Any alcohol rehab program is going to cover a lot of different topics over the course of your treatment. There will likely be both individual and group therapy sessions in the program, and the professional leading those sessions will guide you in productive directions, which may include some or all of the following topics. It might also include some we didn’t list. We can’t anticipate every topic you’ll encounter at an alcohol rehab center, but we can give you a brief glimpse and what you might be able to expect. Of course, keep in mind that good alcohol treatment plans are customized to your specific needs and issues, so if there are certain items on this list that you feel don’t apply to you, then don’t worry about covering them in-depth at an alcohol rehab center.
This is the first step in the widely used 12 Steps program, and as such, it’s often an important topic in alcohol treatment. The idea of powerlessness here is that someone with a substance use disorder has absolutely no control over how that substance affects them. This isn’t saying that you are powerless to change your life for the better; rather, it’s about knowing you can’t control the way alcohol affects you and not justifying or minimizing your addiction. You might not get into the 12 Steps during your initial course of treatment at an alcohol rehab center, but you’ll likely cover this topic or something similar.
This is a type of relationship that often occurs between people with substance dependencies. One person tends to enable the other’s addiction and destructive behavior. That makes it an important topic in alcohol rehab so you can learn how to have healthier relationships. This is also an important topic for the loved ones of someone dealing with a substance use disorder to become familiar with. That way, they can learn to set appropriate boundaries.
Compulsions are overwhelming impulses to do something. Substance abuse can definitely fall under that category. When you learn about compulsive behaviors at an alcohol rehab center, you’ll find out about the ways compulsions work in the brain and how you can try to combat them.
Another piece of this is that some people seeking alcohol rehab are also diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. They often use alcohol to diminish their OCD symptoms, and when left unchecked, they develop a substance use disorder, too. An alcohol rehab center is a good setting to try to disentangle and treat co-occurring conditions like this.
Denial and Placing Blame
Many people dealing with a substance use disorder are pros at placing the blame for their behavior on anyone but themselves. Part of the reason why is the denial piece of this. If they don’t believe their addiction is an issue, then they can’t take any responsibility for it.
This topic is often best addressed a ways into your recovery journey. As we pointed out in the previous section, you’ll first have to overcome denial and accept the blame for the less than ideal things you did during the peak of your addiction. At that point, you’ll probably start feeling shame or guilt for those actions. Once you do, though, you’re going to have to confront those uncomfortable feelings. Your alcohol rehab program should help you overcome that shame because it’s counterproductive to moving forward.
Addiction changes your brain, and programs at an alcohol rehab center are going to teach you about those effects. And more importantly, they’ll cover how the concept of neuroplasticity means you can make further changes to your brain in recovery. The word “neuroplasticity” may seem complex, but it just means that your brain is changeable, or plastic. That’s why you’re able to make new habits and you’re not stuck in the same patterns of behavior — as long as you put in the work to make those changes.
Oftentimes, low self-esteem feeds into the formation of an addiction. If you don’t feel very good about yourself, alcohol can sometimes temporarily make you feel more confident, or make you forget about your low opinion of yourself for a while. That’s why it’s important to build your self-esteem back up during your stay at an alcohol rehab center.
This goes along with the codependency point, as codependent relationships are not healthy. However, there are a lot of other kinds of unhealthy relationships you might have found yourself in at the height of your addiction. Part of any good alcohol rehab program is going to be teaching you to get rid of those and form healthy bonds instead. Family therapy is often part of alcohol rehab, and that’s a setting where you can start repairing relationships with some of the people closest to you.
Returning to Work
If you’re in an inpatient alcohol rehab center, you’re separated from your life for a period of a month or more. When you complete that first course of alcohol rehab, you’ll have to reenter the “real” world. Part of that is returning to work. Your alcohol rehab program should help prepare you for that. For some people, that means getting ready to find a new job with activities like practicing for interviews and polishing resumes. For others, that means preparing to return to the job you had before you entered alcohol rehab. You might have had to sign a Return-to-Work Agreement (RWA), and if so, you’ll need to be sure you meet all the requirements your employer outlined in that document.
Financial Repair and Wellness
Some of those poor decisions you made in the height of your addiction probably had to do with your finances. It’s expensive to keep up with a substance use disorder, and you might have struggled to bring in a steady income because you weren’t in much of a state to work. Plus, alcohol rehab centers can be quite expensive in some situations. All this combines to make financial repair and wellness an important topic early in recovery. Alcohol rehab programs often make a point of teaching their clients about the basics of personal finance. That way, they have a jumping off point to get their finances back in order.
