It's safe to say that rehab doesn't work for everyone, no matter how many times they try it.

Why Rehab Doesn't Work For Everyone (Including Me)


Sober Recovery Expert Author

It's safe to say that rehab doesn't work for everyone, no matter how many times they try it.

When I'm watching the news, I often see at least once or twice a week a story about a celebrity, athlete or another famous person heading into rehab. It's almost inevitable that a report will appear on the screen that so-and-so is checking in for their first (or sometimes fifth) time.

Don't get me wrong, rehab is a beneficial tool for those who are open and willing to try it. Sometimes it works the first time and sometimes it takes a few shots to get it right. Nobody's perfect and nobody should be judged for their choice to check into rehab.

It's safe to say that rehab doesn't work for everyone, no matter how many times they try it.

However, as advantageous as rehab can often be, I must admit otherwise for myself. It's safe to say that rehab doesn't work for everyone—no matter how many times they try it. Maybe I should have gone two or three more times before knocking it, but after my first stint in rehab, I decided it just wasn't the right option for me. Here were my reasons:

I don't believe in mandatory group therapy.

After talking with many other patients in rehab who had served their time in several different facilities, group therapy seemed to be a common denominator. Yes, I have shared some of my deepest and darkest secrets in meetings, but this is because I chose to. I wasn't forced to go to a meeting and when I was, I certainly wasn't forced to speak. One of the key changes a rehab staff member will note is whether or not you are sharing during therapy sessions, including group. Did I want to talk about some of the issues in my life that were extremely personal in group therapy? Absolutely not, nor did I deem it to be beneficial to my recovery. Are you always the best person to make decisions for yourself? Probably not but that doesn't mean you should subject yourself to feeling uncomfortable.

The program mold is rigid.

I often find myself on the border of whether or not the same program works for everyone. Your story is unique. Sure, parts of the struggle may be universal, but some aspects are certainly unique to you. One of my biggest issues with rehab is my mixed feelings about the program models they use to work with each patient. While I understand that funding doesn't allow for a lot of one-on-one time with every individual, the pressure of the 12-Step model can feel extremely oppressive, which doesn't allow you to explore any other options that may work for you.

There’s too much downtime.

I truly thought I was ready to be in rehab but after meeting some cool people who glorified heroin addiction and lived in my area, I was quick to change my mind and realized that I wasn't ready to stop using. The downtime was a great way to reintroduce patients into creating social relationships, but is it really healthy? While this isn't necessarily the best example, it's one that comes to mind when I'm thinking of addict-to-addict friendships: a prisoner who is released from a state penitentiary isn't allowed to associate with other known offenders, active or paroled. Why is it any different for patients in rehab?

It’s certainly acceptable and beneficial to form friendships and bonds with individuals in recovery, but in my opinion, rehab isn’t the place to begin this transition. It’s too early in the recovery process and your sobriety is much too delicate to risk a friendship turning sour.

The intentions are ideal but unrealistic.

Like many other patients in rehab, I had my own personal demons to battle that were the cause of my substance addiction. This left me with the ultimate unanswered question: how in the world will rehab help me? During my drug use, I even created new psychological and emotional scars that I would have to deal with eventually—or die trying at least. The idea behind rehab is ideal and the facilities are built with good intentions, but after staying two weeks or a month is a person really ready to go back into the world? Are they equipped with the tools and how does a week in rehab change an individual’s entire mentality on drugs and drug use?

For someone who has bipolar disorder or severe depression, the doctor doesn't place you on meds and therapy for a week and expect you to be healed. It is a lengthy process in which you explore unlimited options to treat. Rehab shouldn’t be any different.

I had many qualms about rehab. Were they justified issues for me to struggle with? Absolutely. At the time, I probably should have given it some more consideration and been much more open-minded than I truly was. Rehab is a great tool that works for many individuals, but it’s okay if it doesn’t work for you. If you feel like something else would be more helpful or that you’re going to relapse even if you go to rehab again, try something else. The fact that you’re willing to try other things to stay sober only speaks volumes about the effort and hard work you’re going to put into something that does work for you.

If you or someone you know is seeking help with drug or alcohol detox, please visit our directory of detox centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the path to recovery today.

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