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Naysayers claim different reasons as to why rehab fails, but there is no denying that rehab programs help countless numbers of people every day.

Some become disillusioned with rehab when it does not work the first time around, and that is perfectly understandable. The reality is that no one can be guaranteed that they will stay clean and sober—ever. It makes no difference how much time a person has, it makes no difference how many sponsees a person has, how many meetings that person goes to, or how many commitments a person has.

If I am an alcoholic or an addict, the sad truth is that one day, I will drink again. Here is also where the “but” part comes in.

If I do what is suggested, and I am open and honest; then there is a very good chance that I will stay clean and sober contingent upon my spiritual condition.

Rehab is not the same as a mechanic; one does not simply drop off a loved one and expect everything to be fixed after X days.

When I have a sponsee who relapses, my questions are as follows:

  • Have you been praying?
  • Have you been meditating?
  • Have you been active in your Step work?
  • Are you taking the suggestions of your sponsor?
  • Are you being of service?
  • Are you working with others?
  • Did you leave anything out of your Fourth Step or Fifth Step?
  • Have you been willing to make amends to all persons you had harmed?

The list goes on, but the idea remains the same. Somewhere, there is a weak link. I have yet to meet a person who worked each of these areas sufficiently, and did not stay clean and sober.

That, in and of itself, is a sign of promise, though. Because if someone answers truthfully that they have been slacking in one of those areas, then that person has the capacity to be honest.

That does not mean the person always is honest, but it means that they have enough insight to recognize their part in their own sobriety.

Many of us who do not get clean and sober the first time around simply have not been beaten into a state of reasonableness yet. So long as we carry the idea that certain parts of the program do not apply to us, or are unnecessary, then yeah, chances are we will not find recovery.

Half measures do not avail us half—they avail us nothing.

The reason why rehab fails is not because of the program. The program is proven to work. It has worked for millions.

It is because the addict or alcoholic is not there yet. That is not a judgement of character, or a reflection on their desire to get clean and sober. It is just that the addict or alcoholic is not in a place where they are willing to completely give themselves to this simple program.

That said, The Big Book also says that AA does not have the monopoly on recovery. People may find recovery other ways, but if we are diligent, thorough, and honest about how we work our programs, then there is a very good chance that we will not get loaded for today.

It is those multiple “todays” that result in long-term sobriety.

Combined with therapy, those willing to take direction stand a very good chance at seeing their lives change.

Nothing is perfect, but so far, the Twelve Steps are the best solution anyone has devised for truly hopeless addicts and alcoholics.

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