Does Rehab Really Work?

When I was married to a good man suffering from this disease, I went to the bookstore on a regular basis looking for books about how to help my husband get sober. What I found was tons of stories and memoirs about brave men and women who have struggled with addiction and found a way to get sober.

But there were no stories about the women who loved them.

So late one night when I was in the bookstore, I made a promise to God that if I ever found the answers, I would spend the rest of my life teaching other women.

And that’s exactly what I have been doing for over six years.

My three online, do-at-your-own-pace programs are designed just for wives, girlfriends, and mothers who love someone who suffers from alcoholism or substance abuse.


Today we are going to talk about something a little bit different: rehabilitation.

I get asked questions like, “Does rehab really work?” and “What makes a good rehab?” all the time.

But before I tell you the top ten things you need to know about rehab, I want to share my experience with getting my ex-husband into a rehabilitation program.

I go more into detail about it in the Love Over Mistakes program, but I’ll keep this story short.

Several years ago, at one of my many trips to the bookstore, I came across a book written by a man who started his own fancy rehab center based on extensive research. His approach was dramatically different than most 12-step rehabs, and there was something very persuasive about his writing. The more I read his book, the more I was convinced that I needed to get my husband to Malibu so he could experience the breakthrough this author was promising.

I spent days dreaming of what it would be like to have him sober for good. How he would be the loving, supportive husband I always knew he could be. My children would finally get the engaged dad who was sober and loving all the time. Our vacations and holidays would not be centered around his next drink.

But there was an issue: this rehab cost $60,000. We were in our twenties at the time and coming up with that kind of money seemed impossible because we lived paycheck to paycheck.

I called our health insurance agency, and they told me they would pay for some of it. Then I called our family and my father kindly offered to take out a second mortgage on his apartment. I drained our bank account, plus his family agreed to pay a portion as well.

After a month of planning, the money was there. Now it was time to fill him in. I planned on hosting an intervention, but (since God had a better idea) the night before our intervention was going to take place, he overdosed on drugs.

I’m not sure what kind of drugs he took, but he came into my bedroom and was talking really fast and acting crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it. He had always done his drugs away from the house. It scared me to the core. I was watching a stranger in my bedroom who had absolutely no resemblance to the man I married.

I prayed that the kids would stay asleep so they would not witness his paranoid behavior and hours later he settled down.

I told him that we had planned for him to leave, take a month off of work, and attend a rehab. That everything had been taken care of for him.

I didn’t know how he would react and I was prepared for the worst. But then he looked at me and said he was tired of living like this. He agreed to go just four hours before his scheduled flight to the rehab center.


Like I said, I go more into what happened in the next month in the Love Over Mistakes program. But for now, I want to share with you the top ten tips that you will find helpful when considering rehabs. I wish I had these tips all those years ago.

He will NOT lose his job if he goes to rehab.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act guarantee that addicts and alcoholics who wish to undergo treatment for substance abuse will be given the time they need to do so by their employers and that their jobs will be saved for them while they are away. These laws do not guarantee a paycheck while they are gone. Some employers will pay a certain percentage of their paycheck, some will not.

Rehab success rates can be misleading.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the rehab community claims a 30% success rate, but they only count people who complete the programs. 70-80% have dropped out within 3-6 months. I am not sharing these numbers to discourage you or put down the rehab industry. But if you’re thinking, like I did, that just getting them to rehab will be the solution, you might need to adjust your expectations.

12-step programs are usually part of the aftercare suggestions.

Eventually, your partner will be encouraged by the rehab to attend a 12-step aftercare program. If he or she attended rehab and graduated, but doesn’t feel comfortable attending 12-step, higher-power programs on a consistent basis, they don’t have a lot of other choices for aftercare treatment other than therapy.

Many rehabs don’t follow up with alumni.

Once you graduate from the program, you’re pretty much on your own. Of the rehabs that I know of, most do a decent job of trying to suggest ways to manage your aftercare. But when you walk out those doors, it’s up to your loved one to work their own recovery.

Look for a rehab that practices EBT.

EBT stands for Evidence-Based Treatment. 12-step programs have saved many lives, but studies have shown that we need to also include a medical model for treatment. A medical model includes an assessment from a psychologist or psychiatrist who is trained in addiction medicine, an intervention, therapy, psychopharmacology (a fancy word that means medication), and an inpatient program or outpatient program that offers quality care. You can go to the American Society of Addiction Medicine for a directory.

Rehab is expensive.

Even non-profit rehabs usually cost over $20,000 for 30 days.

Recovery information you read on the internet is often published by a rehab, not a research-based institute.

If you’re on a website reading about addiction and they have a 1-800 number or any ads for a rehab, chances are, the website is published by a rehab. I’m not saying there isn’t good information out there on the internet to read about addiction but know the source. Sometimes what looks like well-written articles are just marketing websites.

They might tell you relapse is part of his recovery.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government-funded program, relapse in addiction resembles relapse in other chronic diseases. You may have heard people compare the disease of addiction to diabetes. Well, if you’re a type-1 diabetic and you’re getting successful treatment, you have a  30-50% chance of relapse. If you suffer from addiction you have a 40-60% chance of relapse. If you suffer from asthma, your chances of relapse are even greater at 50-70%. Just because they attend rehab, doesn’t mean there isn’t a good chance they will relapse just like any other chronic disease. When that happens, we don’t need to think of it as a failure. Rather, a treatment needs to be reinstated or readjusted or another treatment needs to be introduced.

You need to recover too.

You have been hurt, damaged, and lied to by this disease. Getting your loved one help is good. But if he or she refuses or agrees, you need to find support and answers too. If you’re anything like me, when my ex-husband went to rehab, I was left feeling lonely, angry, and worried. I needed to work my own program and get educated on what I needed to do when he came back. If you’re interested and you want to learn about our online, do-at-your-own-pace programs, you can click here.

If they don’t want help, you won’t be able to change their heart.

I know that’s hard to hear, but if you really want them to get sober, they have to want it too. However, you don’t need to wait for them to get sober for you to start to feel better. You can take control of your decisions and reactions and your recovery.


I believe in you. You’re not powerless over this disease. You don’t need to wait for them to get sober to start to feel better. We are in this together.

P.S. I hope you will join me in one of our programs. You have lifetime access, they are private and confidential, and, remember – you need recovery if he gets sober or not.


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