Tips from an Insider: Getting the Best out of Rehab


Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

One of the hardest pit stops on the journey to sobriety for me was gaining the courage to sign into a rehabilitation center. Although this may be the hardest thing you’ll have to bring yourself to do, if you’re ready, it is a very crucial and beneficial step in your recovery.

Understanding Why You Need Rehab

The number one reason that most people fail in their attempts to get sober is that they try quitting when they are not yet ready to quit. When I went to rehab, it was not because I wanted to go, but because my family had intervened and given me an ultimatum: Go to rehab and get sober or lose all contact with family and loved ones. That ultimatum was a wake-up call for me–it made me realize I was ready to quit using. Even if you’re ready, it’s hard to bring yourself to ask for help, but it is a humbling and helpful step in your recovery. If you still remain unsure about taking that first step to rehab, research different types of rehab programs out there–while they might be similar, some offer different types of therapy that may interest you more than others.

Making Friends in Rehab

Making friends in rehab can be quite tricky, and so is dating while both people are in recovery. Forming bonds with people in the program who come from your geographical area can be extremely advantageous, especially if you’re someone who would appreciate a friend accompanying you to sober recovery meetings. Being willing to share insecurities with someone who shares common interests with you is a lot easier than people you may never see again. As long as you keep your mind focused on sobriety, you will attract others with the same goals. It is important to be aware of and wary of those types of people who are not in rehab to get sober, and are only interested in glorifying their past drug use and talking about how great getting high was–you will likely meet those types in rehab. Don’t worry: One conversation with a person who’s simply there for someone else’s sake will be easy to sniff out and even easier to walk away from.

Accepting All Possible Solutions

Let’s face it: When you’ve finally dried yourself out and are slowly recovering from a week of detoxing, the ugly truths of getting sober and rehab slowly begin to become apparent. This does not stop at rehab, in fact, making amends comes much later, so don’t sweat the small stuff too much during your stay in rehab. Your brain may be flooded with apologies you want to make and people you’d like to repay, but you don’t have to address all that at the beginning. Just take it one day at a time. The employees at a rehab center do keep a certain emotional detachment, but it is only so they can assist everyone with as many possible solutions to help as they can. Some of the suggestions they make to you may sound silly, like yoga or taking up drawing classes, but it is important to stay open minded about the possibilities. Our own choices and decisions are what landed us in the cycle of addiction and in rehab! Suggestions that seem to be out of your comfort zone may turn out to be an exceptional hobby that helps you to stay sober.

Taking a Break From Reality

The stay at the rehab center is only temporary, of course, along with the withdrawals. Going through withdrawals, for lack of a better word, sucks. There isn’t a whole lot they can do for you to diminish the discomfort of withdrawal and, depending on what sort of rehab center you attend, medication may not be an option for you. Just remember, the detox is necessary for your body to recover from addiction. It has withstood months–for some, years–of wear and tear from drug use. Detoxification is a scary but necessary evil for your body to have a fighting chance in recuperating from all of the damage you have done to it. Once the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, it’s easy to instantly think you are ready to be out in the world and seeing your family, but you’re not! Take a few deep breaths, and remember you will be back in the world soon enough, so enjoy your time in rehab. Everyone around you in rehab understands your world needed to stop in order for it to continue, so relax and study the paperwork you’re given, read the big book and enjoy a break from all the aspects of life that can be so overwhelming for everybody.

Rehabilitation centers are wonderful establishments and were created in the best interests of people who need tools and support to help them get sober. Before you decide to sign yourself into rehab, remember all the positive assets that they can equip you with. Many people attend rehab for the wrong reasons and do not take all that they have to offer seriously. The staff in a rehab center can give you the tools to get sober but you must carry and use them on your own.


Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Some Signs You May Need Rehab


Are There Signs That Rehab Is the Right Decision?

Are There Signs That Rehab Is the Right Decision?

Most addicts will enter treatment on the heels of a crisis situation. For some, this will be personal. For others, it will be legal or financial. And some people have health crises that motivate them to get help in quitting their addictions. While most addicts believe these are reasons for using or drinking more, they are really outcomes of the behaviors of addiction.

Signs You Might Need Rehab

Those who are ready to stop the cycle of dependence, abuse and addiction frequently go into treatment or rehab. One indicator or sign that you might need rehab could be that you are having trouble at work or home because substance abuse is interfering with these relationships. Your troubles at work or home may manifest as chronic lateness to work, important appointments, and personal engagements or just skipping out on any of these altogether.

