How Do We React When Someone “Goes to Rehab?”
By Kevin Doyle, EdD
When I hear that someone has checked into treatment for a substance use disorder, my first reaction is … gratitude. Granted, my several decades working in and around addiction treatment programs have provided me with a uniquely informed perspective, but given the alternatives (incarceration, overdose deaths, continued use), landing in treatment is a great outcome. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter (@DoyleKevinS), you may recall my recent reaction to seeing a well-known musician apologize to followers about letting them down by checking in for help. I understood the sentiment in not wanting to inconvenience fans who had tickets to upcoming shows, but we should celebrate when any individual, celebrity or not, takes steps to seek care for a chronic disease — one that requires lifelong management of some sort and sometimes more than one intensive treatment episode.
By the way, let’s try to eliminate stigmatizing language when we can. I’m not sure “rehab” is the right term for health care. Though “rehab” remains a staple on websites because it’s the word most people search for when seeking help, we can and should avoid it whenever SEO is not a factor. “Rehabilitation” is the central goal of the corrections system. It has moral connotations and conjures unhelpful stereotypes associated with shows like “Celebrity Rehab,” making it even harder for some people to reach out for help when needed.
Next time someone shares that they sought treatment for addiction, let’s cheer them on using supportive language rooted in health care. Let’s wish them well, ask how we can help, visit/write/call with our support, and, above all, be grateful that this might be the road to recovery for someone with a chronic, potentially fatal disease.