We know that positive thinking can have all sorts of beneficial impacts on health — boosts to the immune system and energy levels, reductions in stress and inflammation, and decreases in risk of relapse. With all these important benefits, it makes sense that positive thinking would be a staple topic at any alcohol rehab center.
Staying motivated to complete alcohol rehab treatment and remain sober is a tall task. Lots of these other topics will help you stay motivated to continue your recovery journey, but addressing motivation head on is definitely another important aspect of any alcohol rehab program. Different modes of treatment will have different ways of trying to increase your motivation. For example, some will incentivize you with different rewards, while others will focus on more internal motivation. Ask about your particular alcohol rehab center’s philosophy toward motivation during the intake process if that’s something that particularly interests you. You can read more about different treatment philosophies here.
Alcohol rehab is all about getting and staying healthy, and nutrition is definitely one component of health that alcohol rehab centers need to address. Just like you probably made poor financial decisions in the height of your addiction, you likely also made suboptimal choices when it came to your nutrition. You might have eaten less or picked foods that weren’t very healthy. You might have even damaged your body’s ability to absorb nutrients in the food you did eat. It’s the alcohol rehab center’s job to figure out the best way to reintroduce you to eating healthy, and they should also help you put plans in place to continue those healthy habits after your initial course of treatment.
Having stable, healthy routines can make a huge difference in your life. When you’re making big life changes to make sobriety a priority, having a routine to fall back on can be a source of comfort. Reducing unpredictability in your life can also be a huge benefit in your early recovery, and building those routines during alcohol rehab can help you when you return to your life outside the alcohol rehab center.
Healthy Sleep Schedules
An alcohol rehab center is likely going to keep you on a strict schedule for daily activities in order to start building those important routines. One of those healthy habits is getting a decent amount of sleep. Insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom, so it might be hard to get proper rest early in recovery. Making sure you take certain steps to get a better night’s sleep is an important aspect of recovery so that you have the energy to do the work, and your alcohol rehab program should help you with that.
Having Fun Without Substances
For some people, the idea of having fun without alcohol doesn’t seem possible, or it seems like a very subdued sort of fun. That doesn’t have to be the case. An important piece of readjusting to life outside an alcohol rehab center is learning to have a good time while not being under the influence.
Patterns of Substance Use
It’s important to understand how addiction works so that you’re well-equipped to combat it. Much of your time in an alcohol rehab center is going to focus on patterns of substance use, both general patterns and your own specific ones. With more knowledge about addiction, you’ll be better able to identify when you’re revisiting old, unhealthy patterns.
Substance Use Triggers
This one goes along with the previous point about patterns of substance use. You’re going to put in a lot of work to identify the things that cause you to want to drink alcohol (your triggers) and then learning how to avoid and deal with them. Triggers can be pretty much anything — the sound of someone’s voice, a particular smell, a movie, a place. Any of these things (and a many more) can cause a relapse if you don’t know how to properly confront the feelings they bring up. That’s why this topic is so important in alcohol rehab. You need to have a plan in place to cope with unavoidable triggers, and the alcohol rehab center will be able to help with that.
Likely one of the last topics you’ll touch on during your time at an alcohol rehab center, making plans for the future is an important step on your recovery journey. Most people need more support than one course of inpatient treatment. Your treatment team should have some plans in place for some sort of aftercare, whether that’s helping you get into transitional housing or setting you up with a support group. Making sure you’re going to land on your feet with a solid idea of what you’re doing with your future is definitely a huge component of alcohol rehab.
This is barely scratching the surface of what you’ll cover at an alcohol rehab center.
We’ve gone over a wide variety of topics. Some are focused on the day-to-day realities of being in recovery, and others are a little more cerebral and broad. There are some science-heavy points, and there are others that tend to be more accessible. We tried to get a fairly decent variety in there, but the truth is, you’re going to learn about a whole lot more things in an alcohol rehab center than we could ever list here.
Your treatment is going to be customized to your needs, meaning you’ll cover the topics that are most relevant to you. Also keep in mind that recovery is a long journey, so if this seems like a daunting list, know that you won’t get to everything on the first day, or the first week, or maybe even the first year. The team of professionals taking care of you is going to take you through the different aspects of recovery you need to learn at the right pace for you. If you’d like to set out on your recovery journey and need a place to start, you can contact us here.