This week marks my 12th alcohol-free week. 3 months sober! It’s still baby days, from baby steps, but it’s the most I’ve ever managed as a sober streak since joining an online community about 19 months ago and starting to blog my way sober. In that time, I had many successful sober stints, with as many day ones. The slip, slide, repeat pattern was frustrating, however, each stop-start exercise was training for the big recovery marathon to come. In every attempt I learnt something about myself and what it was going to take to live life in the sober lane.
A few months ago I added another tool to my sobriety tool box and started an Outpatient Alcohol Rehab Program, also often called IOP. Perhaps the top two lessons I’ve learnt since are that
1) connection is cure
2) AA is not an abomination.
Let me explain.
Connection is the Cure – Welcome to BOOM!
The reason blogging and commenting in my online community ( Boom Rethink the Drink) works, is because you’re joining a network, eliminating the feeling of being alone, sharing your challenges and celebrating your wins with like-minded, empathetic souls. It’s been scientifically proven that connection is an antidote to addiction, so there you have it.
I have made so many special friends on Boom, but being an extrovert, I wanted more. I longed for sober friends in my real life, ones I could look in the eye in 3D and talk to. Well, be careful what you wish for they say, because what arrived next was an opportunity for this that I had not anticipated.
Right from the start of my journey to rethink the drink, I told myself that I must make this sobriety thing stick or I’ll end up in AA, or worse, rehab. Yikes. In my mind, the shame and horror of that idea kept me moving forward with trying this and that thing to break my alcohol addiction. Of course, I didn’t quite acknowledge that I had an addiction at first, which was the real stumbling block. I called myself a ‘problem drinker’ and dabbled with sober tools, keeping my so-called cool, until my lack of permanent success led to constantly operating in crisis mode. My relationships and health were in tatters. Every morning I swore off alcohol and every evening I picked up a drink again. This could not continue.
Enter the Outpatient Alcohol rehab plan
AA is not an abomination – Welcome to IOP!
I met with my therapist, and we agreed it was time for my worst-case scenario – rehab with a serving of AA on the side, oh boy. How I had fallen! Strangely, instead of feeling like I’d fallen off the pedestal and the wagon all at once, I suddenly had renewed hope after months of desperation, that there might still be something out there that could work for me. I literally had nothing left to lose, so I set about finding a recovery programme that fitted my needs and lifestyle.
I work full time in a high-pressure job, I’m a parent and I run a busy household, so in-patient rehab was not an option for me. I could not afford the price tag or the time out, so I chose to investigate out-patient rehab (IOP). There were many online options available, but I wanted people; real, live people to be a part of it.
I eventually settled for rehab in a neighbouring community. The price tag wasn’t subtle, and it required a huge commitment, but it ticked my most ridiculous important box of not being too close to home, just in case I bumped into someone I knew. That was a bonus for me, and the price and time tag served as a motivator to jolly well just make it work.
Today it’s my first alcohol-free birthday since childhood too, and I finally have some sober momentum that’s starting to feel sticky.
I thought it therefore fitting to share seven myths about outpatient rehab with you all. So go on, go ahead and read some more, because you never know, out-patient rehab (IOP) might be for you too.
Myth 1 about outpatient alcohol rehab Debunked!
IOP is for losers
My first group meeting was hard. I was excited to meet all the new faces, but so scared of what to expect. One thing I hadn’t anticipated was having to introduce myself as an alcoholic. I thought that only happened in AA meetings in sitcoms, and not at a gentle rehab counselling session. I was wrong.
After being introduced to the group and saying a few interesting things about myself, a contract was shared with me to sign. I agreed, in writing, to keep all our conversations confidential, to always share honestly with the group and to not pick up my drug of choice (wine et al!) for a minimum of the full 90 days I would be part of the programme. Sure, I can do that, I thought. People then started to introduce themselves to me.
Hi, I’m Jim and I’m an addict.
I’m Jane, an alcoholic and an addict.
I’m Jess, a counsellor
… then oh my god, my turn.
All eyes were on me, no escape, I would have to say I’m an alcoholic. A strange voice said it, it was me and it was hard. Fortunately I didn’t have to say another word on day one with the group, unless invited to, or I really wanted to.
Throughout my first session I just listened. People shared their light moments, dark moments, laughter, and tears. The tears were tiring yet touching. I drove home exhausted and crying too, behind the steering wheel of my car.
Am I an alcoholic, I wondered? Aren’t alcoholics people who drink bottles of vodka at 7am, sleep under bridges and forget to wash for 10 days? They’re losers, right? That can’t be though, because everyone I just met is like me and pretty likeable. They’re functional, fine, fabulous even.
So, I let go of the limiting bad thoughts about the label. Alcoholic, that’s me. It then dawned on me, I know tons of alcoholics, including here on Boom, and they’re all amazing, inspiring, salt of the earth people! No losers here, no losers in rehab.
Rehab is not for losers.
Myth 2 about outpatient alcohol rehab Debunked!
IOP is a punishment
Dangling the stick and the carrot is what we all do when setting goals for ourselves. When I first started aiming to stop drinking, the stick I chased myself with was ‘you’d better get this right or you’ll end up in an institution or worse, a recovery programme, yuck’.
