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How to Survive Drug & Alcohol Rehab

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This blog posting is based only on my 17 years plus of working in a residential Rehab unit. I have observed many people that have walked through our doors. Some people seem to breeze through without a problem, while others resist everything and make life so hard for themselves. This posting, I hope will be a guide for you to get through rehab easily.

How to Behave

Fly just under the radar. This means, doing the workbooks, going to all the groups, and don’t question the program. Everything that is in the program is there for a reason and has been tested and evidence-based. The program is about helping you to investigate yourself. The program is about teaching you new habits, with the hope that the client continues these habits when you discharge from the unit. Even the boring times when there is nothing to do is part of the program. Some groups feel really stupid like feeling an item and smelling chocolate and then describing it. This is about living in the now and appreciating all the small nuances of the now. Groups are about teaching you to deal with life, they are all the tools that you should have learnt when you were young. These are the subjects that should have been taught to you by your parents or a subject at school. Important stuff like, how to get along with others, or impulse control.

Doing the workbooks is an important thing if you are serious about rehab. This is the individual side of things and it helps you work through some bad habits and helps you make a plan for the future. This book is then used with the councillor or case worker to help you implement some of the stuff in the workbook. Just remember Rehab will do nothing for you if you do not have the passion to stick it out and do the work. You will only get out of it what you put into it.

Dealing with other clients.

Stick to your own path. Remember you are there for yourself. You do not need others’ drama and headaches. Be friendly, be nice and respectful even when your values are being challenged. We have all had differing interpretations of our reality, so respect their point of view. You do not need to challenge them about it, that is the duty of the staff, not the client. You have the right to your view they have a right to theirs. When others infringe on your rights, tell the staff let them deal with it. The drama will happen, and many want to turn a small thing into a big thing. Pitch in with your duties, you don’t need to do any more than what is asked of you. If you want to do more just ask the staff what more you can do. But remember you are not there to do stuff just to take your mind off the true purpose of why you are there.

Don’t give your phone number out, tell them that you don’t have a number because you through the phone away or something. You sold the phone to raise the money to get admitted. Make something up. Why? You don’t need to have other clients call you in the middle of the night stoned or pissed just to tell you how bad their life is. Remember, if you want a quality friend this is not the place to find one. I always take the rule from Surf life saving, If you see someone drowning, never jump in the water with them, you will both drown. Through a rope and they can be saved while you are safe. This is why rehabs instruct clients to make a list of phone numbers for such a case. Your turn to become the mentor well come soon enough, do not jump into that role too soon (See the Hero’s Journey).

Don’t get into a romantic relationship. “Oh but he/she has so much in common with me”. Yes, you are both in the same place for the same reason. If you follow a car too close you will hit the same pothole the lead car will hit. Same with Drugs and alcohol, You get into a relationship and one of you pick up the old habit, and the other will soon follow. In 17 years I have only seen one relationship like this work. When talking to them, they both said that it is not easy. Besides, You may take home more than what you bargained for. Drama is part and parcel of Drugs and Alcohol. Never be in a romance with someone with more issues than you have. Because you will soon be dealing with all the issues and drama.

Fit in but do not be a part of the group. You are there for yourself. Don’t be a councillor for others, You can listen, but don’t get suckered in. As soon as you take on other’s issues and become their sounding board or advocate, You have become an enabler. You have made another person dependent on you and you will be doing all the work that they should do for themself. Likewise, do not try to be a peacemaker, you will get hurt in the process and put someone offside. Also, spread good news not bad news. If you hear that someone is upset with someone, keep your mouth shut and do not get trapped in the, he said, she said cycle. You will be the one hurt and put someone offside. But if you hear admiration for a job well done or something for someone let them know. It is an ego boost for them.

Don’t think you are the alfa. There is but one alpha and that is the program manager or team leader. If you think you can dictate over some small things in the unit, like doing the morning reading or always having the same computer during research time. Think again, staff will see this and you will be genteelly put back in your place. No client has any more or less privilege than another. Being in the unit does not give you privilege, you are a mentor for the new clients coming in, which means your behaviour is more important as a role model.

