Should I go Back to Treatment for Drugs and Alcohol?

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Around 90% of people with alcohol use disorder will relapse within the first four years after treatment.

That’s a pretty scary statistic.

The good news is that the longer you stay sober, the less likely you are to relapse. After two years, the relapse rate is less than half, and after five years, it’s less than 15%.

Plenty of people don’t make it the first time in treatment but get it the second go around. Or the third, or the twentieth, or even the fiftieth. Many people with years of recovery today went to treatment many times before finally getting it.

But for a person considering treatment who’s already been, it can feel hopeless.

Why even try going back if chances are you will fail again? Isn’t it easier to keep drinking rather than waste time and money on another trip to treatment?

My Story

The last time I went to treatment for alcohol was my sixth time doing so.

Six times.

I was sitting in my room, drunk, and I knew my life over. Something terrible was going to happen; I could feel it coming. I had this general sense of impending doom.

I knew I needed help. I’d repeatedly been trying for the last few months to quit drinking, and I couldn’t make it past the third day. On or before that third day, I’d become overwhelmed by this feeling of dread and anxiety. It felt like I was losing my mind. Drinking would fix that immediately, and so I kept giving in.

Having been to treatment five previous times, I knew I could easily stay sober there and get past that hump. In inpatient treatment, you are constantly monitored, they make it very hard to leave, and there is no access to alcohol or drugs. And you are surrounded by a staff that is there to help you and talk you through whatever you are going through and other patients who are going through the same thing.

But I almost decided not to go. What was the point if I was going to fail again? I came very close to just choosing to continue drinking even though I knew I was about to end up homeless, in jail, or dead.

Luckily, I was able to conjure a few reasons why it was worth trying again.

Even If you Relapse the Moment You Leave, Treatment is Still Worth it

Drugs and alcohol addiction takes an enormous toll on our physical and mental health.

Even if it’s just for one month, getting sober will increase your chances of staying alive and allow you to get your mind right.

Even though I didn’t stay sober the first five times, I’m probably only still here today because I got sober those times. One time, in particular, I remember my liver numbers were very elevated when I entered treatment. I was close to permanent liver damage, but I caught it just in time. By the time I left, they were back down to normal.

Even if you relapse, getting some sober time allows your body and mind to heal. Too many of my friends are either dead or living with chronic illnesses like cirrhosis because they continually used for long periods without getting sober. Even though I didn’t stay sober, those past attempts still may have saved my life.

So, it’s always a good decision to go to treatment, even if you relapse immediately after you probably bought yourself some more time on this earth.

Even though the Chances are Low, there is Still A Chance of Success

Yes, around 90% of people do relapse. But that also means 10% of people don’t.

Each time you go to treatment, you get another chance to join that 10%.

And the longer you stay sober, the more likely you are to remain that way.

So even if you failed forty-nine times, that fiftieth time might be the one.

I have personally met more than a few people that went to treatment 20 or more times and are now solidly sober today with years of abstinence.

There is no reason to be Embarrassed

I’ve never struggled with this one, but I’ve heard from many people that they were embarrassed to get help because they thought people would judge them for failing. Or they think people will think they are weak for not staying sober.

Rather than judging you negatively, people will be proud of you for getting help.

People will judge you negatively if you continue to use, but not for deciding to try again at sobriety.

Going back to treatment doesn’t make you weak; it makes you brave. It’s doing something even though it’s scary.

We all love a story of redemption. And that’s what getting sober is after repeated attempts. Some of the most inspiring stories are from people who took many times to conquer addiction finally.

Yes, You Should go Back to Treatment

Substance use disorder is a chronic disease.

Would you question if someone should get treatment for cancer that returned? Of course not. Unfortunately, the stigma around substance use disorder leads to this kind of thinking.

No matter how many times you’ve been to treatment, it’s always worth trying again.




MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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David Pate

David Pate

MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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