Should I go to rehab? What questions do I need to ask?
February 24, 2019 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm an alcoholic, without doubt and have known this for the last 7 years. I've tried going it alone with rational recovery books, I've tried AA, and I think the longest I've gone without a drink is 4 weeks. I've had a number of serious health problems (broken ribs, head injury, GI bleed) as a result. I was told at the hospital after an accident involving alcohol that this place, which is local to me would accept my health insurance so my stay would be free (apart from the excess that I can afford).

But as well as being an alcoholic, I am autistic, with serious anxiety issues (general anxiety disorder, social anxiety), depression, morbid obesity and I'm terrified of having to interact in group therapy (or at all with the other patients) and being told I'm a bad person for my lack of discipline (or whatever). Oh, I'm also going through menopause which is exacerbating my anxiety and depression, even though I'm on medication for this.

I have no idea (and can't tell from the website) how long I would have to stay. I'm afraid that once I leave, I'll end up right back where I am now. I have work committments until the end of March but have enough savings to pay my bills even if I was inside for a month or more.

Another worry is that my flatmate is also an alcoholic though he doesn't want to stop drinking and we live next door to a bottleshop. But no matter where I live in this area, there's access to a place that sells alcohol every 1km or so, so it's on me not to go and buy booze.

So, what's rehab like? Do I have too many issues to be helped? Will they talk to me like I'm a nuisance (understandably ER staff seem to feel like I'm using resources that could be better used for people don't bring illness on themselves). What do I need to ask them? What do I need to consider? Should I do this?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
However many times you have "failed" rehab/treatment/abstinence, you still deserve treatment and you still deserve to get better. However overweight you may be, you still deserve dignity and respect. If I were you, I'd ask them about their approach specifically to "comorbidity"--which is what it's called when you have both mental illness and addiction--and also to autism. It sounds like you are self-medicating a lot of discomfort and part of their job should be to help you figure out better ways to manage it.

Being an aging addict of any kind is no fun at all. (I haven't been one, but I've seen quite a few.) Consider this an opportunity to lay down a positive foundation for enjoying your senior years. You're right that rehab is only the first step, but you need to take the first step to go anywhere.

Good luck to you.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on February 24, 2019 [17 favorites]

I have never been to rehab but I just want to comment that when you say the nurses in the ER think you “brought this on yourself,” I hope you will accept my gentle reminder that alcoholism doesn’t work that way. You didn’t choose this and it’s not the result of a failure on your part. It’s not your fault and it’s not the case that you will only recover if your willpower is “strong” enough. You absolutely deserve to be given support, not shamed, by your care providers.
posted by mai at 8:19 PM on February 24, 2019 [14 favorites]

I would call this place and read your questions right from this page. I would guess you are not the first person with autism to need rehab, and not the first person with a drinking roommate and they will be able to talk to you about these (real!) issues. If you get a negative vibe, don’t go there - but do keep seeking treatment so you don’t kill your liver etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:23 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

'Should I go to rehab?' is one of the questions where if you're asking yourself, the answer is usually yes. The good thing is that you are asking yourself the right questions while having that doubt.

The mental and physical health factors that you mention worrying about effecting your treatment are at the extreme low-end of what people who work in rehab facilities experience. The 1# lesson about seeking help for what you view as anything super negative is that the people there have seen so much worse. The way you can know that is that you are able to recognize the problem. Be honest, be true, be earnest, and no matter how bad off you are, you will not be those worker's biggest downer that day. It won't be fun for anyone, but that's not the goal. The goal is to get you well.

Rehab isn't fun is what I hear, but it's necessary. That is true of most medicine. Rehab is medicine that takes a long time and personal effort.
You probably will run into people who will treat you as a nuisance or a bad person, I won't lie about that. Some people will always be assholes about things, and some people are decent and just having a bad day. Most people will probably be good to you, as few people do that kind of work choose it because they hate it or you, but instead because they are inclined to being good people who want to help. If you run into any of that bad stuff, it's not on you, it is on them. It is wrong of them. It doesn't excuse or forgive it, but it's not a reason to avoid treatment. That pain is less than from not seeking treatment. Approach them openly and you will be fine.
I'd ask them the same exact questions you asked here. They'll have some form of an answer for all of them.
You should do this. That's the easiest one to answer. You should do this.
You can do this.
posted by neonrev at 8:44 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

My understanding is that participants stay for two weeks or so. It's not prison. You can leave anytime. You should go and talk to some program representatives. At least call them. They may be able to help you figure out alternative ways of paying for it. Businesses and health services in general are usually very understanding and keen to help out.

Most of the other participants will have anxiety, depression, or other disorders. They go hand in hand with alcoholism, as does isolating oneself. Many alcoholics find that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors they thought were unique to themselves are actually common to many alcoholics.

Rehab is a little like camp or going back to high school. In general, people are supportive. You'll have some educational classes, and you'll spend some time talking about your feelings with other people. If you're not comfortable doing that, it's pretty easy to opt out. Part of the time will also be spent figuring out what you want your own ongoing treatment plan to look like.
posted by xammerboy at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nopw, I've been in your position. From what I've seen is that inpatient rehab is just a money making scheme. Horse and art therapy sound great but the costs are exorbinant. I don't have the data in front of me but intensive outpatient should work just as well and allow you to live a normal life. It is rehab.
posted by Che boludo! at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2019

I know a number of people who have been to rehab, and it really worked for them. However, they went to this place, an hour or two south of you. It has such good reviews it's even in a Paul Kelly song. I got my car washed there a weekend or so ago as part of a fundraiser and there were people of all sorts there. No one will judge you lest they be judged...

