Some Thoughts on Rehab

In the November 5th edition of the Reno News and Review, Bruce van Dyke, in his column Notes From Neon Babylon, mentioned some stuff that got me to thinkin’  Here are some thoughts on the value of “rehab” and the availability of treatment in the 60s and 70s.

The 1960s and 70s were times of increasing experimentation with psychoactive substances as well as development of philosophies as to how to help the few whose lives had deteriorated due to that alcohol and drug use. When the American Medical Association stated that alcoholism was a treatable disease in 1956 many people sought ways to provide that treatment. Some, no doubt, were less than honest hustlers while many others were just trying to help the long suffering alcohol/addict.

rehabWell respected treatment approaches, such as the Minnesota Model, used by Hazelden and other providers expanded in the 1960s and led the way for recovery for thousands during the decades that followed.

Hustlers and profiteers have also existed in the treatment field for as long as there have been problem drinkers. Fraudulent “cure-all” medications (most of which actually contained alcohol) and miraculously transformative inebriate homes and spas have existed since the 19th century. Real, effective treatment is the result of an individual doing the actual work to get better and can require one taking an honest look at their life and behaviors. The well managed rehab creates an environment where healing happens through support, direction and caring counseling.

Many folks, especially those with money, property and prestige will quickly balk at the suggestion that they must play an active role in getting better. The grifter offers a “rehab” that is just an expensive, pampered luxurious vacation delivering no actual real treatment. A well-advertised California facility currently promises a cure for addiction, at a hefty price, and allows patients to go the beach instead of attending a group or 12 Step session. It is unfortunate that these places exist.

On the other hand, there are many good people out there doing excellent work helping others recover from a seemingly hopeless condition. They work quietly and for not much money in the service of others. The helping professions are often undervalued and underappreciated. If I was looking to get rich I would certainly be doing something else for a living.

And one more point Bruce. While I am sure that some people can look in the mirror, say that it’s time to “quit drink’n” and actually accomplish that task, it is actually a lot more complicated feat for most people. The great majority of those folks having that conversation with their reflection soon find that while they use all the willpower they can muster, they quickly find themselves intoxicated yet once again. Most people try and try to quit and fail again and again. That is why the lucky ones find treatment and recovery. What is so tough to do alone, can often be accomplished with help.

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