How to Prepare Mentally for a Stay in a Drug Rehab Center

How to Prepare Mentally for a Stay in a Drug Rehab Center

Getting started with drug and alcohol treatment right away is often the best approach. However, for various reasons, some folks feel like they have to have to wait a while before starting their alcohol or drug rehab. Maybe they’re put on a waiting list, or they need additional time to tie up loose ends at work or with family before entering treatment. It happens.

Regardless, if they enroll in an alcohol and drug rehab center’s program within 24 hours or within a week, they shouldn’t fret— waiting isn’t the biggest deal, as long as they’re fully committed to enrolling and completing the program. In fact, the delay can actually serve as a small window of time to let the reality of rehab and sink in and give people time to mentally prepare.

Going to drug and alcohol rehab can be a potentially frightening and humbling experience. Those who enroll are taking a major step in breaking free from the hold of drugs and alcohol on their lives. It’s also the necessary path to a future marked by better health, richer relationships, and lasting sobriety. But, still, it can be a scary step!

Oftentimes, the underlying cause of fear is uncertainty. People may ask “what will happen during rehab,” or “what will be expected of me?” Not knowing and feeling unprepared can create undue anxiety and stress. Luckily, the best way to conquer the fear of the unknown is by getting informed about the process.

Overcome the fear of the unknown with knowledge.

Part 1: Getting Educated

What is rehab?

Alcohol and drug rehabilitation is essentially treatment directed at helping addicted individuals overcome compulsive substance use. Drug and alcohol treatment varies in the setting, approach, and duration. Addiction is often considered a chronic condition, so rehab is typically a long-term, ongoing commitment.

What to Expect…

Inpatient Rehab Centers

The initial focus of inpatient alcohol and drug treatment programs is to facilitate the detoxification process, which involves getting drugs and alcohol out of a person’s system. In rehab, detox is carried out safely under medical supervision to minimize undesirable withdrawal symptoms, as much as possible.

The secondary focus of inpatient treatment is to address the underlying psychological issues that contribute to substance abuse. Those enrolled also learn valuable coping skills to maintain sobriety after the program ends. Usually, both group and one-on-one therapy are required to work through a variety of issues, such as:

  • Overcoming low self-esteem
  • Learning to identify and manage triggers
  • Recognizing the role of relationships and family in addiction
  • Building better communication and conflict resolution skills
  • Developing emotional regulation strategies
  • Increasing motivation to stay sober
  • Coming up with a plan to manage life after the program

A central theme of treatment at the inpatient rehabilitation center is readying the person for re-entering society, so it can also help to map out an aftercare plan early on.

Aftercare Rehab Centers

It’s a good idea to start thinking about aftercare in advance. Why? Because, when people have a clear plan and expectations, they feel less trepidation about re-entering society. Once out of the protective shield of inpatient alcohol and drug rehab facilities, individuals in recovery need a safeguard to help them stay committed and on the course.

Aftercare is a way to safeguard your recovery.

Recovery from addiction isn’t set in stone the moment a person completes rehab. Addicts in recovery need ongoing education, therapy, and support to maintain sobriety. Aftercare is the discharge plan that may involve participating in outpatient treatment, attending individual, group, and/or family therapy, going to support groups, and accessing community resources. Sometimes after-care treatment is included at the inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers. In other cases, individuals may need to work with a social worker or therapist to develop a plan.

Being Informed

Those preparing for rehab will benefit from asking questions, conducting research about addiction, and finding out more about their specific alcohol and drug treatment center to best prepare for their stay.

Good questions to ask might include:

  • What will a typical day be like in rehab?
  • What are the rules/expectations of your facility?
  • Will I be allowed, visitors?
  • What type of therapy is offered?
  • How long will my program last?
  • Is aftercare included in my program?

Trusted resources for learning more about drug and alcohol rehab include:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse

Part 2: Uncovering the “Why”

Most alcohol and drug rehab centers offer their services on a voluntary basis. This means an individual can technically leave whenever they please. Is this advisable? Absolutely not! Leaving rehab early means a person basically throws away all the time and effort they put towards getting sober. Plus, they leave themselves open to relapse because they may not have all the skills needed to face the real world just yet.

Getting through rehab and not walking out is tough, for sure, but people can increase their odds of staying by preparing in one important way: get clear on why they’re going to rehab in the first place. Having a strong reason or purpose behind treatment ensures that you will remain committed to recovery, no matter how rocky rehabilitation becomes

Focusing on your “why” can help you stick with the program when you want to give up.

Here’s how to find your “why”…

The “why” is typically buried in a person’s life purpose. They can find it by asking themselves some personal questions, such as:

“What drives me to get out of bed each morning?”

 “How would I like to use my recovery to improve my family or community?”

 “Who would I like to be proud of me?”

 “At my lowest point, what did I regret most?”

