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Going to Treatment VS Starting on Your Own

July 01, 2022

The decision to finally get sober usually does not come about during a particular stable point in someone’s life. The lead-up to this decision is usually when relationships are strained, legal consequences may have to be dealt with, and financial ruin may be imminent. You may or may not be facing the prospect of dealing with withdrawals and there is a tremendous amount of fear regarding what the future holds. Adding to this confusion is the question that many of us addicts and alcoholics face, should I go to treatment to get sober or just go directly to a 12-step program?

This is not always an easy question to answer, and I know this from first-hand experience. On the one hand, I knew that the solutions that I needed to finally get sober could only be found through the 12 steps, but I wasn’t sure if just going to a 12-step program was going to be enough for me to finally get sober. On the one hand, I desperately needed a place where I could feel safe and focus solely on myself, but on the other hand, going to treatment for a month or two meant that the cat would be out of the bag and people would finally know about my alcoholism. In the end, I chose to go to treatment and I am forever grateful for that decision, but this decision may not be right for everyone. So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of going to treatment versus getting sober directly to a 12-step program.

Going to Treatment

One of the most important things that I looked at when thinking about whether or not I needed to seek treatment or whether I could just attempt to get sober on my own was the type of substances that I was using. Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause serious bodily injury or even death. Since I was abusing alcohol, opiates, and Adderall I knew that it was best for me to seek a medically supervised detox. Besides the fear of what the withdrawal from these substances could do to me, I also knew that attempting to get off these substances on my own would probably result in my failure. I had tried so many times before to just stop and I was usually only able to make it a couple of days before I wound up using again to stop the withdrawals and the constant psychological pain that I was experiencing. Knowing this I decided that going to detox would give me the best possibility for change, and though I was terrified of this prospect, I knew it was necessary.

Another factor that I looked out in my decision to seek treatment when I was attempting to get sober, was that I knew that even if I was able to make it through the withdrawal symptoms successfully, I didn’t have the supports in place in my life to maintain sobriety. In the past when I had stayed sober for a bit, the stressors of my life always seemed to crumble me. I knew that for me to really have a shot at getting sober this time I needed to put my recovery first and put a halt to everything else. This meant that for the time being I had to leave behind my life, which included my child and this was not an easy decision, and go somewhere where I could focus solely on my recovery and myself. If I had been given the opportunity to spend 6 months in inpatient treatment I do not know if I would have been able to recover. These 6 months really allowed me the space I needed to heal and in doing so I was then able to return back to my life healthy and whole.

For myself, the safety that treatment afforded me cannot be overstated. In reality majority of the healing and recovery that I acquired was because of AA, but the treatment gave me a safe place in which I could find AA and really work the program. Without the treatment center that I went to and all of the people I was introduced to because of it, my life would not look the way it looks today.

Going directly to a 12-step program

While my story is one where I went to treatment and was then introduced to AA, not everyone experiences the same thing or has the same luxury. Some do not go to treatment because they cannot afford it and do not have health insurance that will cover their treatment. For these people, their only real option is to just go to AA or NA and while this may seem like a disadvantage I know of several people who simply got sober by walking into an AA or NA meeting one day and then never turned back.

I always felt that getting sober this way must be pretty difficult, as the people have to deal with their withdrawal symptoms and the uncomfortability of early sobriety all while dealing with the daily stressors of their lives, but it is definitely doable. It just means that they have to throw themselves all that much further into the program in the beginning.

For those attempting to get sober this way, if they are not currently employed, it is suggested that they go to as many meetings a day as possible. This may mean just staying at their local 12-step clubhouse from open to close, which offers the same safety that going to treatment can offer.

So if you are currently on the fence as to whether you need to go to treatment or whether you can stop drinking or drugging by simply attending 12-step meetings, remember to truly think about what your needs are, and what will give you the best possibility for sustained sobriety. If the answer is treatment then go to treatment. If the answer is not going to treatment then go to a meeting today. Getting sober can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be impossible, so be honest with yourself, as I was, and a new happy sober life will be your reality.