Well surprise, that happened anyway and it’s not the punishment I initially thought it was. It’s rewarding, it’s helpful, it’s supportive and the most bizarre discovery of all – the 12 steps I dreaded are a fantastic springboard for self-discovery, personal development, and lasting inner change. That said, I’m still only attempting step one – acceptance – and some of my recovery fellows are on like round three of the steps. It’s a game of whack-a-mole. The work never ends. (Oh man, did you see what I did there? I said fellows. AA refers to members as the fellowship. I’ve been avoiding that because it feels cult-like. Eek, onwards.)
Myth 3 about outpatient alcohol rehab Debunked!
IOP takes too much time
There’s a big time commitment, yes, but too much time? I can think of no better place to be between 5pm and 7.30pm than attending my recovery group, or a meeting in the evenings. After all, that’s the classic drinking time, the world over. I’ve spent way more time drinking on my patio than in rehab, so I definitely have the time and so do you.
There’s a saying in rehab circles that anything you put ahead of your recovery, will cost you your recovery. That one’s not a cult-like saying, it actually goes without saying and is absolutely true. I spend seven and a half hours in rehab counselling and therapy a week. It’s not much compared to in-patient rehab but it’s enough to initiate meaningful change.
Myth 4 about outpatient alcohol rehab Debunked!
IOP is too rigid and rules-based
Yes, there are rules in IOP. The main rule is ‘just don’t use’ or ‘just don’t drink’. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but that is an obvious must if you want to remain part of a worthwhile rehab programme or group. Sure, there are people who relapse, and they are welcome, provided they are continuously trying to change and are honest about what happened. There are also those who lie to themselves and the rehab group, and that can’t be tolerated. If you’re caught out, you’ll be suspended, or challenged. At least that’s what I’ve seen in my group. This is motivation enough for me to just not drink.
The accountability really works for some. For others, maybe it was not their time to quit. You have to be ready.
Don’t drink non-alcoholic beer, it can be triggering.
Don’t drink soft drinks out of a wine glass, it can be triggering.
Don’t put bitters in your tonic water or wine in your pasta sauce etc.
I ignore all of these things, perhaps to my detriment, but my sobriety is my journey and I choose the rules. I don’t have to get a sponsor if I don’t want one. I don’t have to tell everyone I’m in rehab, though being vulnerable is good for me. There are no real have-to’s in your own journey to sobriety, other than – don’t drink. Make your journey and rules your own, but please, just don’t drink.
Myth 5 about Outpatient alcohol rehab Debunked
IOP is the ultimate sober solution
Nope. There is no such thing. No magic bullets. No magic pills. No one quote, expert, method, programme, therapist or book that does the trick. Trust me, I’ve stuffed everything into my sober shopping trolley and the only thing that works in the end is a little bit of all this, and a little bit of that, PLUS a firm decision to never stop trying. Sadly, scarily, sometimes none of it works.
Rehab is not the ultimate last rung on the ladder in the sober game of snakes and ladders. Some people get swallowed whole by a snake along the way, just by unexpected chance, and they have to keep moving forward till they get to another ladder they can successfully climb.
Lots of the people in my rehab group have been to rehab before, both in and out patient. I hope like hell this is my first and last attempt. But in the end, that doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you come back and keep coming back.
– Myth 6 –
Alcoholics are not drug addicts
Notice that this myth – alcoholics are not drugs addicts- is not a myth about IOP or Outpatient rehab? It’s just a myth and it is total nonsense! Alcohol is a drug, period.
I’m not prepared to argue or give in on this one, just because alcohol is legal and more socially acceptable. The person sitting next to me who prefers cocaine, meth, opioids or prescription meds is just the same as me who likes to drink. The addiction progresses through the same mechanisms, the end goal is the same – escape. The same method for treating drug addiction works for alcohol addiction, oh and love addiction and all realms of behaviour addictions.
I feel strongly about this one because I catch myself so close to judgement so often on the drugs versus alcohol thing. The sooner we accept that wine farms are selling addictive drugs and that many addictive drugs could and maybe should be legal, the better. If you join a rehab programme of any kind, it’s likely you will encounter alcoholics, narcotics addicts, behaviour addicts and a combo of the three. We addicts are all in the same predicament. No discrimination.
Myth 7 about alcohol outpatient rehab Debunked!
In IOP You’ll lose your anonymity
Have you ever chuckled about the fact that the first thing they do at Alcoholics Anonymous is get you to say your name and admit your addiction? I know, it’s ironic. But here’s the thing. What happens at meetings (therapy, groups, rehab etc.) stays at meetings. I was so afraid of bumping into someone I might know at rehab, but then, so what? They would also want to remain anonymous, or better yet, I might just have to admit to someone in my community that I’m in rehab. Would that be so bad?
Either way, you can trust your counsellor and everyone in your group to stay mum. They are as fearful as you of being found out. They feel the same shame and also want to be confident in a quiet, agreed or unspoken confidentiality.
Your secrets are safe in rehab, and so are you.
More Thoughts from Members of our Boom Rethink the Drink Community
ON Inpatient Rehab
And on Writing Your Way Sober in an Online Community
If you’re “sober curious” …If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break… Talk to Us.
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using