Getting help for a substance abuse disorder or mental health problem is a gift you give yourself, or someone you love. It’s a chance to step away from the cycle of addiction, find out where it came from and learn how to break free. Your success depends on your level of commitment to this process, and on understanding how you can get the most out of your rehab experience.
Getting Ready to Go to Rehab
For some people, going to rehab is a spur-of-the-moment decision, where there’s little time to decide what to take with you. But if possible, it’s definitely helpful to take some time to figure out what to pack. Some items are essential to the rehab experience. Others are things that you might not need, but will be glad to have along.
- A week’s worth of comfortable clothing. Include pajamas or a nightgown, a robe and slippers.
- Be sure to bring warm clothing, including a sweater or two. Detoxing and other processes associated with recovery can make your body temperature fluctuate so dressing in layers is helpful.
- Clothes and shoes suitable for walking and exercising.
- A month’s worth of toiletries. Pack them in a Ziploc bag if possible, in case of spills.
- Cosmetics can be good to bring along, if you use them. You may not feel like using them initially, but as you start to feel better it can be a good way to lift your mood.
- A journal and pen. As you move through the recovery process, you’ll have a lot to think about, and writing is a great way to help you process.
- An activity to occupy quiet moments. For instance, a book or two, or a Sudoku book, or something similar.
- If you’re spiritual, one or two books or items that are important to your beliefs.
- Think about what’s motivating you to get sober, and bring photos or other items that remind you of your motivation.
- Leave valuables such as jewelry at home. You don’t need to be distracted by worrying about keeping those items safe.
During Your Rehab Program
Your rehab experience is all about learning the skills you need to stay sober for life. Keep these points in mind when you’re in rehab, to help you get more out of the program.
- Make your recovery the highest priority. Be willing to put everything else aside and focus on recovery above all else.
- Be willing to dig deep. To get the most out of recovery, you’ll need to explore what led you to addiction in the first place. Some things might feel too painful to talk about, but exposing them to the light is a vital step in healing.
- Embrace change. Whatever aspects of your life have led you to addiction, understand that those things must change if you want to get sober.
- Understand and accept that rehab is an uncomfortable experience. It’s hard, and sometimes it’s painful. But remember that those painful feelings are happening because you’re making positive changes.
- Don’t expect to make progress right away. You might make progress quickly, and that’s great! But if it comes slower than you were hoping, that’s okay too.
- Be open to trying different things. Rehab isn’t a one-size-fits-all addiction treatment. What works for someone else may not work for you, so be willing to try anything and everything.
- Be honest and be willing to share in group sessions. Sharing your feelings and stories is an important part of the rehab experience. A willingness to open up and speak your truth can help you heal and move on.
- Similarly, be open to other people’s stories. Your peers in recovery are traveling the same path as you, and you’ll likely find you can help one another walk that path.
- Let sobriety become your new normal. Your old normal was addiction, but you’re working hard to change that. Each day, make a point of reminding yourself that you’re committed to sobriety as a way of life.
- Get used to thinking critically before you make decisions. It’s easy to fall back into old habits when you make impulsive decisions. Make your new habit one of mindfulness instead.
- Stay in the present moment. Don’t get bogged down in rehashing the past or worrying about the future.
- Remember that recovery is a journey, not a destination. Your rehab experience isn’t something you complete then put on the shelf. You’ll be using what you learn throughout your life so put as much effort into it as you can.
- Stay positive. This can be tough, especially if optimism doesn’t come naturally to you. Practice challenging the negative self-talk, and visualize yourself succeeding to help keep your motivation high.
- Expect the road to be bumpy. Recovery isn’t easy, and there will be moments of self-doubt, frustration and despair.
- Take it one step at a time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during this process, especially early on. Focus on the task in front of you and do it the best you can.
- Don’t leave early, no matter how hard it gets. The rewards of sobriety are worth the pain.
After the Program
Your rehab experience is an important part of staying sober in the long term. But the real hard work comes after you leave. Back in the “real world” are all the old stresses and temptations that led you to addiction in the first place. How do you stay sober once you complete your treatment program and return home?
- Understand that recovery isn’t a cure. Sometimes sobriety will be hard, sometimes less so, but it will always be something you need to manage consciously.
- Make full use of whatever aftercare resource your rehab center provides. Make a point of finding out exactly what resources you can access and use them!
- Develop a routine. In recovery your routine is mapped out for you, but once you’re home again it’s up to you to decide what to do. Make your routine one that supports and enhances your sober lifestyle.
- Attend all your scheduled therapy and support sessions. It’s tempting to skip or reschedule these appointments, especially when life gets busy. But they’re an important part of long-term sobriety and a source of support when things get tough.
- Keep up with the habits you learned in the program. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, journaling, or another method they help you stay mindful and focused on recovery.
- Go to meetings. Whether you’re a 12-stepper or following a program such as SMART Recovery®, going to meetings regularly is likely to be a crucial part of your long-term sobriety.
- Stay in touch with the sober friends and acquaintances you met in rehab. Spending time with like-minded people is important to keep your motivation high.
Recovery Is Hard but Rewarding Work
Rehab is hard, and if it’s something you have yet to face it may seem intimidating. But if you’re struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, you have nothing to lose by going to rehab. Completing a treatment program may be the crucial thing that helps you regain control over your life.