Beyond the Brochures: Sober Sidekick’s Chris Thompson Shares the Realities of Choosing a Rehab Center for Lasting Sobriety

Addiction recovery is a journey fraught with challenges. It not only begins with making the extremely difficult decision to ask for help but also, selecting the right rehabilitation center. Choosing the right place to get help holds immense significance because it will profoundly impact the individual’s path to sobriety and overall success in overcoming their addiction. 

Unfortunately, amidst the myriad of options available, discerning the reputable and ethical from the fraudulent and corrupt can be a daunting task. Chris Thompson, founder of Sober Sidekick (a platform that provides much-needed support for people overcoming addiction), draws from his own personal journey with addiction and rehabilitation and shares the complexities of choosing a rehabilitation center for addiction recovery. 

Wisdom from experience

Chris Thompson’s journey with recovery began on Thanksgiving Day, 2018. He had hit rock bottom; he was battling addiction while everyone else was celebrating the holiday with loved ones. Yet, this moment of despair became the catalyst for his remarkable comeback story. Thompson chose to see that day as “day one” of focus on becoming the person he wanted to become. 

From that pivotal moment, Thompson committed himself to maintaining sobriety, making resolutions, and helping others along the way. Part of that resolution was building Sober Sidekick, and another part is helping to bring awareness to all different aspects of addiction and recovery, including the positives and negatives of rehabilitation centers. 

Third-party validation is essential

Thompson is emphatic about approaching these centers with skepticism, given the prevalence of fraud and misaligned incentives within the industry. He highlights the lack of transparency surrounding patient success rates and the misleading statistics often employed by rehab centers to attract clientele. 

Comparing it to buying a used car from a used car salesperson, he explains, “I think it’s having the awareness like when you buy a used car. You need a car, but you can’t trust that the used car salesman has your best interest at heart. So go into it with eyes wide open. Do not necessarily put your full faith and trust in everything he says because he has a business incentive to see me buy that car. It’s the same with rehabilitation centers.”

Thompson elaborates, “The more you repeat treatment, the more valuable you are to them. So you will often see rehabs refer you to a sober living facility that they know will then refer you back to that rehab center if and when you relapse. And that sober living, though, they’re positioned as an ongoing resource to help you stay sober; oftentimes, they are actually making more money when their patients relapse, and they’re able to refer you back to specific providers. So essentially, there’s all these networks around the rehab system where it keeps people institutionalized.”

Thompson stresses the importance of seeking third-party validation to corroborate claims of success made by rehab centers. By prioritizing reputable and transparent rehab centers, individuals can mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraudulent practices and ensure they receive quality care.

Profit over patient care

Thompson warns against rehab centers offering illegal practices such as flying patients to distant facilities for profit. Thompson cites real-life examples that took place in Arizona. In a New York Times article titled, They wanted to get sober. They got a nightmare instead; Autumn Nelson, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, explains that she was referred to a rehabilitation center in Phoenix. It was focused on helping Indigenous people get help. In fact, Arizona had earmarked over $1 billion for that purpose. The 38-year-old said the center bought her a one-way airline ticket to make the 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) journey. But Nelson said after a month, she was kicked out after questioning why there was one therapist for 30 people and no Native American staff despite a focus on Native clients. She shares, “All of a sudden, I was out in the 108-degree heat in Phoenix, Arizona,” said Nelson. “I was scared and didn’t know where to go.”

Thompson adds, “A lot of them will offer to fly you to a different part of the country where their rehab is located. And that’s illegal. And I’m actually saying this from my own experience because that happened to me. They actually flew all their clients there from other parts of the country. What I didn’t realize is that the reason that they’re doing it is because once you’re on the other side of the country in their rehab, once you leave rehab, you have nowhere to go except where they refer you.” 

“You’ll often see rehabs being very aggressive and making all kinds of offers to get you to go into their facility, and the reason they’re doing it is because they know they can bill your insurer $2000 a day for the 30 days that you’re there. Just like a car salesman has incentives that have nothing to do with whether or not your car actually continues to drive in six months.”

Community feedback and support

Thompson advocates strongly for local rehab centers, citing the benefits of community feedback and support in the recovery journey. He highlights the significance of leveraging community resources, such as Google reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations, to verify the credibility of local rehab centers. Thompson also emphasizes the importance of familiarity, proximity, and support in the recovery journey, noting that individuals are more likely to succeed when they have a strong support network in their local environment. By choosing local rehab centers, individuals can tap into the power of community support and increase their chances of long-term sobriety.

“You’re making a life-changing decision to get sober. You want your support to be in your local environment. If you fly across the country to get sober and then you fly back home 30 days later, you’re kind of starting over with no support. On the other hand, working with a local place, you’re building your support network in your location where you live.”

Having realistic expectations for the post-rehab journey

Thompson says it is important to be aware of the misconceptions surrounding rehabs being a cure-all solution for addiction. He stresses the importance of realistic expectations and active engagement in the post-rehab recovery process, emphasizing that true healing occurs through ongoing commitment and effort outside the confines of the rehab facility. “The job of a rehab is to help you medically detox from your substances and show you helpful coping mechanisms for after you get out of rehab. Your recovery journey is on you, and it’s dependent on how much you’re willing to reorient your life in the real world around your decision to get sober.”

The decision to choose a rehabilitation center for addiction recovery is not only difficult but complex and requires a great deal of due diligence. It shouldn’t be that way… but it is. However, armed with these insights from Chris Thompson and a thorough understanding of the factors at play, individuals can confidently navigate this decision. By prioritizing reputable and transparent rehab centers, seeking community feedback and support, and maintaining realistic expectations, individuals will be on a path toward effective treatment and lasting sobriety. 

In the journey towards recovery, support is paramount; check out Sober Sidekick today, and get the support you need when you need it.