Should you enter treatment while your DUI case is still pending?

Recently, on the avvo.com website, someone who has been charged with a fourth DUI asked whether he should enter treatment now, or wait until after he has been sentenced.  My simple response was “Do the treatment now — it is not guaranteed to help, but it might. Plus, it might help turn around your life.”

Not coincidentally came the news that two recent high profile Lake County defendants, both of whom were involved in fatal crashes, have entered into treatment — Carly Rousso (the Highland Park teen who allegedly was “huffing” shortly before crashing and killing a 5 year old) and Jeremy Betancourt (the Antioch teen who is alleged to have been drag racing prior to a fatal crash).

There are many reasons why a person should enter treatment while their case is still pending — particularly when their history suggests alcohol or drug dependency.

By entering treatment, the person is showing the court that he or she is attempting to do something about his or her problem, instead of continuing to be the problem.  Why should a judge be lenient to someone who remains in denial about an alcohol or drug problem, and remains a high risk to repeat the offense?

In addition, life skills are more important than a court case.  I have lost clients and a family member to alcohol and drugs.  Treatment might have saved them, but they were unwilling.  Often, it takes the threat of jail to get someone to enter treatment.

Treatment is not necessary for alcoholics.  Some people are in a lesser category called “alcohol and drug abuse” and have a very unhealthy concept of what is a reasonable use.  Treatment can be very helpful in recognizing these problems and providing tools to quit or drink responsibly in the future.

But for alcoholics or drug addicts, treatment is a necessary first step in the road to recovery.  Alcohol or drug addiction is permanent.  It does not go away, even if a person becomes abstinent.  It just remains in remission. Treatment can be helpful in batting away defense mechanisms that prevent a person from honestly assessing the extent of his or her problem.

So yes, if someone is facing a serious charge, or has multiple arrests or otherwise has shown signs of reckless drinking or drug use, I strongly recommend getting into treatment sooner rather than later.

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