Ask a peer worker: What happens in residential detox?
Peer Worker PnorkelPW shares what to expect from residential detox programs.
Our Peer Workers PnorkelPW and ScorpionPW regularly join the recently revamped Counselling Online Community Forum to answer questions and explore recovery. Here’s what PnorkelPW had to say about detox.
For some people, an admission to detox is part of the journey… but what happens??
I went to a private rehab and didn’t go to a detox but eventually I worked in one for a couple of years.
I met some amazing people and saw them make great progress. Some people came through multiple times, some only once. Some people lasted a few hours, some were there for a day, others for up to 28 days. People discharged for many reasons.
It doesn’t matter how many times you go… what matters is that you’re there trying.
Detox is a chance to get away from your usual routine and clean out your system in a safe environment.
Detox is a safe and supported space to help you get through the tough early days of withdrawal. It’s hard to do at home because it’s much easier to succumb to temptation and access your substance. How many times have you said to yourself Just once more and that’s it or After today I’m not doing this again only to find yourself still doing it days and weeks later? Detox isn’t easy, but it’s a break from your regular environment. That’s what a lot of people need.
It’s only seven days. Use it to help get you in a space where you can better work with your GP, psychologist, drug and alcohol counsellor, friends, family or whoever else is helping you along the journey.
Will detox ‘fix’ everything?
Detox isn’t a magic bullet. You are still going to want to use because that’s what addiction does. Use detox as an opportunity to get your mind, body, and spirit to a place where you can have a clear head and make better decisions about moving forward.
You still need the support of others to help you create a life without substances and that takes time, energy, and a fair bit of trial and error. Be patient. If you need to do another detox at some stage then that’s cool. Get onto it quick before things spiral out of control. It doesn’t matter how many times you go to detox… the quicker you get back there, the better off you’ll be.
Look for the lessons from each lapse or relapse so that you can try not to repeat the same mistakes.
There’s a saying that ‘the world record for abstinence is 24 hours’ because all you gotta do is get through today and get your head safely on the pillow at night without using. No matter what else has happened that day, it’s been a great day if you haven’t used. Do that ‘a day at a time’ and you’re on the way to a much better space. A residential detox will help with this.
Detox is not easy but it is worth it.
Will I be given medication in detox?
There’ll be staff there to support you and medication to help you through the process if that’s what is needed. Not all substances require medication as part of the withdrawal process. Most people coming in for alcohol will be given Valium (because of the risk of seizures associated with alcohol withdrawal) and then come off it after a few days. It wouldn’t make much sense to go into detox for one substance and come out taking another one.
What will accommodations be like in detox?
Depending on where you go, you’ll either get a room to yourself or you may need to share a room. One of the hardest things about detox is the communal living aspect. We had up to 12 people at a time.
Living with others had moments of conflict for all sorts of reasons. Cleanliness, not doing the dishes properly, people not doing assigned jobs, what to watch on the TV, being around personalities that you wouldn’t usually be around… but everyone is there for the purpose of withdrawing from a substance. Patience and tolerance are needed. That’s not easy when you’re withdrawing and have limited stocks in reserve.
What do you do in detox?
There’ll be a timetable for the day. Usually, you get up early enough for medication and breakfast with time for a shower before morning meeting. This is where you’ll go through a plan for the day and find out what’s on, assign tasks such as cooking or cleaning, and work through any issues that may have arisen.
There’ll be therapeutic groups during the day with breaks in between, similar to a school timetable. Depending where you are, there’ll be a roster for preparing lunch and dinner each day. Some people aren’t that strong with cooking skills and need some extra support. That’s ok.
Groups can be about anything, like art, relapse prevention, emotion regulation, communication, sleep hygiene, physical activities, conflict resolution, and much more. You’ll be expected to attend all groups and it can be hard when you’re tired and withdrawing.
What’s you’re trying to achieve is to establish a routine. That’s important when you leave and go home.
Something to keep in mind
Most detox programs are non-smoking. In all honesty I think that contributes to a lot of early discharges. Nicotine withdrawal is really tough, it’s well documented that nicotine is highly addictive and one of the hardest drugs to withdraw from. Most people aren’t prepared for it. While you’ll get nicotine replacement such as patches, lozenges, etc, it’ll still be hard. There’s a high chance you’ll already be irritable and emotional, feeling sick from withdrawal, tired, anxious, stressed, scared, embarrassed, feeling guilt or shame, and much more.
Can I handle it?
What’s important to remember is that it’s a safe and supported environment. If you can talk to the staff about what you’re feeling it’ll be easier.
Staff will ensure a safe environment for everyone. Aggression will not be tolerated and can result in being discharged.
People miss friends, family, kids, pets and that has an emotional toll. Seven days really isn’t long in the grand scheme of things but it can be too much for some people. Maybe you’ll end up self-discharging before your seven days are up, but at least you’ll know what to expect next time if you’ve never been before.
Some people use detox to get a break from their substance use. Some are doing it as a requirement of their admission to rehab (Public rehabs usually require you to go straight from detox to rehab admission).
What I loved watching the most through people’s admission was their progress. To see how sick some people were on day one to walking out there a week later with colour in their cheeks, eating three meals a day, energy returned, a smile on their face, and feeling like they can work towards their goals.
Share your story
If you have any experiences you’d care to share about detox to help others who might not have been and are wondering what it’s like, we’d love to hear from you in the forums.