Can you get sober without rehab?

September 12, 2023

When it comes to getting clean and sober, there are many different approaches we can take. There are also a multitude of outcomes that people experience. In a nutshell – what works for some won’t work for others, or may work, but only for a short period of time. However we approach sobriety, there is one thing we all have in common; we know something is wrong and is causing us pain, but we don’t know how to make things better.

Can I get sober going cold turkey?

“A DIY approach to sobriety is often the first port of call for those wishing to cut down or remove alcohol, drugs or problematic behaviours entirely from their lives. However, when it comes to alcohol or drug use, it is important to be aware that suddenly stopping drinking or using can be dangerous or even fatal,” says Diane Young, Addiction and Trauma specialist at South Pacific Private. Many people require medically supported care to manage the symptoms of withdrawal, depending on the frequency and amount someone drinks and type of drugs that are being consumed. It is important that you speak with a healthcare professional who can advise you of the risks associated with going cold turkey, based on your individual circumstances.

For those who are deemed safe to go cold turkey by their healthcare professional, it can be helpful to understand that simply stopping the substance or behaviour is often a reductive approach. “For most people, there are a range of biopsychosocial factors that bring them into addiction in the first place,” says Young, “oftentimes, leaving these to go unidentified or unacknowledged can mean that we end up replacing our addiction with another (you can read more about that here), or experiencing a relapse with no awareness of why we can’t seem to get our lives under control.”

Can I get sober by just going to 12-step meetings?

For decades, 12-step fellowships have been a guiding force for millions of people entering long-term recovery – and with good reason. 12-step fellowships such as AA, NA, GA and Al-anon, offer people all over the world an important source of connection with others who have trodden the path before them. “It’s a tried and true method. Many people achieve solid, long-term recovery by attending these fellowships and working the steps with their sponsor”, says Young, “but I have also known of clients who enter rehab after 40 plus years of sobriety, because they’re starting to feel shaky and want to get an understanding of what it is that is surfacing for them emotionally after all this time”.

For this reason, Young says it’s important to remember that 12-step fellowships are not an alternative to a psychiatric approach to overcoming addiction, but rather, a powerful, complementary aid. “For those who came into their addiction as a result of their early childhood experiences, doing 12-step as a standalone approach to sobriety might mean we miss out on identifying what it is in our lives that has impacted us, for example, experiencing a dysfunctional family, parental addiction, abuse or bullying,” says Young, “working the 12 steps whilst undertaking psychotherapeutic treatment in tandem can help us make meaning of our past and our disease.”

Getting sober in rehab

For those who have come into the realisation that they can no longer manage their addiction on their own, a residential stay in a psychiatric hospital, or ‘rehab’, such as South Pacific Private is the next step. “Professional, psychiatric treatment in an inpatient setting like that on offer at South Pacific Private is often the experience that people need to finally demystify their addiction – how they came to be in it, and how they can recover,” says Young.

Young says that the key difference between going cold turkey/relying solely on 12-step support versus getting professional help in a residential rehabilitation program, is that these methods lack the opportunity to look at the underlying causes of our addiction in a safe and supported environment. “Many clients come to us in addiction, adamant that they had a ‘normal’ or unremarkable childhood, and for many that is largely the truth,” says Young, “but what they often discover in treatment is that childhood trauma can occur in families even where there was consistent love and the very best of intentions.” Young says that it’s not about the severity of the trauma, comparing your experience to others or blaming our caregivers, it’s about recognising how your past has shaped you so you can begin to make positive changes. It’s also important to do this in a facility that recognises the importance of trauma-informed modalities.

At South Pacific Private, those who enter treatment are taken care of holistically by a multidisciplinary team of trauma-informed experts whose aim is to treat the whole person. Each client is under the care of psychiatrists, general practitioners, nurses, psychologists, psychotherapists, chefs as well as yoga and mindfulness teachers. Clients attend regular 12-step fellowship meetings and engage in the client community through intensive group therapy. “It’s been said time and time again that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection,” says Young, “and we see this in action each day at South Pacific Private, because often, for the first time in their lives, our clients are seen and heard, and they can finally give themselves permission to remove the shame that they’ve been carrying around for so long.”

If you or someone you care about is struggling, you don’t need to go it alone. Reach out to us on 1800 063 332 to find out how our programs could be of benefit to you or take a free self-assessment.

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Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.

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