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You Don't Have to Go to Rehab to Get Sober

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Sobriety is easily attainable for most people -- without them having to shell out a fortune.

brooke mueller

Jennifer Ginsberg: Brooke Mueller has left her treatment center and returned home with a staff of coaches, therapists and other treatment professionals to help her achieve sobriety. Her rep says she is "aggressively continuing her recovery while spending time with her children at home." It's likely that she made this choice because she wanted to be home with her twin babies, since her husband, Charlie Sheen, has recently entered treatment as well.

High-profile cases like Brooke's -- in whichalcoholic celebrities enter pricey treatment centers and enlist a posse of professionals to help them on their path -- might make sobriety seem elusive and daunting to a mom who doesn't have celebrity-style resources. Yes, inpatient treatment can be beneficial, especially for someone who's trapped in the vicious circle of alcoholism and addiction. Total separation from one's environment can be a valuable tool in breaking the cycle. Also, treatment may be required for someone who needs a medical detox offalcohol or drugs. When it comes to achieving long-term sobriety, however, alcoholics who enter treatment don't seem to have higher success rates than those who do not. The good news: Sobriety is easily attainable for most people -- without them having to shell out a fortune or press the pause button on all their responsibilities.

If you need to get clean but aren't willing (or able) to enter treatment, there are many steps you can take:

• Visit a medical professional to get a physical exam. Depending on the amount and type of substances you've been abusing, amedical detox may be required. If you skip this vital step, you may be risking serious medical complications, including seizure or stroke.

Admit that you have a problem and accept the fact that you can't get sober on your own. Alcoholism and addiction are illnesses that are often characterized by isolation, and this is especially true for moms who struggle with the bottle. Most alcoholics are filled with intense shame over their behaviors, and have spent lots of energy trying to shield their drinking and using from society. I'm not suggesting that you stand on the preschool rooftop and shout, "I'm an alcoholic!" However, it's imperative that you find a trusted person (a friend, family member, therapistor clergy person) and let her know about your problem. In order to get and stay sober, you will have to work diligently to fight against your tendency to isolate.

• On that note, it's time to get to a meeting. Many alcoholics and addicts find tremendous support and recovery in 12-step meetings. When I work with a mom who is trying to get sober, I often tell her that her choices are either 30 meetings in 30 days or checking into an inpatient treatment center. There are no excuses for not going to meetings: These nonsectarian, apolitical groups are free and open to anyone who has a problem with drugs and alcohol. The only requirement for membership is a desire to quit using and drinking -- in fact, you don't even have to be sober to attend! Many women's meetings also offer childcare for a nominal fee, or even allow you to bring small children to the meetings with you. You can find out more about meetings in your community by clicking onAlcoholics Anonymous (for alcoholics) or Narcotics Anonymous (for drug addicts).

• Individual therapy can help you face and understand the issues that led to your substance abuse, and also offer you new tools for coping with life while sober. Many of these mental- health professionals (myself included) offer a sliding payment scale to those who qualify. Don't be afraid to ask. If the therapist isn't willing or able to help you for a price you can afford, find someone else.

• Most importantly, make a commitment to your sobriety.Recognizing that you have a problem and asking for help are acts of courage. Just like anything in life that's worth having, sobriety takes time, energy and commitment. I'm not suggesting that you abandon your family or quit your job to get sober, but you may need to scale back on your personal and professional responsibilities for the time being to get to some extra meetings. Reach out to other women who have gotten sober and ask them for help. If you can't get to a meeting one day, pick up the phone while your child naps and call another recovering person.

Make sobriety your number-one priority. Tell yourself that without it, you are risking losing everything -- your job, your children, your health and even your life. And remember: Don't drink or use drugs again, no matter what!


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18 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jordan  March 1, 2010, 7:01 PM

Jennifer,
Your step-by-step approach seems very reasonable. I can only imagine what it might be like for a woman to be going through this with young children at home. You point out support systems that seem sure to get a mommy back on track. Great piece!

Heather March 1, 2010, 11:13 PM

Sensible advice. And the part about carving out time/making it a priority to get sober could apply to many things: exercising/organizing one’s home/cultivating a talent. Like our moms always told us, just a little time, each day—but consistently—will pay off.

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