Other signs you may need rehab include:

  • being hungover or high at work or during important family occasions
  • saying or doing inappropriate things during these events
  • co-workers, boss or family members telling you that you are drinking/using too much

Perhaps there have been legal consequences, such as getting DUI or Reckless Driving tickets, missed court appointments, or failure to pay fines, alimony or child support

Financial signs that you need rehab might include things like spending so much on partying that there is not enough money to pay rent, car payments, utilities or food.

Health issues are another common area of recognition that drugs and alcohol are a problem. If any of these are happening for you, perhaps you might consider a rehab situation.

Stumbling Towards Rehab

Most addicts will maintain their conviction that they can control the situation by stopping, slowing down or otherwise controlling their use. This is certainly the way the addicted mind works. After numerous failed attempts to quit, addicts will most often remain convinced that they are “just fine, thank you.” One of the most difficult things to do that will occur in the life of an addict will be when they finally reach the point where they will actively ask for and accept help from outside sources. At that point, they may have already paid a very high price for their addiction. Some addicts have lost jobs, significant relationships, custody and visitation rights with children, their health may be seriously compromised, and jail may be a real possibility.

When Rehab Makes Sense

Rehab makes sense for most people, because an addict has created a structure in their life that supports their use and abuse of substances. Therefore, an interruption in that structure or routine may be the necessary tool that allows them to make the behavior changes and alter the mindset of active addiction. This can be done in 30, 60 or 90 day programs. Some rehab centers offer either residential or out-patient programs to allow for other responsibilities to be maintained. While it may be a hardship for the addict to seek and receive treatment, it is usually the best route to halt the ongoing cycle of abuse and dependence.

Rehab: The Road to Recovery

Relapse will likely be a part of early recovery for most addicts. This is like learning to ride a bicycle. While some riders will be very cautious and not fall off the bike, most will have a crash or two while they are developing skills for staying upright and riding easily. Family and friends who understand recovery are helpful, but most often they have been so negatively impacted by the addict’s behavior that they are not able to be supportive. Most of time, family members have their own feelings and issues around the addiction as well. Family programs are very useful for those who have an addict in early recovery. Knowing how and when to provide support and when to stand firm are difficult navigating tools family members need to learn. Ongoing support for early recovery is essential for addiction treatment. Those who know and understand both the addiction and the recovery processes are your best bet when you are looking for help with getting treatment for a possible addiction.


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Life on the Outside, Blog 8


family-sillhouetteSince leaving Axis, I’ve had good days and bad days, fluctuations which I’ve now learned to accept as part of the ebb and flow of life…and my newfound recovery. In the beginning, when I left the facility, I was on a total high (no pun intended). I had all the confidence in the world I could get through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead without slipping and drinking again. I didn’t know it at the time, but they actually call that syndrome the “pink cloud”—a kind of euphoria that comes in the wake of early sobriety. Luckily, even though my pink cloud has lifted, I haven’t broken yet, but I have been tempted.

When you leave rehab you want to feel normal again, which for me meant socializing with family and friends. While Jenny is very supportive and has chosen not to drink around me (she doesn’t even keep any booze in the house anymore), I can’t really say the same for most of my old friends. It’s definitely when I’m hanging with old buddies that I find I’m faced with the most temptation. You see, most of my colleagues deal with constant stress. Not only is alcohol one way to relieve the duress, it’s also been our primary way of bonding over the years. So naturally, when I went to catch up with old my friends the other night, they ordered a round of drinks, and it quickly became clear they really didn’t get “the whole rehab thing.”

“I’m sure you can have one drink,” my friends cajoled. And for a moment there, I was tempted. Maybe I could just have one and stop? Maybe I was cured? Maybe I could drink like a gentleman after all? As these thoughts raced through my mind, thank God Jenny and Ryder popped into my head as well, reminding me about how I got into rehab in the first place. Drinking just one could open that door and take me back to the place where my addiction was in control. Where my son was scared of me and my wife couldn’t even stand to sleep in our bed. I thought of what I’d put them through and the disappointment they’d both feel if they knew I drank again. On the one hand, I don’t know if I could handle another drink; on the other, I don’t know if my family could either. The time I spent at Axis would be for nothing; my drinking could spiral out of control again and then have to start from scratch. Only this time possibly without the support of my family.

