Alcohol treatment in CA?
May 14, 2007 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Hi. My name's Anon and I'm an alcoholic. Please help me find a treatment program in California.

I've been drinking heavily for about 5 years and I'd like to stop. I know from previous attempts (and from common sense) that I need to be medically supervised while detoxing. I get the shakes by mid-day if I don't have a drink. I also don't have a lot of people in my life nearby to babysit while I'm drying out. I just want to do it the right way.

Problem is, I don't have health insurance. I'll likely have to borrow money from family to do this, which I'm willing to do. Fortunately, they'll be willing to help.

I really want to find a program that's going to work for me, but I don't have any idea what to expect or what questions to ask. I know I need to call a few and ask about their treatment approaches, cost, etc. What specific questions should I ask? What can I expect from medically-supervised detox? How much do these places cost, anyway? I'm sure there's a wide range, but I don't even know what a ballpark figure would be. Location/duration won't be a deciding factor, as I have flexibility there.

Another thing I'm really curious about -- please don't take this the wrong way -- but I'm a smart, young, urban type. I think I would probably benefit from treatment geared toward my own environment (i.e., boring) rather than to the challenges faced by someone who's likely to go back to the mean streets after treatment. I want to learn from others' experiences, but I also think that in order to be successful I'll need to be able to focus partly on my own lifestyle. How does one ask a facility what range of clientele they have? (I rewritten that over and over to try to keep it from sounding racist or classist. I really don't mean it that way.)

I should also mention that I'm not really into the idea of 12-step programs. I know a little too much about them, and I'm not really convinced AA will work for me. I don't really know what the effective alternatives are, though, so questions to ask on that front would be helpful too. And nothing faith-based, thanks.

Apologies for the jumbled series of questions. Any advice on specific questions to ask (and the kinds of answers I should look for) is appreciated. Post here or email DryMeOut [at] Gmail.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1) First things first....get to a detox that will take you - maybe a city hospital or something of the sort. You will pay through the nose without insurance, but that is the least of your worries. Your experience will be that you are housed with persons you never thought you would spend the night with. However, realize that it could be the best night of

2) Go when you are starting to detox, not when you are stone drunk. You will be shakey, but able to articulate your intentions. Your need for medical support will be apparent. Sorry for the blank honesty, but this is the truth for persons who need assistance with out insurance. Try to get inpatient detox for at least 7 days. Seizures don't start until after the 2nd or 3rd day (if you are prone to that).

3) Don't think you are any better off than the skid row drunk just because you are a smart urban type. Just accept the fact this is an issue and any help is better than none. Picking and choosing your treatment is not really an option now. Getting real, professional assistance is. Take what you can and hope that you can clear your mind enough to make the right choices in your sobriety.

4) What you will benefit from after the initial detox is very different than what you think you will now. Just go and get medical assistance and leave the soul searching for a later date. Right now it is all about physical withdrawl.

5) Life is going to suck for a while, but if you have an earnest desire to live a new life, it is all out there for the taking. You just have to put your hand out.

I wish you luck.
posted by lampshade at 6:39 PM on May 14, 2007

correction - I wrote However, realize that it could be the best night of


However, realize that it could be the best night of of your life
posted by lampshade at 6:41 PM on May 14, 2007

Philly has the Behavioral Health Special Initiative which is funded by the state to provide detox and rehab for those who are uninsured and indigent. That's how I went to detox and rehab. Don't assume that because you're uninsured you have no options. In PA it's quite the opposite; you're almost gauranteed a full 4 days detox and 28 day rehab via BHSI and almost gauranteed NOT to get a full 28 days on private insurance.

Please contact a treatment center near you and ask about similar funding programs.

You can find my email in my profile if you want to talk about it.
posted by The Straightener at 7:02 PM on May 14, 2007

I don't think that I'd agree that you should hightail it to the local city hospital. For example, at the hospital where I spent most of my third year of medical school (the Los Angeles County Hospital), the detoxing drunks filled up the E/R, medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery and ICU services. No service wanted them and the result was that the service with a spare third-year med student got them.

