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Updated on August 17, 2022
6 min read

How Do I Prepare for Rehab?

Key Takeaways

  • Knowing what to anticipate before enrolling in rehab can put your mind at ease and increase your chances of success.
  • It also helps to have a to-do list leading up to rehab, so you can get things in order and focus on recovery once you enter rehab.
  • Dealing with things like financial obligations and other responsibilities also increases your chances of success.
  • Some people aren’t sure what to bring to rehab. In most cases, essential items from home are all that is needed.
  • One of the most important things you can do is ensure that you mentally prepare to attend rehab. If you think you’ll be distracted by anything, deal with it in advance.
  • If you believe you’d benefit from rehab or you have questions about whether or not your substance use is a problem, contact an addiction specialist.
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Preparing for Rehab: What to Know 

Deciding to enter a drug treatment program to deal with an addiction is an essential step in recovery. 

For many, the idea of rehab is intimidating. But knowing what to expect can make the experience easier. It puts you in the best frame of mind and increases the odds of a successful recovery.

It’s normal to experience stress or anxiety in the hours and days before rehab begins. Most people do, especially if it’s their first time.

In part, this is because rehab requires you to step away from your regular life. Even if you attend on an outpatient basis, there are things you’ll need to set aside while you focus on rehab. 

Getting sober is your priority during this time. It helps to get things in order and enter the program prepared to focus on recovery.

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4 Ways to Prepare for Rehab (Mentally & Emotionally) 

Here are four rehab preparation tips: 

  1. Avoid binging on your drug of choice. It’s tempting to plan a binge before giving up a drug, but this only makes the detoxification process more difficult. Also, quitting cold turkey with some drugs (like opioids and benzos) can be dangerous.
  2. Focus on good overall health. Whether you continue using your drug of choice or not right before rehab, do your best to get plenty of rest, eat nutritious meals, and drink enough water to stay hydrated. This is tough for people battling addiction. However, the more you do to boost your health right before rehab, the easier it will be to deal with withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Focus on the positive aspects of your situation. Transitioning from addiction to recovery is a difficult thing to do. The more focused you are on positive thoughts, the better the experience you’ll have.
  4. Spend time with loved ones. Some rehab programs isolate participants for a short time from friends and family. If you intend to enter rehab soon, take the hours and days beforehand to spend time with your children, spouse, close friends, and other loved ones. 

7 Things to Take Care of Before Rehab

In addition to getting yourself mentally prepared for rehab, you also might want to:

  1. Speak with your employer about the time you need away from your job. You might need to fill out paperwork or discuss arrangements for a substitution for your work. Employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for people who have been at their jobs for at least one year.
  2. Schedule childcare. This looks different for every family, but the important thing is your children have supervision and support while you focus on recovery. Some treatment facilities offer childcare for parents who have no other option.
  3. Arrange pet care. Just like children, pets need daily care that should be arranged in advance.
  4. Schedule automatic bill payments or share your financial information with a trusted loved one who can take care of your bills while you’re away.
  5. Arrange care for other family members as needed. If you care for an elderly or disabled loved one, you’ll need to schedule care for them while you’re in rehab. The rehab facility might be able to give you caregiver resources if you aren’t sure what to do.
  6. Get rid of all drug paraphernalia and anything else that serves as a reminder of your use. Delete contact information for drug dealers and create boundaries with people who encourage use.
  7. If necessary, notify the court that you’ll be entering rehab. Some people go into rehab programs based on court orders, while others have court obligations scheduled during the rehab. Everything court-related should be able to be rescheduled while you focus on recovery.

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What to Pack for Rehab

You’ll want to bring only the essentials with you to rehab. Bringing too many items from home can be a distraction and might violate the program’s rules.

Some of the essentials to pack include a few things like:

  • Health insurance and contact information
  • Driver’s license, state-issued ID, or passport
  • Prescription medications (alert the treatment facility of these)
  • One week’s worth of clothing, including underclothes, slipper/socks, and pajamas (unless the facility provides hospital gowns)
  • Stationary, journals, and stamps
  • Electronics (if permitted)
  • Music
  • Reading materials
  • Hygiene and grooming products, including toothbrush and other oral hygiene items, feminine hygiene products, hairbrush, deodorant, bath items, etc.
  • Photographs of loved ones
  • Contact information of loved ones

If you aren’t sure what to bring and what not to bring, contact the rehab center you plan to attend. Most treatment centers do not allow a cell phone, but there are exceptions. 

How Rehab Works

As much as rehab might benefit someone, many people avoid entering a program due to the fear of the unknown. They want to begin the recovery process, but they’re scared to participate in the programs offered by treatment centers. 

Not knowing what to expect prevents them from seeking the help they need.

Understanding the treatment process eases fears and calms nears. It also makes it easier to prepare for the days and weeks ahead.

The goal of treatment is to teach someone with substance use disorder how to function in their everyday life without turning to substances. This involves detoxification, as well as understanding one’s thoughts, feelings, coping mechanisms, and support system.

The exact daily schedule varies from program to program, but most are structured and include group and individual counseling, personal care, chores/community responsibilities, and free time.

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What to Expect at Rehab (Timeline)

The general timeline for rehab programs tends to be the same regardless of the program.

For example:

Step 1: Admission and Intake

The first day or so involves the intake procedure. This is when the staff gathers practical information and conducts an assessment of your situation. They’ll discuss your drug history, mental health, and medical history.

Step 2: Detoxification

Detox is the next step in drug and alcohol rehab. The intensity and risks of this stage vary based on the substances you’ve used. 

During this time, you might receive medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms. This is also when you begin the first steps of psychotherapeutic treatment (talk and behavior therapy). 

Step 3: Counseling

Once the detox process is mostly complete, you’ll begin intensive therapy. This involves both group and individual counseling. The goal is to work through your trauma and mental health issues and learn better ways of coping with life. 

Different rehab programs offer different approaches that can be traditional, alternative, or holistic. There might also be family therapy and group therapy sessions during this stage. 

Step 4: Aftercare

Recovery doesn’t end at the end of your formal treatment program. The most successful rehab programs offer aftercare and relapse prevention support. This might include ongoing one-on-one counseling sessions and/or peer support group attendance

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Updated on August 17, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on August 17, 2022
  1. Treatment and Recovery.”, 2018.
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.”, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), 2018.
  3. Mericle, Amy A., et al. “Sober Living House Characteristics: A Multilevel Analyses of Factors Associated with Improved Outcomes.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Mar. 2019.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuses. “Types of Treatment Programs.”, 2018.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.”, Jan. 2019.
  6. Greenfield, Lawrence, et al. “Effectiveness of Long-Term Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for Women: Findings from Three National Studies.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

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