Launching Your Recovery in Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Addiction is a complex disease, and no two cases are exactly the same. An effective addiction treatment program is based on a careful assessment of the needs of each individual client.

Not every case of substance use disorder (SUD) requires detoxification or residential treatment. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, also known as DSM-5, used by physicians to diagnose SUDs offers three levels of severity—mild, moderate, or severe on the basis of how many of the eleven diagnostic criteria are met by the patient.

The level of care in a treatment program may also depend on what kind of therapy the client is able to do. Carol (not her real name) is a professional woman in her fifties. She developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) when she was in her forties.

Like many other busy professionals, she was using alcoholic beverages mostly in a reasonably responsible social fashion. “I never had a problem with alcohol until my late forties,” she remembers. Unfortunately, alcohol misuse can creep up on you incrementally.

The first two criteria for AUD are “alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended” and “there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.” Carol ignored those warning signs and continued to use alcohol frequently.

“My drinking was entirely in the closet, hidden from my employer and my family,” says Carol. She was so “well-functioning” on the outside that nobody even believed she had a problem. “I went to my doctor loaded, and he still wouldn’t believe it. He told me, ‘you’re not an alcoholic; you don’t have a problem,’ and I said, ‘oh yes, I do.’”

Cravings for alcohol increasingly played a major role, and Carol’s recurrent alcohol use resulted in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work. (DSM-5 criteria 4 and 5).

Carol realized she needed help but being aware of the stigma of addiction, she also didn’t want to jeopardize her career. She tried Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but it didn’t quite work for her. Carol continued drinking. “It was horrible. I started spreading alcohol purchases across a number of liquor stores to hide my alcohol consumption.

Eventually, she was able to open up to her husband. “I gotta go to rehab,” she told him, and he has shown great support for her recovery ever since.

An acquaintance suggested giving Harmony a try. We had just begun to offer a virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP)—in the middle of the COVID pandemic. It turned out to be the perfect fit for Carol. “They screened me whether I needed outpatient, residential, or another level of care,” she remembers. A 12-week participation in the program is recommended but Carol liked it so much that she stayed a while longer.

Addiction is often referred to as a family disease, meaning addiction affects the family dynamic in multiple ways. Carol’s husband and their adult children have supported her recovery wholeheartedly. Family support can lower the risk of dropping out of treatment and also reduce the chance of renewed substance use, discourage relapse, and promote long-term recovery.

Carol took full ownership of her recovery. The Harmony IOP “was a saving grace for me. The virtual sessions were almost as powerful as going in person. I did my best to discipline myself, not leave the room or look at my phone just as if it were an in-person meeting. I wanted to keep it real and not get distracted.”

Addiction is a progressive disease, and there is no need to wait for “rock bottom” before seeking help. People with substance use issues can start at the level of care that’s right for them anytime, whether that’s residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient treatment. There is no need to wait; it’s much better to get the help you need before it’s too late.

Carol is now active in Harmony’s alumni program and regards the time spent in the IOP and the launch of her recovery as one of the best years in her life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs and workshops, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.