For decades, 30 days has been thought of as a magical length of time for individuals to be in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. Many programs today are still 30 days long, but this is not always the best length of time for a rehab program. When we look at the rehabilitation process and the changes that occur in the addict’s mind, body, and spirit, we begin to understand how the length of treatment really should be determined.
Acute Adjustment: 30-45 Days
30-day programs are still the norm, and the main reason is 30 days is the maximum that insurance companies typically like to cover. This is because when someone is abusing their mind with substances, it takes time for the substances to exit the brain. The brain needs time away from toxins to perform some acute repairs which allow the individual to start to think and feel normally. This acute adjustment takes about 30-45 days.
While it is true that some people can recover in less than 30 days – for example someone who hasn’t been using drugs for long – without a doubt, the longer the drug treatment, the better the results will be. Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio states it simply, “Too much risk exists when you error on the side of under-treating, and no risk if you error on the side of over-treating.” Dr. Benzio continues, “The longer you are able to stay in rehab, you will experience more healing, treatment, and the opportunity to practice new skills, giving you a higher probability of enjoying a lasting transformation.” Simply detoxing from a substance is the shortest and only the first of many steps in the recovery and transformation process.
Physical Healing: 30-90 Days
In order to physically recover from an addiction, the body needs time to heal. When a person is using alcohol or drugs regularly, on top of the regular exposure to the toxic substance they are using, they are abusing their body with poor nutrition, chaotic sleep patterns, and no exercise. It is important to help the person get back to basics of good hydration and healthy nutrition getting to the brain and the rest of the body. For any transformation to occur, the brain has to be rested and working well. Just allowing the body and brain to start to incorporate these raw materials into the complex enzymes, cell parts, and brain transmitters, takes 30-90 days. Therefore, a program that only lasts 30 days will miss some of that vital healing which typically happens closer to 90 days.
Psychological Healing: 90+ Days
The harder part of recovery, and the part that takes even longer, is the psychological healing that must take place. In the beginning of addiction treatment, usually in the first 15 days, people’s minds and bodies are starting to work properly. During the next 15 -20 days, they are starting to learn important principles to help them understand how they got in this situation and what they can do to start digging out. But most of that is just knowledge and not actual skill, because developing skills takes time to undo the old dysfunctional “skills” and practice new skills, over and over.
Without truly developing skills for a healthy life, recovery is not complete. It’s like going to a lecture on biology but not being in the lab to dissect an animal, or having a lecture on football but never going to the gym to work out your body or the practice field to put the new information into action. After learning new information intellectually, days 30-90 are really about implementing and practicing the new skills that the intellectual information is about. During days 30-90, and even longer, the person will spend time developing their skills and preparing for their return to real life, so they can remain sober and avoid relapse. If the person can stay in residential treatment for longer than 30 days, they will be better equipped when they re-enter society to live a sober life.
When a person is using drugs, those substances have become an idol, making demands on the individual and directing their life. God has been pushed away. Thankfully, God continues to pursue us, regardless of how many times we reject Him and try life on our own without Him. But just like the father embraced the Prodigal Son, God wants to forgive and love you. Because addictions bring so much shame and guilt, it often takes time to get honest with God and either build for the first time, or re-build, our relationship with Him.
God’s divine power as the Great Physician is necessary for our deepest inner healing to come about. As we humble ourselves to His instruction manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (Best Instruction Book for Living Everyday), and use this as the foundation of our psychological healing and skill development, freedom, joy, and peace will be abundantly available to us. Connecting with God and getting immersed in and practicing His ways takes 45-90 days to really get a rock solid foundation and not be building our life on the sand.
Recovery Should Not Be Rushed
We all have busy schedules, and many people feel that because of kids or work they cannot commit to 30 days or longer for residential treatment. Some facilities promote a quick 5-7 days of detox, and then send the person on their way, hoping they can stay sober. But these programs don’t do anything to help the person heal the issues behind their addiction or provide tools to manage triggers and prevent relapse. If the person can find a way to commit to 30 days of residential treatment, this is much better than outpatient or a quick detox program.
In the end, it is the program that is important, and the person’s ability to incorporate what they have learned into sustaining their recovery. This takes time, and many people aren’t completely ready to leave treatment for a year or longer. Dr. Benzio stresses that long term care in the form of support groups, a Christian discipleship program, individual and family therapy, possibly psychiatric medications, and participation in a church group will help the person continue to grow and heal. He advises, “Regardless of how long the initial residential treatment situation is, this is just the first part of an ongoing treatment process that is lifelong. This long term healing promotes self-assessment, using strengths well, improving weaknesses, celebrating successes, and taking responsibility for and correcting mistakes.”
Building Your Life
Dr. Benzio says the best analogy is that of your life being a very tall building. But over time, your building is leaning. As an addict, your building is leaning so much it is ready to collapse. Most addicts try to change the 8th floor curtains, or the 5th floor cabinets, but none of that really works because the foundation has huge cracks, endangering the success and potential of the building and causing it to crumble.
Just like a real life foundation takes effort, expense, and time, fixing the foundation of your life takes time, effort, and has a cost. The residential rehab is the time to get the proper physical tools, including brain chemistry, God, and the Bible, to rebuild the foundation. Then you are able to start to learn how to use them to identify and fill in the cracks. The skills are practiced over and over to form a strong, stable foundation for you to start building the rest of your life on. Then when you are discharged you will have a rock-solid foundation in place. You will have the skills to rebuild a new building that will stand up straight and can withstand storms and turbulence: to be a bright LIGHTHOUSE!
Lighthouse Network gives clients options for drug and alcohol treatment programs that are based on the client’s needs and goals. If you or a loved one is in need of addiction treatment and are looking for an effective inpatient program, contact us at 844-LifeChange (543-3242) today. Our Lighthouse Network care guides will help you find the program that will help you do the foundation work on which to re-build a successful transformation.