Going to rehab on probation: What to expect

What’s it like to go to rehab while on probation? An insider look here.

minute read

In a story almost as old as time itself, I was arrested twice before, finally, seeking help.

I was arrested at seventeen for driving while intoxicated (before I had a full license or could legally drink!). The following year, at the age of eighteen, I was arrested for possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. Both times, I got off easy. My first arrest, the DUI, was taken care of by a family friend. DUIs can stay on your record for 10 years or more in some states. But I lived in a small suburban town and he knew the judge. I told him my sob story, making sure to put on my best puppy dog eyes, and the problem went away. Us addicts are good at manipulation.

My second arrest, for possession, netted me a few weeks in jail, a court mandated trip to rehab, and five years on probation. In a strange series of events, my trip to rehab ended up with me in an intensive outpatient program. I continued to use throughout, managing to beat the frequent drug tests. When I finally failed a UA (it was only a matter of time), I ended up in front of my probation officer. She, in turn, sent me back in front of the judge. The judge told me, in no uncertain terms, to take a vacation to a residential treatment center.

What did I do? I went out and continued to drink and drug. After a short run, I made my way down to an inpatient rehab in sunny south Florida (Ex. what should you bring to rehab?).

My experience planning for rehab on probation

When I finally reached out for help and went to treatment, after a particularly tear filled talk with my parents (addiction really affects the whole family), I didn’t know what to expect on any level. I was going to a new state, a new level of care, meeting new people, and being forced to look at myself in a new way.

Oh, and I was on probation!

I wasn’t even sure I could leave the state. Luckily, because the judge handling my case had “suggested” I seek a higher level of care, there weren’t any problems. I called my probation officer and filled her in on what my parents and I had decided. She was nothing but supportive. She told me to come to her office ASAP and fill out the needed paperwork. I signed some papers and she sent them out. Within a week, I had the green light to leave the state and attend a detox, followed by a ninety-day inpatient rehab. I also had the option to transfer my probation to Florida, if I decided to stay down there and live in a halfway house.

Maybe my probation officer was just trying to get rid of me! I don’t know. What I do know is she made the whole process easy. So, I boarded a plane and started my journey to recovery.

My experience going to rehab on probation

My first time in residential treatment was pretty amazing. Looking back, there were a lot of things I did wrong. There were also a lot of supportive measures the treatment center didn’t provide. Still, none of that stopped me from learning a ton about myself and making a few lifelong friends.

During my stay, I’d meet regularly with my primary therapist. Once a week, we’d call my probation office and have a phone session with her. She’d ask about my treatment plan, whether I was meeting goals, and how I was behaving. The rehab also sent her the results of all my drug screens. She was kept in the loop about everything that was happening. Aside from the weekly phone calls, being on probation didn’t affect my treatment experience at all. I’m sure there were things that went on behind the scenes to make going to rehab on probation possible, but I didn’t have any knowledge of them.

When my ninety-days were up, I decided to stay in Florida and live in an all women’s sober house. Once again, the process of transferring my probation was easy. This was in 2007. I’ve heard that Florida has since changed how stringent they are with accepting out of state probation transfers. I don’t know about all that, I just know my experience was easy-peasy. In fact, I didn’t have to jump through any hoops. I met my new probation officer, signed some papers, graduated treatment, and moved into the halfway house.

My experience living in a halfway house on probation

So, I was in early-sobriety and living in a halfway house. Guess what happened next? If you said, “Why Fiona, you relapsed!”, you’d be right.  I wasn’t working on myself. I was living dry, not sober. This is one reason why aftercare is so important after residential treatment. No work on self = Of course I relapsed!

I managed to sneak around and get high for the next nine months. I sneaked, schemed, and passed all my drug tests. I pulled the wool over my new probation officer’s eyes. Eventually, though, everything caught up with me (as it always does for active addicts!) I failed a drug test and my probation officer sent me to another inpatient treatment center.

The second time around

My second time in rehab, I had a similar experience with probation. My therapist and I would call my probation officer once a week and discuss treatment goals. She had access to the results of my drug tests. Once again, she knew everything that was going on with my treatment.

This time, though, the story ends on a happier note. After leaving rehab, I stayed sober. I passed all my probation drug screens, not because I was using fake urine, but because I was capital S Sober!

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About the author
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute. She’s been in recovery since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping other young women achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
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