Rehab requires a considerable investment of your time, money, and energy, and it’s completely natural to consider whether or not recovery is possible without it. Some people are concerned that a treatment center’s approach may not make sense to them, while others may wonder if their circumstances require rehab at all.
The short answer is, it is possible to get sober without going to rehab, and many people do. But is being sober enough to ensure a vibrant and connected life?
While recovery paths like AA and self-help do work for some, others may spend years in various types of therapy without making the kind of life change they deeply desire. If you’re wondering whether or not you need rehab, a question you might as yourself is:
Do you just want to be sober, or do you want to dig deeper, change your patterns, and create a whole new life for yourself?
As we’ll see, there’s a difference between being sober and being recovered. Let’s take a closer look at how spontaneous sobriety works, why some people have doubts about rehab, and why, in some cases, residential alcohol treatment may be a good idea.
Some People do Get Sober Without Rehab
According to the most recent National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, up to 75% of those surveyed said they recovered without ever attending an alcohol addiction treatment program. However, the criteria for recovery, in this case, was simply that participants were no longer drinking at high-risk levels, and didn’t measure their emotional health or quality of life.
There’s an entire school of recovery thinking based on the idea of “spontaneous sobriety:” recovery from alcohol addiction without any kind of formal therapy. This is based on the idea that do-it-yourself alcohol addiction recovery is statistically more successful than AA. Spontaneous sobriety is usually achieved by people who may not even identify their drinking behavior as an addiction, but decide to stop because they’re unhappy with its effects on their life.
The Decision to Stop Drinking Looks Different for Everyone
“I didn’t identify as having a ‘drinking problem,’” said lifestyle blogger Amanda Kuda. “though… that doesn’t mean my drinking wasn’t a problem.”
She describes her relationship with alcohol as something that ultimately took away from the meaning in her life: “There was a big part of me that thought I deserved and needed to drink in order to relax. But there was a bigger part of me that wanted to feel happy, joyful, vibrant, inspired, energized, motivated, fulfilled. Once I realized that alcohol was not only failing to contribute to those feelings but was actually dragging me further and further away from them, I no longer wanted to drink.”
Another person who spontaneously recovered, mother of three Kate Rusciano, recalls her decision to stop drinking this way: “Instead of willpower… I had the blessing and the advantage of fundamentally changed core beliefs about drinking. I no longer believed that I was enjoying it. And I no longer believed that I needed a drink in my hand to be witty, sparkly, likable, and comfortable… And anyway, it was making me the opposite of all that. Drinking was making me feel bored and boring, tired, and old.”
Why Some People Are Apprehensive About Rehab
Rehab is a big step, and many people understandably have some reservations around it. These might include:
1. They Don’t Identify as an Alcoholic
Unfortunately, alcoholism still carries a certain stigma – and a certain stereotype. Most people have a mental image of what an “alcoholic” looks like, and it may not resemble their life at all. But the truth is that alcohol addiction has more to do with the behaviors and consequences it creates than the alcohol itself.
In reality, a lot of people who drink at high-risk levels are able to raise kids, keep their jobs, and otherwise live what appears to be a very successful life. Add to this the fact that drinking is widely socially acceptable, and it can be very hard to see how much alcohol is actually affecting you.
Howard B. Moss, M.D., NIAAA Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research, points out that new research defies the typical alcoholic stereotype. “We find that young adults comprise the largest group of alcoholics in this country, and nearly 20 percent of alcoholics are highly functional and well-educated with good incomes. More than half of the alcoholics in the United States have no multigenerational family history of the disease, suggesting that their form of alcoholism was unlikely to have genetic causes.”
What determines whether or not alcohol is a problem for you isn’t how you look to the outside world, but how you feel on the inside. Is your drinking a coping strategy? And if so, what are you using it to cope with?
2. They’re Concerned About Alcohol Withdrawals
If you’ve been drinking heavily over a long period of time, you may need to detox from alcohol before beginning treatment at a rehab center. You may have even tried to stop drinking before and found your withdrawal symptoms so distressing that you started drinking again to stop them. If this is the case for you, you’re not alone: alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the most common reason people relapse when attempting to quit on their own. It’s also a valid concern, as severe alcohol withdrawals can be dangerous.
The good news is that plenty of detox facilities are completely capable of helping you rid your body of alcohol safely, and the process typically takes no more than a week. During medically supervised detox, you’ll be monitored around the clock by treatment professionals who can help you manage symptoms and provide surrounding support. At The Sanctuary, we help our clients get into detox at a partnered facility in Sedona, and arrange transportation to our campus directly afterward.