 “What dreams or aspirations are still unfulfilled in my life?”

 “What am I good at? How can I use that skill or talent in my recovery?”

Answering these questions should help most people uncover their “why” and get grounded in purpose. Once the “why” becomes obvious, consider creating a vision board using words or images that portray your “why,” or develop a list of affirmations regarding your “why.” This might sound like, “I want to be clean so that my kids grow up with a father” or “I want my business to succeed.”

Either of these can be helpful to fall back on when doubts creep in during your alcohol and drug rehab program.

Part 3: Rallying Support

Those preparing for a stay in drug and alcohol rehab centers already understand that treatment is a necessary step to a better life. However, the knowledge doesn’t make going to rehab any less stressful or overwhelming. On the inside, individuals learn a variety of practical skills for managing stress and dealing with strong emotions. Before rehab, though, they probably don’t have strong coping skills. Fortunately, most people have within reach one of the most powerful tools for battling stress: their social circle.

It’s nearly impossible to enjoy a lasting recovery from addiction without a strong social support system.

That’s right. Family members, friends, coworkers, and others are all great sources of support to help addicts gather the strength to prepare for rehab and remain steadfast throughout recovery. The emphasis, however, is on positive social support—if a friend was once a drinking buddy, they aren’t the best candidate for support during or after rehab. The best candidates are people who are supportive, encouraging and clean themselves. That way, they aren’t accidentally (or purposely) sabotaging your sobriety.

Building this social support now, before treatment, is imperative to making sure a recovering addict stays on the right path after treatment. Positive social support can offer the following benefits to recovering addicts:

  • Builds confidence
  • Provides outlets for talking through struggles
  • Offers accountability
  • Helps fight stress
  • Reduces boredom/idle time
  • Encourages healthy choices
  • Normalizes sober lifestyle
  • Prevents relapse

Positive social support can come from anywhere. Reach out to partners, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, close friends, colleagues, counselors, support group members, and spiritual advisers. Tell these people you’re trying to get clean and ask for their support and encouragement.

Although it may be challenging or even seem disloyal, you’ll have to prepare yourself to cut ties with old friends who still use alcohol or drugs, at least for now. These people will only serve as triggers, making it tempting for you to slip back into old habits. Some people want to keep old friends around to try to inspire them to get clean. That’s a noble idea, but the best thing you can do is focus on yourself first. Then, you can act as a role model to others.

Part 4: Staying Positive

Recovery isn’t typically associated with happiness—at least not right away—but that doesn’t mean individuals can’t go into it with an upbeat attitude. When a recovering addict purposely focuses on the positives rather than the negatives, their entire life can be transformed.

As the Buddha said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” In that case, why not try thinking about how great you are doing? Maybe you haven’t used in 5 hours or 5 days— either way, celebrate it! Anticipate all the positive outcomes likely to arise from the rehab process, such as better health, stronger relationships, more money, and less legal troubles. Focus on the positive aspects of every situation you encounter.

According to Harvard Health, taking an optimistic outlook on life can be a positive predictor of health and longevity. What’s more, optimism was linked to improved recovery after surgery, fewer cardiovascular risks, improved blood pressure, and greater immunity. Who knows? Maybe having a brighter outlook can also alleviate alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms, too. It can’t hurt to try!

A positive outlook is crucial to your success.  If you view every situation negatively, you won’t learn or grow.

How to Keep a Positive Outlook

  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude is associated with better health, better relationships, and a better mood. Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, take time each day to acknowledge the good. Jot down two or three things in a journal that went well that day. Or, give thanks for certain people, such as a counselor or a supportive family member.
  • Switch “I can’t” to “I can.” The recovery journey may introduce many challenges and firsts. It’s all too easy to say, “I can’t do that,” but imagine how many barriers could be overcome by considering the opposite: “I can.” Speak in the affirmative and you may enjoy greater progress, and get a self-esteem boost, too.
  • Focus on progress. Being overly concerned with the finish line can cause you to miss out on all the incredible things you are learning about yourself and others throughout the process. Recovery is an ongoing, never-ending journey, not a destination. Acknowledge each and every small win that helps you to grow and transform into the person you are meant to be. Also, don’t compare your progress to other’s—recovery is personal!

Trying these strategies before, during, and after alcohol and drug rehab program can help those in recovery get the most out of treatment. Plus, having these tools available will also be helpful when facing life challenges down the road.

The Takeaway

The mindset and outlook people have going into drug and alcohol treatment centers has a powerful impact on what they get out of treatment. Get off on the right foot by reading up on addiction, learning about your unique treatment program, and knowing what to expect. Other important ways to mentally prepare for your rehab stay include figuring out your “why,” gathering a support system and doing your best to maintain a positive outlook. All of these strategies will not only make the transition into rehab a little bit smoother, but they’ll also serve you throughout the recovery process.