Yes, I think you should go to rehab. You will be supported, not shamed. And you deserve it.
posted by Thella at 10:32 PM on February 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Will they talk to me like I'm a nuisance (understandably ER staff seem to feel like I'm using resources that could be better used for people don't bring illness on themselves).

Unless you're going to a really shit rehab this is the opposite of how they'll talk to you.
posted by bendy at 11:14 PM on February 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

You are worthy of help and help is available to you. Talk to them and ask about your concerns. You have already written them down here like a handy script. Their responses to you will tell you a lot, and give you a much better idea of if it might be a good fit than any of us can.

Anxiety and depression are very often the companions of addiction. It would be shocking to me if they weren't prepared for that. Autism is only now coming into the mainstream as far as recognizing adults is concerned, and I can understand how that would give you pause. I would ask them straight up how much experience they have dealing with people who have sensory processing issues such as present with autism and people using to deaden/help deal with those symptoms. I think it will be fairly readily apparent if they're even mildly versed and wiling to work with you.

I know talking to them - whether by phone or in person - opens yourself to feeling dismissed again. But your health and life are on the line. It's worth being brave about this interaction. You can have courage for this one thing, I believe in you. I hope that they have satisfactory answers for you and that you allow yourself to be open to hearing them.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:56 PM on February 24, 2019

In 2012 I went to treatment for 47 days and stayed sober about eight months. In 2014 I went to another treatment center for 28 days and I have been sober for 4 years and three months and counting.

When I went in the first time I was in a hurry to get "cured" as fast as possible and get back to my "real life". I dunno why exactly, because my real life was pretty crappy. I think I just wanted to put the trouble behind me. It didn't work because I didn't really change anything about myself.

The second time I went in I was fucking done. I felt worthless and broken and just did whatever they told me, and was honest, without holding on to any expectations of the future because I didn't really believe I had one. It worked because that's where I personally had to be to make the changes necessary to live a better life. Your mileage may vary.

Going in, I had some of the same issues you mention. By the time I sought treatment I was full blown agoraphobic and hadn't left my house for about ten years, except to go to the liquor store. I had anxiety attacks and panic attacks every day. I had leftover PTSD from childhood and a big dose of ADD as well. And probably a little ASD thrown in for good measure, so I feel where you're coming from.

I thought I was too complicated to ever get better, that I would surprise and shock the doctors and nurses with all the crazy shit I'd done over the years. I thought I was in the running to be the worst composite of bad factors and bad choices ever to be written down in medical history.

Reader, I am boring. My conceit of being "The Worst, Ever" didn't last more than two days. I am the same as any other addict. When I sat in those first meetings and heard my thoughts come out of other people's mouths I was the one who was shocked, and then relieved.

During my first treatment, they offered to connect me with a sober living facility (halfway or three-quarter way house) but I declined. Seems I was in a big hurry to get back to my own personal hell. The second time I actually moved out of my house into inpatient treatment, leaving behind a bunch of my possessions but carrying with me the idea that I would go on to some sober living arrangement. When I told my counselor this idea she got me on the waiting lists right away. That may be the single best decision I have made in my entire life. And I seriously don't miss those possessions even a little bit, the ROI has been enormous.

My life now is pretty great. I have friends, I participate in the local recovery community, I'm even an officer on the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association of the treatment center I graduated from. My blood pressure is normal, I don't remember the last time I had heartburn for no reason. I leave the house, like, everyday, without having panic attacks so bad I throw up.

You have some concerns going in and that's normal. My successful treatment took place at a medically oriented facility attached to the actual county hospital full of real doctors. So they were more prepared than some for those of us with multiple diagnoses. Definitely ask about accommodations you need, don't be afraid to be specific, they've heard it all.

It is highly unlikely that treatment center staff will berate you in any way. Remember that they have seen people's success stories as well as their failures, and they'd much rather see the former. They're honestly rooting for you. Again, they've seen it all, remember the people who have gone through before you just as bad off as you, no one goes to rehab just for fun. (Except for the youth, if you're in a mixed adult/youth facility. They're just there to get their parents off their back and have a laugh and they will steal your fucking cigarettes goddamn delinquents. Ahem.)

As for what it's like day-to-day? It's kinda like summer camp, if summer camp had health class. We had 9am-8pm schedules during the week, and half days on weekends. Writing it down it sounds like a lot, but there were breaks during the day, and lunch and dinner and such. And it's not like I was watching Netflix or playing WoW, so I was grateful to have things to do to fill the time.

You will meet people there that you will like. People who will like you. People who ARE like you. "The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the cement that binds us together." p.17.

It's late and this is already too long. Rehab was worth it for me. I can't always manage to have a grateful attitude every moment of the day, but any time I remember the trap I was in and how hopeless it was, I'm filled with gratitude for my escape.

We don't really know how it works, exactly, whether it's the treatment, or the steps, or the fellowship, or the book, or the sponsor, or the meetings, or the higher power*, or the service work, and we don't know which combination will work for you in particular. So the only advice I ever give a newcomer is to do as many of the things as you can, as much of them as you can, because I've seen it work, and it's worth it.

You may MeMail me if you wish.

(* I'm an atheist. I only mention this because I thought that meant they were expecting me to do something I couldn't, and I bounced off the program a couple of times for that reason. It's not true, and you don't have to make the mistake I did.)

posted by Horkus at 1:16 AM on February 25, 2019 [45 favorites]

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