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Many of us in recovery can tell you from experience that trying to get sober on your own rarely works. In fact, many of us tried this before we finally turned to some kind of help. When I was first thinking about getting sober I tried only going to AA meetings. When this didn’t work for me I tried going to only therapy. When I failed again, I finally realized that I needed more help and support. I checked myself into inpatient treatment where I went to regular recovery meetings, had individual and group therapy, and the support of so many people around me. My recovery started working when I became willing to get help from other people. Getting support didn’t mean that I was too weak to do it on my own. It just meant that I realized I didn’t need to make things harder on myself.
1. Longer Programs Produce Better Results
One big reason not to go at it on your own is that the longer someone stays in treatment the more positive the results. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends a program of at least 90 days of inpatient treatment. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles in inpatient treatment is people dropping out. People who chose to stay in these programs and stay longer often do better than people who leave or go to a shorter program. Psychological research has supported this claim. A 2006 study by Moos & Moos found that those who got help were more likely than those who didn’t to stay sober for at least three years.
2. Addiction Treatment Requires Follow Up
According to the National Institute of Heath, treatment for addiction requires continual follow up and monitoring. This is true of any chronic disorder or disease. For example, if you were suffering from diabetes you might need to be hospitalized and work closely with a doctor until everything stabilized. After that you might step down to regular check ins with the doctor and monitoring your own blood sugar. The same kind of care is needed for addiction. Going to inpatient treatment then following a step down program like intensive outpatient and sober living allows people to have more follow up support in recovery. Follow up like this gives people a big network of people to reach out to when they need help or aren’t doing well.
3. Different Things Work for Different People
Another reason to get support in your early recovery is that different things work for different people. Maybe you know someone who is sober and know what they did in order to start their recovery. The problem is that what works for one person won’t work for everyone. Addiction, treatment, and recovery are not one size fits all. The 1998 MATCH study found that recovery rates depended on matching personal characteristics with the correct type of recovery program for them. In some cases this meant an emphasis on 12 step treatment but for others it meant cognitive behavioral therapy. Although this research is a little dated, the findings still hold true. When finding help for addiction it is important to find the right kind of help. Rather than going it on your own it can be important to reach out to someone who can help you find the right kind of facility or program for you.
4. More is Better
Another reason to get support in your recovery is that doing different recovery activities has an additive effect according to research by Hillhouse, PhD. This means that treatment plus a twelve step program is better than just treatment on its own. Rather than trying to recover from drug an alcohol addiction with self-help books, it is better to do everything that you can. Going to treatment or only attending only AA meetings might work for some people but for most people it is better to do more. This is also a great reason to check out more than one step-based recovery program, have individual and group therapy, and to have a sponsor and a therapist. All of these different recovery activities will help with something different, so do as many as you’re able to!
5. Recovery is More than Abstinence
It is true that recovery often begins with abstinence from drugs, alcohol, or process addictions. However, recovery is much more than abstinence. According to the NIH effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just substance use. It might be possible to stop drinking or doing drugs on your own. However, it is much harder to deal with the underlying causes of the addiction without any help. The reason that so many people turn to professionals for help is that they can treat the root of the problem. Often drug and alcohol abuse is a symptoms of an underlying issue that is unresolved. By getting support you can get help staying clean and feeling better as well.
6. Self-Detox can be Dangerous
This is a huge reason to get support in your recovery. It can be risky and even life threatening to stop taking drugs or alcohol without assistance. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has published research that withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines has caused death in some patients. Klonopin withdrawal, for example, may cause seizures, high blood pressure, and suicidal ideations. Due to the dangers of self-detox it is recommended that people who are trying to come off of drugs or alcohol get help doing so.
7. Medication Might be Necessary
Aside from a medically assisted detox, some people need medication throughout recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration favors what is called medication-assisted treatment. This might not be necessary for all people but some do require medication. For example, during treatment someone might discover that they have an underlying depression or anxiety disorder. If this is the case the treatment plan might include medication. It is very hard if not impossible to get the proper medication if you do not have support from a doctor in your recovery.
8. You’ll Get Help in Other Areas
My final reason to reach out for support is that most treatment programs will help you find a job, go back to school, and find housing when you’re ready. Perhaps you can find a reputable sober companion to work with. As I have said more than once in this post, recovery is about more than just not drinking and using. Having this help to find work or pursue your passion can be incredibly helpful when you are going through a period of change. When you try to get sober by yourself there is no one there to help you navigate these life changes.