Don’t think the rules do not apply to you. Just because you think the staff are friends with you. Think again. As soon as you step out of the boundaries of the rules, you will know about it. You will get upset, but you can only blame yourself for breaking the rules. If you think that staff have done a favor for you, not true, staff will do favours for everyone that does not break their rules and they see you improve. Remember the staff can only say yes to the requests that they are allowed to say yes to. Staff have rules too, and if broken, they lose their job. Kindness begets kindness so to anger begets anger. What you dish out, you will receive.

Don’t pill seek. Sit with the staff and tell them what is wrong and follow their advice. If you have followed their advice and it did not work then let the RN suggest the pill. Why? this is because pills are not the only way to solve a problem, there are many ways. Remember the RN can only give you what the Doctor has prescribed, so don’t get upset with the RN if the Doctor is not around to alter the prescription. Also, don’t concern yourself with other people’s medication, and then say it’s unfair that the other person is getting more than you. Everyone is different.

Don’t be OTT (Over The Top). You are in the unit to get health and learn new habits for life. You are not a clown, don’t act like one. If you want to be a clown, go back to your drugs and alcohol and come back when you really want the help. Being a clown may make others laugh and you may get friends that way. But, really all you are doing is jeopardising other peoples recovery and your own on top of it. So what is being OTT? Being loud and laughing at almost everything, Talking over the top of people with something funny to say. All in all it’s being a 25+ year old child, desperate for attention.

Why Rehabs have rules like they do?

I get asked about the rules all the time and why some rules are there in the first place. Rules are based on experience. Bad behaviour creates more rules, and insurance and WH&S create them as well. Each Rehab has some rules that are the same and others have their own unique rules. In a nutshell, the rules are there for your protection and the protection of others. Frankly, Some rules would not look out of place in any home or business.

  • Practical Jokes or pranks that may cause emotional damage loss or damage to property. This was bought in because years ago a few clients chose to put shaving cream in shoes and glad wrap on the toilet seat. This behaviour caused three people to leave the unit because they had enough.
  • No Mobile Phone access. All too often friends and family jeopardise people’s recovery. Drama at home also causes the client to have head miles, they think so much about what may be happening at home that it interrupts their sleep and concentration on themself. The best thing is that the family realise that they are in a safe place and let them do their work. Some Rehabs let clients have phone access once or three times a week, just so the client does not lose complete contact with the family.
  • Leaving the unit unsupervised or going out of boundaries. Staff do not know where or what the client went to or up to. It has happened that a client leaves and has a smoke or a drink and then comes back. It has also happened that people have received drugs and sold them in the unit. Staff are always on guard for contraband entering the unit.
  • No Smoking. Some Rehabs do let people smoke, but many do not. Because many rehabs are evidence-based rehabs, There is research that describes that there is a greater chance to stay off all drugs and alcohol if you give up smoking at the same time.
  • Neg Raving (AKA Negative Talk), No talking about drugs, drug use, jail, criminal behaviour, sexist, racist (cultural) comments. People get triggered and upset around these topics. I know if I talk about smoking, people will start getting the NRT out of their pockets, because I just triggered them about smoking. Drugs are the same, start talking about drugs and people will want them or start getting cravings. Clients are told that getting triggered during educational groups is enough to deal with. we don’t need to add to it.
  • Diverting Medication. People often have pre-packed blister packs of medication in detox and rehab. The medication should be taken there in the office where the medication is dispensed and not taken out of that office or clinic. When a person pretends to take the medication and slips it into the pocket, this is diverting medication. You can be discharged and kicked out of rehab immediately for this. Why? Because you may have plans to give the medication to someone else, you may want to collect enough of the medication so you can overdose yourself, or it could be that you just want to take it later on. Staff do not know the real reason so they will ask you to leave rehab because if anything happens the staff are responsible for your safety. If you do want the medication later in the night, talk to staff and tell them your reason for taking it later so you do not need to divert medication. Be upfront and talk to the staff. Just try to do anything sneaky, and you will be told to leave the service.

These are just some of the rules that people question. If you want to know why a rule is in place, just ask a staff member. Be sure you ask a staff member that has been working at the unit the longest. All the rules should be written down and given to you before you enter rehab.

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