The rough realities of rehab life

Carol A. Wright

By A Contributor

Being in rehab is not always a pleasant experience. Even getting into the right rehabilitation clinic can be a struggle for those who suffer an addiction of any kind.

After reading Anne M. Fletcher’s “Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment—And How to Get Help That Works,” I can se why only about 10 percent of addicted individuals are willing to enter care.

Even the book’s cover just about says it all: plenty of chairs arranged in a nice, neat circle. But where are the patients? And where is the help that they so urgently need?

Is it any wonder why celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and others have continued to go through rehab? Fletcher draws attention to the sad fact that often in many cases it is too late. An example could be seen with talented British singer Amy Winehouse. Prior to her death at such a young age,  Winehouse would compose ‘deep and dark’ songs about being forced to enter rehab. In her song, “Rehab,” listeners can hear her plea, “They tried to make me go to rehab/I said no no no/I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine/...I won’t go go go.”

Sadly, too, some people poked fun at her name and the poor state she was in while performing on stage.

There is something very wrong and misleading within addiction treatment centers if no one—patients, family members and professionals—learns why rehab centers aren’t turning out responsible, happy and confident individuals who sometimes might also end up as ‘repeats.’

The repeats could be those who stick with the same clinic because they are not aware of alternative treatments or because the staff decides that one treatment by itself, such as the 12-steps, works for all. Fletcher believes that is a mistake. Each patient— teen, adult or senior citizen—is unique, therefore their treatment should also be unique.

There were times when I found myself expressing shock when I read of other results from Fletcher’s investigations that she conducted on 15 different addiction programs. These programs included the fancy rehabs where celebrities are treated and those outpatient options available to most people.

Her research mainly took place during 2009 and 2010 when she interviewed more than 100 clients (patients) and 100 professional staffers, administrators and leading academics.

Imagine being admitted to a clinic for alcoholism. At one facility at the very start, a patient was immediately told by a counselor, “You are a drunk.” The counselor went on to say that this patient will never be able to get treatment, so he advised the patient to give up.

That’s like giving a test, but taking it away from the test-taker without him or her even getting a chance to see the questions and being informed bluntly that he or she will flunk.

At some treatment facilities, counselors with high school diplomas, no college degrees or future practice, gave advice, but only advice that worked for them when they themselves had been struggling with drug or alcohol abuse.

I was kind of surprised by, but not totally ignorant of, the finding that most counselors who are employed with rehabs do not need a college or university degree.

In addition, for some patients, the addictions could be anything from eating disorders to sexual abuse, but Fletcher mainly focused on drug/alcohol addictions. Plus there was a real need for staffers to change their attitudes, to realize that the alcohol or pills by themselves masked the underlying reasons behind their dependencies.

What I found particularly upsetting was Fletcher’s discovery of the medieval, 1950s practices still going on in many rehab centers today.

Furthermore, discussions, arguments and debates abound regarding the positive outcome of psychotherapy alone, or psychotherapy with supervised use of medication. Some psychiatrists only prescribe drugs to patients and advise them to keep taking drugs without any kind of counseling.

It can be worse in that professionals will meet with their patients from five to 10 minutes to see which drugs are or aren’t helping, but do not take time to discuss problems or other issues that bother the patients.

Insurance or lack of it is another huge factor and problem altogether. Fortunately, Fletcher gives patients and their families a run-down on insurance coverage and other means of financial support. However, despite the setbacks Fletcher offers positive reinforcement by listing in her book some of the more reputable rehab clinics, special programs and centers that are respectful of a person’s race, culture, past and present. She also offers tips and different websites that can steer people in a better direction that will hopefully keep addicted individuals from trudging along the same old path and getting nowhere.

Carol A. Wright is a former Manhattan resident and currently works as a freelance writer.

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