Why leaving your home town for substance abuse treatment is the RIGHT thing to do!

"Your treatment center is where, Florida, but I am in Ohio!”map


If I had a penny for the number of times I have been asked this question, I would be vacationing in Fiji this winter. People suffering from abusing substances and/or their families are taken aback when I tell them that Lakehaven Recovery Center is located in Pompano Beach, Florida. Consistently the next sentence is, “Well can you give me the information of a treatment center in my home town?” “Absolutely!” is always my reply but let me explain why not staying close to home is actually the second best choice you could make today, calling me being the first.


Treatment for substance abuse is a very personal experience. All of the work involved falls upon the hands of the addict. I was once told by a recovered alcoholic, “It is such an inside job.” Meaning, the change must occur from within. I always tell those in treatment that this is probably one of the only times in your life where it is ok to be completely selfish and thinking of only yourself. Leaving home gives the addict the opportunity to detach from everything and everyone back home. Many times relationships and family members can serve as a trigger for our clients. Staying close to home also opens the client to be close to locations that the brain has already been conditioned to using drugs and/or alcohol. Like Pavlov’s dogs, seeing the local 7-11 may trigger your brain to salivate or crave the substances you are trying to beat. Research has shown that those whom “do not feel burdened or distracted by outside influences” go through treatment much more focused and are more willing to actively participate in their recovery.


     It’s like the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” When a person leaves home and goes to a place that no one knows them, it gives them a sense of anonymity or absolute privacy to their struggles. Lakehaven and most treatment centers are not forts. Clients, with absolute supervision, are exposed to the community and local areas. Going to treatment in Boynton Beach improves the chances that someone coming from Colorado, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, etc. will not run into anyone they know. Increased privacy also reduces the anxiety of feeling the burden of shame if the client were to be seen by someone they knew.


sobrietyWhen a person struggling with addiction is away from home, not only are they less distracted with obligations and triggers and have an increased sense of confidentiality and privacy but realize that being able to get up and leave treatment is not an easy feat due to their distance. It has been found that clients are 12% more likely to complete treatment away from home and 20% more likely to complete their detox phase of treatment.

Let’s face it, treatment (when done right) is not a vacation nor is it easy. In fact, it stinks! It takes a lot of focus and work on yourself while adding in all the life events, traumas, tragedies and emotions the addict had been trying to forget and numb all along. It’s like riding the scariest roller coaster in the world while going through puberty. The client begins to feel and remember. The client begins to feel out of control thus begins to crave the one thing that helped them numb this ride, the drugs and alcohol that placed them with us in the first place. The normal reaction is to run from this intoxicating feeling of being uncomfortable. The ability to run becomes much more difficult when an airplane ride is needed to go back. We at Lakehaven understand that this is a crucial time in this person’s recovery. The client’s inability to run immediately gives us the opportunity to explain to the client what is happening to them at that very moment. We congratulate them because we view this as a sign of progress toward conquering their addiction because given that they are feeling uncomfortable means to us at Lakehaven that they are putting in the work and addressing the personal issues that are necessary to uncover in order to get better. We remind them that although it is scary to be far from family and feeling all of this turmoil, we are sitting right next to them on this ride and we are willing to ride it till the end with them.


You may not believe this because I didn’t when I first started working in the Substance Abuse field, but every state does not have substance abuse treatment. When they do it might be a government funded facility that has a certain number of beds and a very long waiting list. Many people seeking help have died waiting. I always ask clients and their families, “If you were diagnosed with Cancer, would you go to your local doctor who may not be an expert or would you choose the best hospital, the best doctor and the best treatment regardless of where it was?” Sometimes the addict’s family does not realize that the gravity of their family member’ problem. They do not comprehend or are in denial that it is just as fatal as Cancer, and in some cases even more so.

rollercoasterAlso, the quality of treatment varies greatly within this industry. Certain states like Florida have been recognized for being a leader in treating substance abuse. Even within Florida the discrepancy of quality can be alarming. Lakehaven Recovery Center is a Joint Commission accredited facility that is committed to the quality of patient care. Although Lakehaven’s facilities are breathtaking, I was flattered to become a part of this team because of the clinical work that was being implemented here. Lakehaven asks a lot of their clients because we want to get to the core of our client’s addiction. In fact, we believe that getting to the core of the addiction is just the first step. We go beyond and get closure on these core issues and teach our clients coping skills that allow them to replace the old addictive behaviors with new skills to handle and deal with real life problems, difficulties and conflicts in order to prepare our clients for the outside world where we won’t be sitting next to them on that roller coaster but maybe a couple seats back.  

I hope that I have outlined some of the more important reasons for seeking substance abuse treatment away from your home town is the better choice. Although it may seem counter intuitive to go far from home, as you can see it will facilitate a stronger foundation of recovery and give the client a better chance to succeed. In the great scope of things, this is what matters most.

Marie G. Guma, PsyD (ABD)
Director of Business Development
Lakehaven Recovery Center

150 East Sample Road Suite #310
Pompano Beach, FL 33064

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