For an addict, the decision to enter addiction rehab is often a desperate one. Wrapped up in the cycle of drug or alcohol addiction, there eventually comes a moment where we hit “bottom.” That moment looks different for everyone. It could be an overdose, an arrest, a family intervention, or the overwhelming realization that we’ve burned every bridge and our lives are completely out of control. Every story looks different, but the decision to reach out for help is only the beginning.
Once addiction treatment has begun, there are multiple hurdles to cross. Each of these hurdles occurs internally. The most difficult is often the decision to stay, to complete the addiction recovery program as prescribed, without inserting our own will, our own ideas, or the same thinking that got us into this situation in the first place.
If you consider it, that’s a pretty difficult feat. We are asking an individual who is just a few days clean and sober to make a different decision than they have made time and again for months, years or decades prior to entering treatment.
The good news is, the longer a client stays, the greater their chances are of achieving life long sobriety. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Stay until the miracle happens.” There’s a lot of truth to that.
But, when does that miracle happen and how does the decision to stay really affect positive outcomes?
Leaving Rehab Against Medical Advice (AMA or ACA)
Against medical advice, also known as AMA or ACA (against clinical advice), is a phrase used to refer to patients or clients who choose to discharge themselves from treatment before their prearranged exit date.
The average treatment center stay spans from 28-90 days. Depending upon a range of personal and medical factors, the center will determine an appropriate (and usually approximate) discharge date for each client. This is not just a random number of days. There are considerations, such as successful detox, co-existing disorders, length of addiction, family history, and physical health that are woven into a successful treatment plan. There are also mile markers each client is expected to reach, which determine where they are in their recovery and how they are progressing. Recovery is a time of healing and growth for the client, but it is also a time of assessing and reassessing to insure best possible outcomes.
So, what about me? Will leaving rehab early decrease my chances for long term success?
Numerous studies have revealed a link between length of stay, program completion and long-term success. With this in mind, recovery facilities do what they can to keep their clients on their set track and complete treatment. However, regardless of these efforts, discharge AMA remains prevalent.
Completing the Program Makes a Difference
It’s not just the act of staying a number of days that supports recovery. It’s more than that.
Leaving rehab is easy. There are a lot of uncomfortable moments during addiction recovery. Everything is involved; mental, physical, spiritual and emotional factors. There’s a lot of damage to be repaired and many individuals in treatment are looking at their lives, their pain, and their past in an entirely new light.
We often leave treatment as an impulse decision made during periods of stress, anxiety, arguments with others in treatment or family members, and (unfortunately) we also tend to leave during those moments right before a potentially huge breakthrough. Completing the program won’t ensure that you won’t relapse, but for many, drug treatment is the first thing we’ve ever completed in our lives. We stayed the course. We made it through the rough spots. We hung in there. It definitely does build confidence and makes us realize that regardless of our feelings, we absolutely can set our mind towards something and see it through to the end.
It’s More Than Just 30, 60 or 90 Days
Will you succeed in life even if you’ve made the decision to leave rehab early? I like to stack the odds in my favor, and I will say that leaving AMA will often keep a client from receiving the full range of care necessary to live a successful, drug and alcohol free life. Here are some of the things that can be missed when a client leaves early:
• Healing the Brain – Extensive drug abuse takes a toll on the brain that cannot be repaired in a week or two. With neurotransmitter replacement therapy, proper nutrition, exercise, massage and chiropractic care, significant changes will occur in the brain. Clear thinking will return, a marked decrease in irritability and anxiety will take place, and overall feelings of well being will return as the brain begins to produce it’s own “feel good hormones” instead of relying on drugs or alcohol.
• Living in Community and Learning New Skills – Going through the “stepping down” to lower levels of care (from php to outpatient treatment or a sober living environment) provides a healthy transition process back into society. By going through this “stepping down” period, clients can learn to successfully deal with the stress and problems related to finances, a career, studying for school, writing a resume, and other life skills while still maintaining a healthy level of support from their treatment team.
• New Habits Take Root – Living in recovery is much more than the removal of drugs or alcohol. It requires a full lifestyle change. We learn to think differently, reward ourselves differently, cope differently, and to live life on life’s terms. These new habits take time to develop and take root. We build a daily routine of healthy habits.
• The Off Shore Plan – Knowing and working through a daily schedule, relapse triggers, and career goals will help clients to stay the course when starting their new, drug and alcohol free life. The off-shore plan is a written plan of action that provides security and a solid plan of action as each client is leaving. It’s the prescription for success after treatment.
As a result of a solid plan, clients are aware of how to handle cravings, stress, loneliness, and other common causes of relapse. They will also feel comfortable reaching out to others for support.
• Healing Relationships – Family dynamics are a huge factor in addiction. As families participate in counseling (if needed) they can provide a stronger support system for the recovering addict or alcoholic. Knowing the individual completed the program helps build trust and provides the family with the assurance that the individual is on the right path.
What’s Right for You?
A drug and alcohol treatment facility like The Shores, provides a loving, nurturing environment with a strong clinical team, individual and group therapy, nutrition, brain healing activities, neurotransmitter replacement therapy, massage and chiropractic care, yoga, and exercise, all in a beautiful, waterfront setting, which is highly conducive to recovery.
Should you stay the predetermined amount of time? Will it improve outcomes? We believe it will, and we’ve witnessed it. We’d all like a quick solution. Once we decide to end addiction in our lives, we want it gone, right now, with minimal disturbance to our regular lives, but it takes time to heal, and that’s what we offer here at The Shores. We believe a life lived in recovery is worth the time spent in an addiction treatment facility.
Get more information on treatment and recovery from The Shores Treatment and Recovery Center blog.
Struggling with addiction? Contact us now – 772 800 3990.