Thinking back, one drink was never enough for me. There’s a lyric from a Grateful Dead song that pretty much sums up my approach to drinking: “It takes dynamite to get me off…Too much of everything is just enough!” The only problem was, too much of everything wound up making me feel lousy. Drinking led to prescription meds, which led to more drinking, ad infinitum. I would get drunk/high and then return home in a foul mood, either angry or wanting to be alone. I learned in rehab that sometimes living in recovery means letting go of people in your life if they don’t understand or support you; relationships can change. Some might strengthen, some might break. Sitting in the restaurant with my pals the other night, I realized just how relevant that lesson was.

Returning to the table from the excursion with my racing mind, I didn’t fold to temptation. I just got up and said, “Hey guys, I gotta run—I’ll catch you later.” They ragged on me about it, but I didn’t care. I knew I had to remove myself from that situation. Instead of going straight home, I sat in my car for a while and called my sponsor. I felt weak for being tempted, but he made me realize that I had a choice and that the choice I made was spot-on. I had reached a milestone in my recovery and didn’t even know it. For a moment, I felt like I deserved an award of some kind, a medal at least. I allowed myself a smile. The fact that I’d made a choice that confirmed my commitment to living a better life was reward in itself.

From the moment I left rehab, I have been going to regular AA meetings. I welcome the reinforcement and additional support. It feels good to be around people who understand my struggle and who have words of encouragement I can relate to. It’s good to hear how others deal with temptation, and the occasional slip. It’s very valuable for me to see these “slippers” welcomed back with opens arms and to hear them express their regret for having tried once again to take control of their lives, rather than turning them over to a higher power..

Back home, I told Jenny what had happened. I thought she’d be angry that I put myself in that situation, but instead she smiled and told me how proud she was. She truly is my champion. I felt a huge burden lift off of my chest. It’s amazing how much better life can be when you’re not running around trying to hide everything from those who love you most.

To keep from falling back into my old patterns, I know it’s crucial that I use the aftercare resources given to me by Axis, including reaching out to my sponsor, attending meetings back at the facility that are geared towards alumni, and meeting with my therapist regularly.

Being around people who are drinking and using is not an environment that is set up for me to win. Who knows? Maybe after some time passes, it will be easier for me to be nonchalant about it. But right now, I don’t want to risk putting myself in that situation. I know this now. I have to continue to stay focused, and that means continuing to engage in alcohol-free activities like golf, hiking, and going to the theater/bookstore. It means spending more time with my family and friends from rehab, or friends who understand my situation. It means playing catch with Ryder, NOT playing dice with my future!

When all is said and done, I’ve had more highs than lows after getting out of rehab. Whenever I think I have to stay sober for the rest of my life, I get overwhelmed and panicky. But the cliché is true: If I take it one day at a time, it actually seems manageable. And that’s how, little by little…slowly but surely…calling upon all the gratitude, grace, and compassion I can muster…I really have gotten my life back together, and I feel happier and healthier than ever before. I’m looking forward to my future.


Blog 7: Graduation!

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Graduation! Blog 7


heart-coinHard to believe that I’m coming up on 45 days at Axis now. Looking back, it seems like a lot longer since I made that first call and spoke with Greg, the Axis admissions specialist whose own story of recovery offered the first sliver of hope I’d had in a long time. I remember him saying he’d been clean for six years and thinking at the time I’d be lucky if I could stay clean for six minutes. But here I am, nearly a month and a half clean and sober and feeling better than ever.

Not that it’s been easy. I remember sweating on the phone call, but once I got to rehab, that’s when the real hard work began. From day one, the adjustment was severe and challenging—from filling out extensive paperwork and putting all my addictive tendencies on the table, to the mental and physical hell of detox, which included body aches, chills, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, and crazy mood swings that had me questioning my sanity. Literally. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget giving up my freedom to come and go as I please, and being told when to eat and when to attend therapy sessions. More than one time, I questioned whether or not rehab was for me. But then I’d talk to my family and remember how much I had to lose if I didn’t get better. And how much I had to gain if I did. (I think my family is as big a reason as any why I agreed to stay an extra 15 days here… I couldn’t wait to see Ryder and Jenny again, but I wanted to make sure I was further along the road of recovery before going home.)

Now it’s here. My last day. It’s definitely been filled with bittersweet moments. No matter how badly I wanted to get out of here, the truth is I have come to really feel fondness for the people I’ve met. Regardless of our differences, we’ve bonded because of our addictions and have leaned on one another for support. I’ve become close to the staff at Axis too. I know I couldn’t have made as many gains as I have without the staff and all the tough but real love I received here.

