortable, welcoming environments that offer tools for sobriety, such as:

Why Can’t I Get Sober On My Own?

There are two big reasons to get professional help when quitting drugs or alcohol: ensuring safety during detox and setting the groundwork for lasting recovery. 

“I was in [medical] detox for seven days. Detox gives you a chance to get the drugs out of your system while replacing them with healthy alternatives.” 

Jimmy V, recovering addict

Many substances (including alcohol, benzodiazepines and others) can cause deadly withdrawal symptoms if they are suddenly quit. Medical supervision can manage any dangerous symptoms and provide comfort. Additionally, the underlying reasons you began using must be addressed or the cycle is likely to continue.

Rehab centers are designed to help you through every step of the process. Once they’ve determined your individual needs, they’ll create a customized treatment plan that is right for you.

Some of the factors that go into your customized plan include:

  • The severity of your addiction
  • The type of substance you were addicted to
  • The presence of co-occurring disorders
  • Family environments and social circles

The Dangers of Detoxing Alone

When a person becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs, they’ve developed a physical or psychological dependence on that substance. This means their body and mind have adjusted for the presence of the drug. Rapidly removing the substance will cause an imbalance, leading to withdrawal symptoms that range from mildly irritating to deadly.

Some commons withdrawal symptoms include:

  •   Anxiety
  •   Hallucinations
  •   Depression or suicidal thoughts
  •   Seizure or shakiness
  •   Heart failure
  •   Delirium tremens

The best way to treat a drug or alcohol addiction is with the help of trained professionals who are experienced in detoxification and know how to perform it safely.

Drugs That Require Medical Detox

During medical detox, doctors and nurses will be there to monitor your heart rate, take vital signs and ensure that nothing goes wrong. This monitoring is even more important when it comes to certain drugs and especially for heavy users.

Addiction to the following drugs may require medical detox:

While this is not a comprehensive list, abusing any of the substances above will increase your need for a supervised medical detox. When detoxing from a substance, there are also specific medications available to help with this process. These medications mimic the effects of addictive drugs without providing a high in order to decrease overall withdrawal symptoms.

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Types of Rehab

Although there are many different kinds of therapies, settings and treatments, there are only two main types of rehab: inpatient and outpatient.

  • Inpatient Treatment – This involves living in a supervised facility 24 hours a day. The benefits include being removed from a toxic setting (which helps decrease temptation), living within a healthy environment, getting personal attention and having access to ongoing training and education.
  • Outpatient Treatment – In an outpatient setting, the person receives treatment within a facility during the day but is allowed to return home during the evenings. The benefits include: the opportunity to continue working or going to school and the ability to have the close support of friends or family during the process.

Those with severe addictions will benefit most from an inpatient rehab, while those with less severe addictions may find that an outpatient program best fits their needs.

The Importance of Support During Recovery

Even if you think you can detox safely on your own, it’s important to also consider the social aspect of going through a treatment program. Having support from like-minded people is not only encouraging, it could mean the difference between recovery and relapse.

One experiment performed in the 1970s showed the correlation between poor living conditions and substance abuse. Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander found that rats living in solitude and darkness chose to drink drug-infused water over normal water, quickly becoming addicted. However, when placed in an environment with open spaces and other rats to socialize with, almost none of the rats chose to drink the drug water. This simple example shows how important it is to have interaction, support and activities that fill a void many turn to substances to fill.

“Along with this understanding comes a much greater emphasis on attempting to establish addicted people in a welcoming community, thereby reducing their need for addictive compensations.”

Psychologist Bruce K. Alexander on Rat Park experiment

Forming connections with others can make all the difference in quitting drug or alcohol use. Relationships with family, counselors, sponsors or others in recovery can provide the reassurance and influence needed to stay sober.

During recovery, it’s crucial that the former user has strong social support in the following forms:

  • Emotional – A person to talk to about their feelings, to help distract them with positive conversation or to be a shoulder to cry on.
  • Physical – This kind of support can include everything from running errands to helping the person out financially.
  • Positive Feedback – Celebrating a user’s accomplishments, recognizing his/her progress, giving constructive criticism, etc.
  • Education – This can include providing resources for the person to refer to throughout recovery and offering tips for relapse prevention.

Will Going to Rehab Help Me With Long-Term Recovery?

Treatment centers provide the tools for long-term recovery through healthy lifestyle changes, support groups, ongoing therapy and relapse prevention tips. By choosing to let a professional help you with substance abuse treatment, you are paving the way for long-term sobriety.

Making the difficult decision to get sober is a big and important step for your future. If you’re ready to get started today, let us help you find the right treatment center for your needs.

Sources & Author Last Edited: January 10, 2017

  1. Youtube. (2015). Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg
  2. Bruce K. Alexander. (2010). Addiction: The View from Rat Park (2010). Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://www.brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/rat-park/148-addiction-the-view-from-rat-park
  3. NZ Drug Foundation. (2011). Death by withdrawal? Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/mythbusters/death-by-withdrawal
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition); How effective is drug addiction treatment? Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment
  6. Alchohol Rehab. (2016). Positive Social Support. Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/positive-social-support/
  7. Clean and Sober Life. (2016). Alcohol Detox At Home – Why It’s A Terrible Idea That Can Kill You. Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://www.cleanandsoberlive.com/alcohol-detox-at-home-why-its-a-terrible-idea-that-can-kill-you/
  8. CRC Health. (2015). What Is Medical Detox?Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/rehab-work/medical-detox/
  9. Bruce K. Alexander. (2010). Healing Addiction Through Community: A Much Longer Road Than it Seems? Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://www.brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/healing-addiction-through-community-a-much-longer-road-than-it-seems2
  10. Novus Medical Detox Center. (2016). What is Medical Detox and Why Do I Need It? Retrieved on January 27, 2016, from: http://novusdetox.com/newsletter_new/5-15-08.php
About the Writer, Kimberlee Bochek

Kimberlee is the associate editor for Addiction Center.

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