Is Rehab a Racket?

By maggie 06/18/19

A lot of people think rehab is a “racket.” Even in AA, some members look at it askance, and have the idea if you just go to AA meetings and don’t drink in between, you will be fine. Well, okay, if you’re not that bad, yet and still can hang on to a job and not drink all the time. But what about us really bad ones? The ones that long stopped working and drink around-the-clock? You can’t expect us to get out of our beds and make it to an AA meeting. It’s not going to happen; we are too far gone.

I’ve only been to one rehab that I would say was a “racket.”

This particular rehab advertised the cost was $22,000 a month. I could basically go anywhere because we’d gone way over our out-of-pocket-expenses with our insurance already. The only reason I picked it this one was due to the fact they told me they would accept my insurance (instead of having to wait a few days to get an answer back) and confirming my insurance would pay for everything. Since I wanted to go that very minute and they told me they could have a van at my house in 45 minutes, I said “yes.”

When I got there, shortly thereafter, they had fired the maid, saying with their prices so low, they couldn’t afford one any longer. They also said for us to stop drinking so much water, that bottled water was too costly and that they would also be cutting us down to having steak only once a week. When I had to go to the dentist that was 30 miles away, they complained that I was “draining” company resources, even though my tooth was seriously abscessed and had to be pulled immediately. This was all done under the guise of “saving money so we can keep our doors open” equivocation. The reason I say this, is the rehab didn’t end up costing our insurance 22,000—if it did, I could understand that since they were only five us, instead of say, ten, staying in this gargantuan fancy home in Dana Point. Then, one day, I got on my insurance billing site, to check on something else, and while scrolling down, discovered this rehab had billed my insurance $95,000 fucking dollars, and Blue Cross paid up every damn cent. Now I know there are fancy rehabs that charge this amount in say, Malibu, but they are upfront about it. What disgusted me was that they were charging the same amount yet acting like they were broke all the time.

 I went to one rehab three times that was a fancy ranch with gorgeous gardens in San Diego County. We were housed in a huge Spanish Hacienda with a white-washed exterior draped in bougainvillea. They had a buffet breakfast lunch and dinner and it was an epicurean’s delight, with all kinds of fruits, salads, and meats, and pies. They had a nice pool we’d lie about getting nice tans. We had great groups and lots of individual therapy. 

This particular rehab was run by a psychiatrist that truly wanted to help people. His rehab only cost ten thousand a month. He kept his prices low so even middle-class folks could go. Plus, many—too many--were on scholarships. It truly was a beautiful place filled with a wonderful staff. Only thing was he had to shut his doors down because his baby, his dream, had literally bankrupted him.

One of the most important things rehab does is detox you. By the time you need residential rehab, you’ve probably gotten to the point that you can no way, no how, stop on your own—you’re probably physically addicted, where your body has to have prodigiously high amounts of your drug of choice in order to keep going. And if your body doesn’t get it, your body and brain will turn on you in a mightily torturous way. Face it, many folks just can’t stop cold turkey on their own and shouldn’t even try due to the dangers of dying. Yes. People die from withdrawals whether it be alcohol, benzos or even opiates. Medical supervision is extremely important, and rehab provides this. 

Secondly, rehab forces us to interact with people. What I loved about the psychiatrist’s rehab I went to was everybody seemed to like me! Surprise, Surprise! Because all I knew was that most folks, family and friends alike, had grown to detest my egregious self. My self esteem was so low, I’d convinced myself that even if I got sober, that I was a terrible person and would never have a family or any real friends to go home to. But in rehab they made us play volleyball together, participate in groups, and share a room, plus, we’d hang out a lot, during downtime, smoking, laughing, dancing, you name it, we did it. All Sober. I can’t tell you what a positive impact this had on me. I remember hiking one day, the desert sky periwinkle blue, the indigenous flowers in full bloom, crying tears of happiness, that I really could get along with people. And the most important thing of all: I was doing it, sober. 

And lastly, what rehab can do is point you in the right direction. I don’t know a rehab yet that didn’t insist on having some type of after care plan. They will make sure before you leave, that you understand recovery does not stop after 28 days, or 60 days or 90 days. That recovery is ongoing and that you might want to enter a long-term recovery home or at the very least, have some type of outpatient after care like attending groups or go to AA/NA meetings, or SMART. I realize the reason I relapsed every time (until the last one I went to) was because I didn’t take the after care plan they had so assiduously made for me seriously. I always went straight home, never going to AA, psychotherapy or outpatient care. 

I’d read some article a few days ago that concluded, statistically speaking, outpatient rehab was just as effective as inpatient. “Whaaaat? You’re fucking kidding, right?” I found myself saying out loud to the computer screen. I remember being told to go to outpatient to get off suboxone, and I told the intake person that the suboxone was making me so anxious and depressed I got to the point I couldn’t drive. They still wouldn’t put me in their inpatient rehab, telling me I’d just have to detox at home. Now that was an impossible task since I couldn’t seem to taper and just kept taking more of it instead of less. Finally, I found a rehab that would take me, thank god, or I would have never gotten off suboxone. And when I swapped my opiate addiction for alcohol? How in the hell would an around-the-clock drinker get to an outpatient rehab without endangering myself and others on the road? And I could have taken the bus but that was a no go, because with my pickled brain, it would have been too formidable a task to navigate the bus system.

We need inpatient rehabs. For people like me, that were drinking two-fifths a day, or popping 80’s oxycontin like candy. And I know I’m not alone. The industry as a whole needs to get rid of some of the bad apples that give rehab a bad name, but after being a seasoned rehab goer (I think I’ve been six times), even though I didn’t stay sober until the very last one, at the time, they all saved my life; I was such a bad non-functioning alcoholic and drug addict I was on the precipice of death. And there was no way I could have stopped on my own. 

AA meetings were only helpful to me after I was sufficiently detoxed, and my brain’s cognitive abilities started to come back--back enough to understand what AA was all about. And then AA did the rest for me-what I couldn’t do for myself. And no, I’m not a religious person. I believe the group helped me with all their support, love, and kindness. But I wouldn’t have been able to get AA and have the life I have now, if I hadn’t made that first step of going to rehab.

And for those that don’t have insurance, don’t despair. There are many state run facilities that take Medicaid, or are just free. The detox is usually more difficult because they are very parsimonious with detox drugs, but they are available. Go to the nearest hospital so they can give you a list of them or just google free rehabs. I actually went to one Christian Afro American rehab that lived off donations, (yet was free or very cheap, $500 a month including food and shelter) for six months and managed to stay sober for five years straight. I think it was the combination of being in there so long, plus the tough love, authenticity, behavior modification, and just plain love that I received there that got me sober that time. 

So in wrapping this up, rehab really does save lives. Some people would be dead in a week if hadn’t been for some kind compassionate family member putting them in one. So, yes, even though there may be some disreputable rehabs out there, there are many good ones too. And free ones too! They definitely saves lives. Sure did mine several times.


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