During the completion ceremony I got choked up—I shouldn’t have been surprised at my rising emotion, but I was. I am so used to having a stoic veneer in my everyday life. But I was so proud that I made it through this, that I can hold my completion certificate high; it’s more than a recovery milestone, it’s a milestone in my life. Getting over an addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do—I know that now.

Everyone in our last group session coined me out. It was the perfect good-bye. They each take a coin and as they pass it around everyone says something personal about you, what you meant to them, and how you contributed to their recovery experience. Cindy, my young meth pal, and sister from another mother, said she never would’ve lasted here without my friendship and support. (Hence the aforementioned choking up.) I had no idea how much of an impact I had on my new friends and how much my devotion to my family and this program has inspired them. Inspirational sayings are also on the coin. My favorite is: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” That really hit home because it reminds me that there is still more work to be done after I leave here and I have to be up to the task.

I notice now that my graduation is also accompanied by fear. And self doubts. Will I slip back into my addiction? Can I maintain my sobriety on my own without 24-hour support? What will I do when I feel weak? Despite having great tools in place—my family’s support, AA meetings, sponsors, new friends, relapse prevention strategies, therapy, a nutritional regimen, and an exercise plan—I still wonder if I am ready to leave the safe confines of Axis and begin the next chapter of my recovery… and my life. Dillon reminds me that these doubts are normal and, in fact, healthy, because leaving rehab with too much confidence often sets someone up for failure. He’s seen it before. Bottom line is, I know I’m as ready as I ever will be. Hopeful and excited, too. As Apollo Creed said at the end of Rocky, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.” I’m determined to make this the last time I face-off with my disease—for me and my family. From now on, if troubles surface (as they always do), I will breathe, say the serenity prayer, and go to a meeting. Take that, alcoholism. Ain’t gonna be no rematch, indeed!


Blog 6: Family Support Helps

Blog 8: Life on the Outside

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Importance of Therapy, Blog 5


therapist-couchTherapy. It’s a part of every rehab experience, although I hear most don’t offer the degree or amount of hands-on, counseling care I’m receiving at Axis. I see someone twice a week here, and if the need for more shrinking arises, more shrinking will be provided. Still, I have to admit there are a few times when I just don’t feel like going. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to delve into my personal life—my desires, fears, feelings. But when I get like that, my therapist, Shay, reminds me why I’m here and stresses the positives of rehab and what I’ve achieved so far. After all, I used to cope with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings by drowning them with scotch. Today I’m learning, one day at a time, to look at these thoughts and feelings as what my pal Kenny calls, “AFGO’s” (i.e., Another F%#@ing Growth Opportunity!” (Kenny, btw, is a 19-year-old meth addict and one of my best friends here. An example of how our disease makes equals of us all, and how our shared recovery can bind people of all stripes and colors.)

Shay and I talk about coming up with a practical plan of action, one that is solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented. The best thing about this addiction recovery therapy is I’m not just spinning my wheels here; I am devising a blueprint that will reinforce my goal to remain sober after treatment. I’m also learning about my triggers—what makes me want to use—and how to handle myself when they get pushed. It’s usually when I’m super stressed—clients and pressures at work get to me. But it can also be the social times—when I’m hanging with my friends and everyone’s drinking. I don’t want to stop (I can’t) at just one or two. In the past it was an easy and fast solution to turn to alcohol and meds. But I realize now that using was just a Band-Aid. It didn’t ease my stress effectively—just alleviated it temporarily, but always with major negative long-term repercussions.

At Axis, I go twice a week to Shay for an hour. During that time I am taught communication skills and other ways to express, and handle, my stress and anxiety. I can’t wait to try them out with Jenny and Ryder. Before coming here, things were pretty bad between us—I was pretty bad. I had a short fuse and would snap over the tiniest things. I was angry, stressed, and often took that out on both of them. Ryder has looked at me in fear more than once, and that is a horrible feeling. And Jenny refused to sleep in the same room as me when we’d argue and would say I was turning into a monster. After I’d yell at them, I would feel bad, but that remorse was fleeting and I kept doing it—it’s like I couldn’t help it. (The same way I couldn’t stop the drinking even long after I knew it wasn’t working for me anymore.) But I knew that if I kept treating them this way, I would lose them. Why would they stay and take that? I don’t want my son to look at me in fear. I don’t want my wife to turn away in anger. Drugs and alcohol let me ignore their feelings and hurt, as much as it allowed me to ignore my own pain. I was numb and self-absorbed, but it’s clear to me now how much damage I caused.

