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In a drug and alcohol rehab environment, people who don't use drugs or abuse alcohol are often referred to as “normies.“ The fact rehab clients would use such a term indicates they are aware of the distinction between those who abuse drugs/alcohol (themselves) and those who don't. In a roundabout kind of way, that creates kind of a fellowship among clients. In a lot of ways, that is a good thing both during the treatment process and after treatment has concluded.
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April 30, 2021
One of the most troubling attributes that most substance abusers have in common is the way they tend to isolate themselves. The isolation oftentimes serves as a way for them to avoid the shame they feel regarding their addictive behavior. The isolation also serves to make an addict feel more despair, which provides them with ample motivation to continue their addictive behavior.
In the following sections, the discussion is going to focus on the building of camaraderie within a treatment center. Furthermore, there will be some discussion related to the importance of this camaraderie outside of rehab. This information is applicable from detox all the way through years of recovery.
In some treatment centers, you might hear the term “buddy system.“ That is usually in reference to two or more clients who have been assigned or decide themselves to help each other through the treatment process. That fact is the cycle of isolation that most clients have been living within has to be brought to a halt. Left to their deal with sobriety on their own, most clients will eventually relapse.
Where does this instinct to help one another come from? While the general population assumes a majority of the general population has some type of addiction issue, the reality is the population of drug addicts and alcoholics is relatively small. Those who suffer from a substance abuse disorder or disease are like members of a small club that has a very special secret. The secret they all carry is how horrible it is to live within the cycle of substance abuse.
While in rehab, clients get two opportunities to support one another and perhaps build a strong fellowship. Let's discuss that further.
After successfully completing their detox program (when necessary), clients will generally head right into treatment. While individual therapy will dominate the treatment process, you should never underestimate the importance of group therapy.
As an individual, each client gets the opportunity to soul search and look for answers related to their substance abuse disorder. Simply put, they have to get an understanding of why they feel the need to self-medicate their problems away. When clients get together in groups, they do so for a couple of reasons that don't involve soul searching.
First, the powers to be in the treatment center want clients to come together to gain an understanding that they are not alone in their disease. In a group, they are sitting with other clients, and they all suffer from the same disease. Almost immediately, that sense of isolation will start to diminish. For some clients, it's the first time in a long time they have been around people with whom they can identify.
Yes, a few clients will resist the temptation to create a fellowship with other clients. The good news is most clients eventually come around after hearing stories that are very similar to their own stories. For those who never quite grasp the importance of the group concept, it becomes a lost opportunity for rehab fellowship and maybe something more meaningful after treatment.
The second reason clients come together in groups is with the future in mind. All treatment professionals know about the challenges clients will encounter after treatment. They also know the best chance clients have for avoiding relapses is having good support resources in place to help them when they get too close to the edge.
Kinships and friendships can be built in rehab. Within 30 to 90 days of sharing secrets, emotions, and reaching out for help, clients do learn things about their rehab comrades. For a lot of clients, this creates the opportunity to build bonds. No matter where they go after treatment, they will all carry within them the disease. They will also leave rehab knowing there are people out there just like them who can help simply because of being able to understand what each other is going through.
After spending hours each day in individual and group therapy sessions, clients need time to relax and rewind. That is exactly why most top rehabs try to provide recreational programs and great rehab amenities, especially in luxury rehab facilities.
During downtime, the rehab's staff will typically encourage clients to interact with one another. This provides each client with an opportunity to learn more about their comrades outside of the fact they each have a substance abuse issue.
For clients who might feel a bit more isolated or shy about interactions with other clients, the rehab's staff will try to organize and coordinate fun activities for the whole group. They will do this, hoping to remove the stigma of being in a treatment center in favor of creating a sense of community among clients.
There are no attempts to try to build friendships among all clients. However, the best outcome would be if each client can connect with one or two other clients. That could well be enough to give each client the support they will need outside of the rehab facility.
While in treatment, clients really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. After treatment is done, each client leaves rehab with some level of recovery from their substance abuse problem. They have something they can lose now, that being the sobriety they worked so hard to create.
Some clients can stay sober for the rest of their lives without giving it a second thought. They are in the minority. According to a recent study done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of recovering addicts are not so lucky. That's the number of clients who depart rehab and relapse at least once. It would be a good bet that a majority of the people who relapsed didn't have good support resources in place.
The truth is most people in recovery can have as many as three support groups to help them through tough times. Of course, family support is very important. Also, 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been able to create great communities of recovering addicts who can give support to one another.
Those are known quantities when it comes to support resources for recovering substance abusers. The much-needed group that most people forget about is the friendships that people form in the rehab facility.
Yes, rehab is a community of recovery for all the people who go through the process. Where the lasting value of that community becomes apparent is after treatment. For the top rehab centers, alumni programs are very important. They provide a great way for recovering addicts to renew their kinships and make sure one another is doing okay.
To be clear, there is no shortage of fellow clients who have gone on to have great friendships and even relationships. Many of them have been there to help each other to stay clean while navigating the challenges life can bring. To think that something so special could have started from such grim circumstances is nothing short of a miracle.