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How to Prepare for Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Entering drug and alcohol rehab is a big step toward a healthier, better future. By taking a few steps to prepare for the transition to rehab, people can feel better about what lies ahead and be prepared to make the most of their time in treatment.

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Making the Decision

Acknowledging the importance of recognizing the need for rehab and the decision to seek help is your first step toward a life free of substance use. By deciding to attend rehab, you are recognizing a need for change and showing that you are ready to take action. 

The choice to attend drug or alcohol rehab does not need to be voluntary for treatment to be effective.[1] However, by making the decision on your own, you are taking control of your life and are no longer allowing addiction to control you. 

Researching Treatment Options

When it comes to drug and alcohol rehab programs, there is a wide variety of treatment options available. It’s important to find a treatment program that aligns with your specific needs and goals for treatment. 

Depending upon your history of substance abuse, goals for treatment, living situation, and support network, treatment options to consider include the following:[1]

  • Medical detox, where withdrawal is managed with the use of medications and medical supervision
  • Outpatient rehab, where you continue living at home while attending treatment and therapy sessions throughout the week
  • Residential rehab, where you live at a facility for a set period, usually several weeks to months, and receive intensive inpatient care
  • Therapeutic communities or sober living houses that provide safe and substance-free housing
  • Community self-help or mutual-aid groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery to augment other forms of care with support 

Many rehab programs offer a combination of the above treatment options. Contact a few programs that sound interesting to you, so you can find a program that meets all of your needs throughout the various stages of recovery. Ask about the types of treatment offered, the professionals who provide the treatment, what issues the program specializes in treating, and how the program is able to adapt to meet the unique needs of each person in treatment. 

Consulting With Professionals

Before committing to a treatment program, take time to consult with healthcare or addiction treatment professionals. Seeking guidance from treatment specialists will help you make an informed decision about what type of treatment is best for you. Medical doctors, psychologists, therapists, and social workers should all be equipped to provide insight on addiction treatment. 

If you are not sure where to start, your primary healthcare provider is a great resource. Your doctor can conduct a quick screening and make referrals to appropriate treatment professionals and programs. Consulting with the right professionals is a good way to ensure you are seeking the most appropriate treatment for yourself. You may learn about rehab programs you didn’t even know were available to you. 

Informing Your Support Network

Informing your close friends and family members about the decision to seek addiction treatment can lead to significant sources of emotional support throughout the treatment process. You will likely find some loved ones who want to help you access the treatment you need. By informing them of your decision to seek treatment, you are involving them in your treatment process and inviting them to be a part of your active support network.[1]

Addressing Legal & Work Matters

Depending on the type of treatment program you choose to enroll in, you may not be able to attend to work matters for some time. Addressing any loose legal or work matters before you enter rehab can help to minimize stress during treatment. 

If you have children, you may need  to arrange for childcare in advance, so you can be assured your children are well cared for while you focus on recovery. Oftentimes, recovery centers may be able to assist with some of this planning.

What to Pack for Drug & Alcohol Rehab

If you are checking into an inpatient rehab program, you will need to pack some items to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Each rehab program provides its own guidelines about what to pack and what not to pack. Check this list to ensure everything you bring is approved. 

Essential items to pack for rehab include the following: 

  • A few changes of clothing that are comfortable and appropriate for the various activities provided
  • Toiletry items, such as toothbrush and toothpaste, hair brush, shampoo and conditioner, lotions, and makeup 
  • Any prescription medications, though these will be held and administered by treatment staff members
  • Small recreational items, such as books, playing cards, or simple art supplies, that can be used during free time

Depending on the policies of the rehab program you are entering, you may be able to bring electronic devices, such as your smartphone or laptop, as well as small amounts of extra cash, for things like snacks. Some programs also have dress codes, so be sure the clothing you pack complies with any dress codes in place. 

Mental Preparation

An important piece of your preparation for rehab is to mentally prepare for the journey you are about to embark upon. It is likely to be uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, at times, but this is true of anything in life that requires growth. To get to the other side of addiction, you’ll have to work hard, but the work will be well worth it. 

It’s important to set realistic expectations and goals. One of the principles of effective treatment is that addiction is a complex and treatable disease that affects both the mind and behavior.[1] Be ready to work hard as you enter drug and alcohol rehab, but know that you’ll have guidance and support at every step of the way.

Arranging Transportation 

Once you are enrolled in a rehab program and you have your start date, you can arrange transportation to the facility. Planning your transportation in advance helps to ensure a smooth transition into the treatment program. If committing to an outpatient rehab program, you will want to ensure reliable transportation to each of your treatment sessions, to reduce stress and support your participation in the program. 

Again, your chosen rehab program can likely assist you with some of this planning.

Creating a Communication Plan

Staying connected with friends and family while in treatment can be essential for overall support. Prior to entering treatment, establish a communication plan, including how you will remain in contact while in rehab and when you will provide updates. 

In most treatment programs, family therapy is encouraged. Family therapy addresses family dynamics, the impacts of substance use on the entire family, and encourages open communication for building a path forward.[2] It can provide a venue where you establish new communication patterns and repair relationships, helping to solidify your post-rehab support network.

Openness to Change 

If you are preparing for alcohol and drug rehab, you are already open to making changes in your life. It is important to remain open throughout treatment and embrace the rehab process. Actively participating in therapy and recovery programs greatly increases the effectiveness of rehab and your ability to maintain sobriety after rehab ends.

Updated February 16, 2024
  1. What is a substance use disorder? American Psychiatric Association. Published December 2020. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  2. Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction: treatment and recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published July 2020. Accessed January 24, 2024.
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