My therapy at Axis has been an essential part of my recovery, and has helped me realize I not only have to stop using, I have to change my behavior. I’m just grateful that my family is still around—that it’s not too late to change. I’ve heard people say it’s never too late to change, but I have no interest in putting that theory to the test!


Blog 4: Stepping out into the Real World

Blog 6: Family Support Helps

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Stepping out into the Real World, Blog 4


tee offWell, I’ve been at Axis a little more than a week now and am happy to report it’s not the prison or grim hospital-like institution I feared. I’ve even started heading out on a few “field trips.” Yesterday we went to the driving range, which I’ve always liked to do. After making it through detox and then settling into the structured routine here, it can feel a bit odd stepping out into the “real” world. It’s like I’m exposed and everyone knows my secret: I’m a hopeless alcoholic and drug addict who’s been rejected by society. In reality, I’m sure no one is even paying attention to me; they’re all just trying to cure their slices. But I still feel self-conscious and embarrassed about being here, and also like I don’t even deserve to have fun. Dillon assures me these are all normal feelings. He suggests I “act as if” for a while—act as if I deserved to enjoy myself…as if I felt better…as if I belonged. It is taking some getting used to, but each outing—be it hiking, going to the driving range, or getting a latte at the mall—is getting easier and easier. Doing little things like that, I’m slowly beginning to suspect that I will be able to manage on my own…if I continue to use the skills Axis is teaching me.

One interesting thing happened at the driving range. It is pretty common to drink at places like this. In fact, I used to do that all the time—hit some balls with a few buddies while we downed beers. Anyway, I noticed a few guys were pretty drunk and started getting a little belligerent and loud—probably not intentionally (your hearing is impaired when under the influence). Clearly, they thought they were being hilarious, but the truth is, they were obnoxious and I actually was embarrassed for them. It made me think about when I was drunk in public. I’m sure I behaved the same way, if not worse. And, trust me, my slice wasn’t getting any better either!

One of the things I like most about getting out is staying engaged with the outside world. Going to 12-step meetings is a big help in this regard, even though I dreaded them at first. I thought I’d find a bunch of gutter-drunk pub crawlers spouting off about how their “Higher Power” had saved them from a life of sleeping in alleys and washing windows on exit ramps. Boy, was I wrong! Just as my preconceptions about the people I’d find in rehab were completely off base, so too was my prejudice about AA. Everyone was there, all types, from businessmen and housewives to carpenters and tattooed bikers (and, by the way, a few “gutter drunks” as well whose insights about the nature of their disease were as profound as anything else I hear at these meetings). I shared for the first time the other day and, though I was nervous at first, I wound up feeling a great sense of relief and connection when I was done. These meetings have become a big part of my recovery, and I hope they will continue to be for a long time to come—if I’m smart enough to keep putting my sobriety first.

I feel like I need to develop these real-world muscles to be ready for when I am back out there on my own. But for now, I find comfort in being here. Although I really miss Jenny and Ryder, I’m actually grateful for the break from life. My job is so stressful and time consuming that I never have time to relax and do things I enjoy like swimming and golf. And who knew I would like yoga and guided meditation? My East Coast pals are gonna make jokes about me turning into a California cliché, but I don’t care. I’d rather be a happy cliché than a miserable renegade. Like everyone here—like everyone everywhere, even the healthiest, most evolved people I know—I have bad days and sometimes don’t want to do anything. But that’s ok too; the staff at Axis encourages participation, but they never force the issue.

My personal time continues to be limited. I only have two hours a day, sometimes more during the weekend, for free time. Having alone time is awesome but it leaves me with my own dark thoughts. My “ruminations,” Jenny used to say. What am I doing with my life? How did I get here? Am I ever going to get better? Thank God whenever I have mental setbacks and contemplate how great it would be to have a drink, there is always someone close by I can speak with. Talking to Jenny and Ryder every day and being able to see them regularly also keeps me focused and motivated. My wife told me she is proud of what I have accomplished so far and can hear the change in me over the phone. Hearing the hope in her voice gives me hope of my own: for my sobriety, for my family, and for our future (and even for my golf game)!


Blog 3: Mingling with Others

Blog 5: Stepping out into the Real World

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Disclaimer: This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

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