Rehab saves lives. There’s no disputing that. With the opioid crisis catapulting addiction into the national limelight, there has been a much-needed push for Americans to accept addiction as a disease. But the promise of treatment presents a mixed blessing. While therapy and MAT offer solutions to sobriety, treatment centers also provide a relapse safety net (read: trap). People get comfortable with relapse because they “can always just go back to treatment.” But by viewing rehab as a revolving door, recovering addicts risk falling into the treatment center cycle.
Treatment Center Cycle
It’s comforting to think that addicts just need to accept the need to get help. As if that willingness by itself were enough to shift an otherwise abject life trajectory.
“Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful!” The Big Book, 4th Edition, Page 58
Whether it’s alcohol or a narcotic, the disease of addiction remains “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” That tagline attempts to explain the self-sabotaging phenomenon of relapse. Unfortunately, the initial desire to get sober doesn’t necessarily translate to staying sober once you leave treatment. That’s contingent on something deeper.
The Open-Door Paradox
Although the level of treatment may change, an ultimate truth remains: by definition, treatment centers welcome addicts who need help with their addiction. That usually includes people who have been to treatment before. This should be a good thing, right?
But relapse is tricky. It would be unusual for an addict in recovery to not have thoughts of it. To address that truth, a big part of treatment is geared toward relapse prevention. WRAP therapy in particular plans an active route to build sober habits.
Unfortunately, stumbles happen. Relapse works itself into the corners of our minds. The idea festers for days, weeks, even years to embolden our doubts and eventually sabotage our earnest efforts. And the availability of the very treatment centers that teach relapse prevention ultimately become release traps themselves. The open-door paradox comes into play when an addict gives himself permission to relapse because, well… I can always just go back to treatment, right? And so the wheel turns.
Stopping the Treatment Center Cycle
With the availability of rehab today, the treatment center cycle has become a real danger to many addicts in the recovery community. This is especially true for geographical areas saturated with recovery programs such as southern California and Florida. When people bring nonchalant attitudes towards relapse into group therapy, it negatively impacts the whole group. And so toxic attitudes proliferate. The resulting revolving-door culture can significantly impact long term sobriety.
But the cycle doesn’t have to go on forever. Most rehab facility staff will quash negative attitudes when brought up blatantly in group. It’s their job, after all. But staff members can’t be everywhere all the time. If you notice toxic attitudes begin to fester, it’s best to bring it up with staff privately. Addiction counselors are trained to maintain confidentiality in these situations. They’ll address the issue privately so everyone in group can keep their eyes forward and avoid the treatment center cycle.
Of course, your individual attitude toward recovery makes the most difference. Taking treatment seriously helps build up your sobriety toolkit with useful strategies like structuring activities of daily living, crisis planning, and cognitive behavioral therapy. If you or a loved one is seeking help for addiction, our admissions counselors are available 24/7 by phone: (833) 433-0448