I don't want to go into too much detail but my experience was that the standard of care often wasn't met with regard to these patients. I didn't know it at the time, but looking back on it I sure do. A lot of them died; for many of these brief stays, I, the third-year medical student, was the most qualified person to attend their bedside. (If they survived the first 24 hours the residents generally poked their head in on morning rounds the next day.)

Among the things you might want to look into is obtaining Medi-Cal (California's version of Medicaid, for people who have negligible income or assets.) Some detox programs will take a Medicaid patient. That's not a bad idea; a dedicated detox center will at least be likely to keep you alive during the process.

If your family is really willing and able to foot the bill, look into something like ProMeta, a physician-run private detox and rehab program. I know very little about ProMeta except that it's new, it's run by the addiction medicine specialist who founded the very well regarded Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, and that it is buying advertising in the local Playbill magazine and the SF symphony program.

You're doing the right thing. Don't give up.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:22 PM on May 14, 2007

I think I would probably benefit from treatment geared toward my own environment (i.e., boring) rather than to the challenges faced by someone who's likely to go back to the mean streets after treatment.

Don't focus on this. Instead, focus on efficacy/recidivism rates.

One of the insidious effects of alcoholism (and some other addictions) is to make you think that your addiction is unique or different, and that you are somehow an exception to the rule and will require special treatment. The truth is far more mundane - people from all walks of life fall into addiction.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on May 14, 2007

I really admire what you're doing. You have made the most essential step already.

Along with immediate detox, I do encourage you to include some sort of follow up psycho-social care in order to help you understand the reasons WHY you started drinking to excess in the first place.

And I have a lot of problems with 12 steps too, but I have always found the phrase "one day at a time" quite helpful.
posted by serazin at 7:55 PM on May 14, 2007

I'm very close with someone who just finished a 28-day stay at the Scripps McDonald Center in La Jolla. The program does follow a 12-step model but the person who I know who was there was simiarly disinclined to this approach and had in fact left other programs that were seemed to be much more by-the-book AA programs before landing at the McDonald Center. This person's insurance also did not cover the program and I believe it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 but I don't know that for sure. In any case, my friend seemed to do well there and liked it much better than other places that had been tried. This could, of course, be more as a result of the friend's willingness finally to get treatment, but I visited the friend and it seemed quite nice. The people were all very friendly (okay, so my friend hated one of the counselors but that's to be expected anywhere) and all of the other folks in for treatment that I met or encountered were quite nice. The center has a very suburban feel and yes, most people were white, if that's what you were asking. And they all seemed somewhat middleclass but that's totally my perception. However, there had been a somewhat (or very depending on your age) famous very non-white guest there who had checked out after only 2 days. My friend didn't do the inpatient detox there as he'd already done that the week before at another program that he subsequently left before coming to the McDonald Center. I guess he managed to stay sober in between programs so they didn't need to do detox at La Jolla.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:00 PM on May 14, 2007

I get the shakes by mid-day if I don't have a drink.

whoa - this is not good. Betty Ford is in CA, but that will set you back $20k. Worth every penny, and insurance can help. There are others which are cheaper I am sure. I wouldn't get too caught up on the religous aspects of 12 steps, if that is your resistance, the main thing from what I know is the group support. You are in a very bad way and you need to help yourself now or it may be too late. Good luck. You have taken your first step, and frankly it is the hardest one.
posted by caddis at 9:15 PM on May 14, 2007

I was thinking more about your situation, and I remembered that when I posted this, a couple people with expertise in substance abuse replied. This user mentioned a couple books she'd written on recovery.

Might be helpful.

Again, I applaud what you are doing. You are very brave.
posted by serazin at 9:40 PM on May 14, 2007

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