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Leaving Addiction Treatment Early is Rarely A Good Idea

If you’re a recovering addict and you’re in addiction treatment, you might find that there are some discomforts to the experience – and that’s normal. It’s a new environment with new people, and you’re being asked to create a whole new life for yourself. Feeling the discomforts of this might make someone want to leave. At the same time, staying in treatment can fuel lifelong change while the discomforts right now are only temporary.

In fact, at the start of treatment there are likely also the discomforts of the withdrawal experience. There are those uncomfortable physical and psychological pains you must go through as the body heals and finds homeostasis. This can also add to the feeling of wanting to get out of treatment and find your own way towards sobriety – or skip the idea of getting sober altogether.

Another reason that might enhance the feeling of fleeing is the experience of ambivalence. Feeling ambivalent is feeling two opposing thought patterns at the same time. For instance, there might be a part of you that wants to stay and get sober. But there might also be a part of you that wants to go back to drinking, your old way of life, and your old friends. Wanting to quit but not wanting to quit at the same time is ambivalence. And this too can add to the feeling of wanting to leave treatment. Also, ambivalence is common when we are forced into treatment. When a family member or a spouse strongly encouraged you to be in treatment, but you don’t really want to be there, you might strongly feel the desire to leave.

If you’re feeling the need to escape treatment, for whatever reason, you might ask yourself what you are getting out of treatment and what you would get out of leaving – and compare the two. Of course, what you get out of treatment is a chance to start again, an opportunity to create your life in a new and healthy way. Not getting sober and returning to an old way of life might mean returning to a life that was difficult and hard on you. Although there might be the highs of drinking and drug use, those highs come at a significant price.

Also you might want to keep in mind:

  • Addiction treatment needs to be completed in order to get the most out of it.
  • If you can wait and hold off on making any decisions about leaving, you might find that your feelings about leaving will change once treatment is over.
  • Addiction treatment might be costing you or someone in your family a great expense. Leaving treatment might be an act of throwing that money away. By staying you would be making a financial commitment.
  • If you end up leaving treatment because of an intense feeling, such as anger, you might regret it later. If your feelings of wanting to leave persist, take some time to really think about it and bring your thoughts and feelings to discuss with a counselor.
  • Many people who leave treatment early will end up drinking or using drugs within a matter of hours. And the cycle of addiction – both the highs and the lows – will continue.
  • This might be your only opportunity to get better – either because of financial reasons or simply because you may not have the same level of motivation to change.
  • Anyone who leaves treatment early and who intends to stay sober might not have the opportunity to prepare their transition back home. This can create a risky situation for possible relapse.

If you’re in treatment and you’re thinking of leaving early, take a good amount of time to think about it and talk about it with a drug counselor. Make sure you’re not going to do anything you regret later.


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