3. They Feel Rehab is Just not for Them
You may have certain preconceived notions about what rehab will be like, based on your prior experience or knowledge of what’s available. This might look something like:
- Being labeled as bad or defective
- Having to follow strict rules
- Being treated like someone who’s incapable of managing themselves
- Living a life focused on abstinence: not doing something you once enjoyed
While these scenarios are often played out in the mainstream approach to treating alcohol addiction, the reality is that there’s a diverse array of treatment options out there. If you’ve been to 12-Step meetings before and felt that they weren’t for you, that’s okay. There’s no rule that says you have to get it right the first time. What’s important is that you keep taking steps toward recovery.
At The Sanctuary, we believe everyone should have agency in their own recovery process. This means:
- Our team treats you with trust and respect
- We empower you to own your healing journey
- The focus is on making sure you get the most out of your time with us
- You don’t just passively receive therapy; you co-create your discoveries
Our definition of success isn’t simply sobriety. It’s creating a life for yourself that’s fun, passionate, and exciting. And once you heal the patterns of fear and hurt that have kept you stuck in alcohol addiction, you’re free to do exactly that.
How Rehab Can be More Effective Than Going it Alone
Alcohol addiction, at its core, is usually the result of some form of unresolved trauma. And when you use alcohol to cope with the effects of that trauma over time, your brain essentially rewires itself to depend on alcohol for survival. That’s why quitting drinking isn’t just a matter of willpower. And it’s why chances are you’ll be more successful when you have a supportive environment and comprehensive program working in your favor.
Here’s why some people find rehab useful in their struggle with alcohol addiction:
An Immersive, Substance-free Environment
The all-encompassing setting that rehab provides does a few things:
- It allows your nervous system to calm down. When you’re in survival mode, it’s impossible to create or make a change. Relaxing your body and mind allows you to dive deeper into the issues at the root of your addiction.
- It decreases the chance that you’ll relapse when things get hard and ensures you have skilled support during these times.
- It supports your entire system to hold the changes you’re going through. At The Sanctuary, our natural surroundings, restorative nutrition program, and complementary therapies are all designed to support you during this intensive process.
Healing the Body and Brain From Alcohol Abuse
Addiction becomes conditioned in the body and mind, and healing from it requires us to change the way we eat, think, and feel. Fortunately, recent breakthroughs in science prove that we have a greater ability to do this than previously thought. It’s entirely possible to grow new brain pathways and networks that don’t include addiction. At The Sanctuary, we use the latest understanding of the gut-brain connection to achieve this.
New research shows that inflammation underlies all mental health conditions, including alcoholism. And diet plays a major role in this pattern of cause and effect. Alcohol cravings, for example, are largely due to the microorganisms in your gut demanding their usual food: the sugar provided by the alcohol you consume. All of this means we have a huge opportunity to change how well we are, simply by changing our diet.
Our alcohol addiction program pays specific attention to your nutrition and is informed by the most renowned researchers in this field. We hold weekly nutrition classes to educate you on the science behind the changes you’re going through on a cellular level. You’ll meet regularly with a functional medicine doctor who will prescribe a supplement regimen specific to your needs. And our nutritionist will give you practical advice for maintaining a brain-healthy diet when you return home.
Completeness and Continuity
Many clients who were successful at The Sanctuary came to us after years of doing their own therapeutic work. Any form of healing can be helpful. But if it’s not tied together in a comprehensive way, it can be hard to gain real traction. You may have tried different types of healing modalities and had breakthroughs here and there, but found that ultimately, their effect didn’t last. And if that’s true for you, it may be that you need a deeper level of change.
“Many ‘sober’ alcoholics who are not in ‘recovery’ will experience a transfer of addictions that could involve a new addiction to food, sex, shopping, romantic relationships, etc. because they have not found a healthy way to fill the void that alcohol had satisfied,” says Sarah Benton, author of the book Understanding the High-functioning Alcoholic. “They may have stopped drinking, but their life may be exactly the same. (This leads) them to be jealous of others who are drinking or to struggle with emotional or mental health issues.”
Sometimes when an experience makes us feel better, we take this as a sign that our work is done. But residential rehab gives you an opportunity to truly see the experience through. Changing lifelong patterns takes considerable work. And committing to focus entirely on that work is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Non-12-Step Alcohol Rehab at The Sanctuary: A Journey All Your Own
Sure, you can stop drinking without rehab. But the real question is: can you really resolve the issues that caused your addiction in the first place?
Our holistic alcohol rehab center provides an opportunity to make a fundamental shift in your way of being. And that allows you to truly transform your life. Rehab doesn’t have to consist of giving your power away or following rules that you don’t believe in. This journey is challenging, but it can also be the most profound experience of your life. And you can have fun along the way.
Our admissions coordinator is available to personally guide you through the first step of your recovery: showing up. Contact us today to learn more.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona. He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]