Dr. Mel Pohl shares why it is important for recovering addicts to be removed from their normal environment.
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Reasons to Remove Recovering Addicts From Their Normal Environment It’s really tough to get better from addiction when you are in your normal environment. The first step in addiction recovery is you have to stop the drug. You can’t get well just by going to therapy. You can’t get well just by going to 12-step groups. You can’t get well by wishing and wanting to be better. I mean, every addict tries that again and again and again unsuccessfully. The first thing that has to happen is separation from the drug, and that may not be able to happen in an environment where there’s stress and realistic concerns about work and money and family and an angry spouse and frustrating situations. Optimal treatment lasts 90 days, and I think is done outside of the environment. That would be inpatient or residential kind of treatment. Not everybody can do that obviously, but the data says the longer you are in treatment—and 90 days seems to be one of the keys—the longer you are away from the environment, the more likely to get well you are because we are talking about restructuring a way of being. We are talking about the drug being gone and then having feelings that probably haven’t been felt for years. “So what do I do when I am angry? What do I do when I can’t sleep? What do I do when I am frustrated? What do I do when I am anxious? How do I talk to people?” You know, most of those things are really so tightly attached to the substance that when the substance is eliminated, life sort of falls apart. The best environment for that is to separate from the stressors and really dig in. At our treatment center–Las Vegas Recovery Center—we don’t allow people to call home for weeks, a couple of weeks. Seems really drastic. I was actually opposed to the procedure, but what really happens is if in the early parts of treatment people are phoning, it’s “The food is no good. Oh, I can’t sleep. The bed is too hard,” you know–nonsense. You are here to get well. You are here to save your life, and the best way to do that is to focus on yourself, journal, go to groups, work with other people, and get some clarity on what’s really going on.
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