Recovery will be a lifelong battle filled with struggles and success. Going through detox and inpatient/residential treatments are important steps to take in the process as a whole, but ending treatment there can open up the gates for potential relapse. Leaving a treatment facility of any kind and thinking that one is completely cured and will never have urges to drink or use drugs again is a risky endeavor. That’s why outpatient therapies are offered and highly recommended.
Detox and Inpatient Roles in Recovery
Detox and inpatient/residential services are a major part of the recovery process. But to realize why the word “cured” cannot be in the vocabulary of a person going through treatment, it is crucial to understand the goals of detox and inpatient, and what they do and do not address. Detoxification is usually the first step in a holistic recovery and involves a period of time where the patient expunges the traces of drugs or alcohol from their system. Detox is where withdrawal symptoms first set in and are typically the strongest. Constant moderation is used to keep an eye on the mental and physical well-being of the patient. while their body undergoes a large change on a biological level.
Inpatient is the next step, where people can adjust to their new lives under a specifically-constructed and safe environment. Education is a major part here, as life skills are instilled and practiced, as well as building a community and learning to use their voice in recovery for the betterment of the patient and the community at large. Inpatient is a time to address and acknowledge one’s past and create a plan and schedule for the future in a safe environment. Both of these stages are important in the process, but they work in tandem with a sequential outpatient program.
Where Outpatient Kicks In
There is one critical gap that inpatient and detox recoveries are not designed to address as effectively as outpatient programs – and that is the crossroads between education and implementation of strategies and their real-world practice. Education needs to inform practice and experience with utilizing coping techniques when it comes to urges and potential relapse is paramount. Intensive outpatient programs create a way for people to access their own freedoms and begin their lives with the knowledge learned in tow, but also still not be left in a scenario where there is no support.
Multiple weekly group meetings and individual therapy provide the support needed to help with the transition. Their presence means that someone doesn’t have to cope with urges on their own all the time – they still have an outlet. The transition can be difficult as a clear picture of what recovery and success look like for each individual sets in. It is also filled with greater risks that the real world may bring with it. Intensive outpatient programs help to bridge this transition.
What’s Wrong with “Cured?”
The idea of leaving a residential treatment thinking that one is cured is inherently flawed. In short, people need time to practice their coping mechanisms in their own lives – seeing their success and struggles firsthand. The idea that someone is cured expresses a kind of finality before someone has had the chance to address all facets of recovery. It can lead someone to think “I’ll never need to use again” instead of “I’m prepared to never use again.”
Thinking that someone will never feel the need to use again makes them complacent against an inevitable urge. It can leave them unprepared for the triggers that the real world can bring, increasing the potential for a relapse in the future. Unfortunately, addiction recovery will continue throughout someone’s life. “Curing” it in a traditional sense, versus being constantly ready for urges and knowing how to cope with them, can be the difference between perpetual success and relapse. Practice in this realm is where outpatient focuses.
The struggle that the real world brings can be its own constant reminder, but only if someone is prepared to address the stresses, urges, and triggers that are present. While these may sound like aggressive words, they don’t have to be. Recognizing urges and triggers and overcoming them with various techniques can be incredibly empowering. But that is only possible if someone sets themselves up to combat complacency first.
Taking the first step in addiction recovery is difficult. It is a long and daunting investment. However, it is necessary to engage in each step for a healthy future. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, it’s never too late to contact Lighthouse Recovery. Our caring, professional staff understands the tribulations that await at each phase of the recovery process. We work to emphasize each person’s individual journey with recovery while setting their own goals and definitions of success.