Whether you’ve volunteered to go to rehab, are thinking about it, or are heading towards court-ordered rehab, addiction treatment can be intimidating. Most of us know very little about what mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment actually looks like – with only the faintest idea from movies and other media. Even if you’ve already been to treatment in the past, knowing what to expect, being afraid to fail, and being afraid of success can be terrifying. Change is difficult, even when it doesn’t require that you dedicate weeks of your life to treatment. And, rehab is intense, with many programs lasting 28-90 days.
Most people are afraid to go to rehab. And, while that’s normal and natural, giving in to that fear can get in your way as you go into treatment. So, the short answer is, no, you shouldn’t be afraid to go to rehab.
Understanding the Process
Often, rehab is intimidating. Dedicating several weeks of your life to one thing is always going to be intense. People even get anxious going in for 2-day sleep studies. You’re taking 30-90 days of your life to go stay in a new place, around people you don’t know, and with the intent of changing significant parts of who you are. That’s going to be intimidating.
The important part is that you acknowledge that and then work on encouraging yourself. This is going to be difficult, but it will be worth it. You’ll have to work hard, but you’ll have support and contact with people to help you to do so. And, you might be afraid of whether or not you can do the work at all, but so is everyone else there.
Often, rehab will mean spending a significant amount of time with your peers and that can also be intimidating. But, they will give you insight into how others feel similarly to you, can help to motivate you, and can give you new perspectives on your addiction.
Taking time to learn about your rehab center can help you to overcome some of your fear. For example, where is it? What kind of treatment do they use? How long is the program? Is there anything there you’re looking forward to? Are you looking forward to anything about treatment? E.g., to sharing how you feel with people who have been there? To learning how to manage stress? To learning medical perspectives on substance abuse? To having time out to pursue something you want for yourself (getting clean or sober)? That you’re giving yourself an opportunity to improve your life?
Investing that time into figuring out what you’re looking forward to and what you want from treatment
Failure Isn’t Permanent
For many of us, one of the most intimidating factors of going to rehab is “what if I fail”. It’s normal to be afraid that you’ll show up to class and freeze up, that you’ll fail a test because you’re too anxious or not good enough. Everyone feels that way sometimes. When it’s rehab, it’s more than a test, it’s about your future. And, that can intensify those feelings. What if you let your family down? What if you let yourself down.
The thing is, rehab and recovery are an ongoing process. You’re learning tools to build your life with, not doing a now or never one-time intervention that you can never do again. It’s normal to be afraid of failure but if you fail, you should be able to pick yourself back up and try again – and that is likely one of the first things rehab will try to teach you. Failure isn’t permanent, refusing to try is.
In fact, 37% of people who go to rehab relapse within the first 3 months. That doesn’t impact whether they use everything they’ve learned to go on to get clean and sober and stay that way afterwards. Recovery is an ongoing process and if you expect rehab to immediately solve all of your problems, you will fail. If you expect to learn things that help you to stay clean and sober, to apply those, and to continue having to reach out for help, to learn new things, and to get additional support, you have a much more realistic idea of what rehab is.
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You Have a Life and Responsibilities
Whether you’re leaving behind family, pets, a job, or study, putting those things on hold can be terrifying. Trusting that our relationships, our family, our jobs will be okay while we’re gone can be difficult. That’s especially true if you’ve had tumultuous relationships with any of it. Of course, many rehab centers offer live in daycare for pets and kids. But, you’ll still be giving up a lot of daily care and contact.
The thing is, rehab is also for those other parts of your life. Taking a break will give you the tools to be better at your responsibilities, to focus on family, to be a better partner, to have more attention and focus at work, and to otherwise be better. Taking a break from anything for a month or more is scary, especially if you have people relying on you. But, taking that break will give you opportunity to take care of yourself as well.
Change is Always Scary
The goal of rehab is to change your life and that’s always going to be terrifying. At the same time, it’s important to be open to change, to accept that change has to happen, and that you’re doing this for yourself.
No one approaches any major life event without some trepidation. People get cold feet at weddings. They get anxious before their birthday party. And, they dread having to go up onto stage to accept awards and accolades. It only makes sense that you’d be anxious or overwhelmed about more impactful change.
The thing is, you do want to change, you have to, and change is almost always a positive thing. Accepting that it will be scary, that you don’t know where you will be when you come out. You don’t even know who you will be. But, you do get to experience and shape that journey as you go. That’s scary, but it’s also an opportunity to become the person you want to be.
Going to rehab is never going to be a run-of-the-mill experience that you do without thinking about it. You’re always going to feel some anxiety. That’s normal. If you can accept that, focus on the reasons you want to go, and focus on your motivations for change, you can get over that fear and commit yourself to recovery.