In my personal quest for sobriety, I tried everything. I’ve been to week-long detox programs and classic 28-day programs, recovery houses, 90-day programs, and finally, the ultimate commitment: 2 years minimum in a long-term program.
Here’s what I got out of the short-term programs I went to:
I got immediate relief. I got a much-needed breather from the relentless madness of active addiction. It was a brief reprieve from the insane cycle I was caught in, giving me a little time to breathe, cry, and consider sobriety as a feasible possibility in my life. After one night sober, I realized I could probably stay sober for another day as well. After I had strung several days together, I found a glimmer of hope that I might be able to sustain any length of clean time. It was at least possible, even though it was not yet probable. After 28 days, I felt healthy again. I could sleep at night. I could get through a day, laugh, and relate to people without drugs. If lasting sobriety is a really cold lake (and it can feel like such a daunting prospect), short-term programs are like dipping your toes in the water.
According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, rehabilitation programs of at least 90 days or longer are needed to give an addicted person enough time to recover. Long-term drug rehab programs have 70% sobriety success rates, whereas short-term rehab programs have between 16-20% sobriety success rates.
I found that the length of time I spent in treatment was roughly proportional to the length of time I stayed sober afterward. After detox, I always relapsed in a matter of hours or days. After 30 days, I relapsed in a matter of days or weeks. After a 90-day treatment program, I stayed clean and sober for about a month. For me, it was going to take something more.
Here’s what I got out of the long-term program I went to:
I was introduced to many of the same concepts and tools of addiction recovery as in the short term programs, but I had the time to apply them, practice them, make mistakes, and try them again. Through trial and error, I learned what worked for me and what didn’t.
The healthy lifestyle and daily routines were also similar to those in the short-term programs. At first, getting up early and being productive all day seemed like a chore. By the end, though, I could not imagine living any other way.
The best thing that happened during my stay at the long-term program, the John Volken Academy, was that I genuinely changed. I transformed from a broken person using addiction to self-medicate my unresolved pain into the person I was always meant to be. The pieces came together slowly, the healing occurred over time, but by the end of the two years, I had found myself. I loved myself again. And that, I think, is the essence of recovery.