The Basics of Rehab Preparation

Many people develop substance abuse problems due to self-medicating an underlying issue, whether it’s an undiagnosed mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, or trauma from their past. Although chemical substances are physically addictive, it’s the unhealthy thinking and poor emotional coping skills that make it hard to maintain sobriety.

Rehab is difficult, and taking an honest inventory about yourself after you’ve completed medical detox isn’t for the faint of heart. Being prepared for rehab, knowing what to expect during the process, and accepting the work that you’ll need to do, both on your own and in therapy sessions, can help you improve your chances for success. Honesty and support are two of the things that are critical to helping an addict maintain sobriety when they are tested and tempted.

We’ve put together a guide of helpful tips to get you in the best frame of mind to enter inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab is usually indicated for those who have a difficult life situation and need complete removal from the opportunities to drink or use.

Note: This guide isn’t intended to treat or diagnose your condition and shouldn’t replace advice from your primary care doctor or a trained addiction counselor.

Step 1: Take Care of Work, Family, and Financial Obligations

If you’re entering inpatient rehab, prepare to be away from your life for at least a month. Depending on the severity of your addiction and how long you’ve been abusing drugs or alcohol, your intake counselor may recommend that you spend longer than the 30 days that is the typical minimum for inpatient treatment. You need to make sure that you’ve got someone to pay bills for you, that you can take time off work, and that you have childcare or other help with family obligations before you go.

First, check into your workplace’s policy for a long leave of absence. Explain your situation to your boss, and check into taking your vacation days, sick leave, and FMLA unpaid leave. Most companies can’t deny you taking up to eight weeks protected under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. This is something that is most commonly used for maternity leave or to recuperate after surgery but can be used for the rehab and mental health treatment services you’re receiving too.

Check your insurance policy to see what’s covered and what you’re responsible for. Most treatment facilities provide medication for you, not just during the medically supervised detox period, but afterward, to help treat mental health issues and mitigate some of the anxiety that comes as a result of withdrawals from alcohol and some drugs. You may be responsible for co-pays for these medications, so make sure that you have enough money to cover this, either by making a deposit at the facility or ensuring that there’s enough in your bank account.

If you have children, make sure that your partner can cover the childcare during your absence. You may need to arrange before- or after-school care or a nanny. Some people may choose to wait until a school break and give their children an extended visit with their grandparents. Or you may be a caretaker of an elderly relative. Some nursing homes allow a temporary stay for seniors, so this may be an option to ensure that everyone you care for is getting the proper attention they need.

Don’t forget to check on the little things, like suspending your cell phone service to save a little money, putting an outgoing message on your voice mail and email, and having someone collect your mail or have the post office hold it for you. And don’t forget to arrange care for your pets too. A dog sitter or a boarder can make sure that there’s nothing for you to worry about.

Step 2: Bring Only the Essentials

Your rehab facility will give you a list of things you’re not allowed to bring, as well as a suggested packing list of what you’ll likely need. These include the kinds of clothing that you’re permitted to wear, as well as the types of things that may be suggestive or improper (like shirts with a beer company logo, for instance). Some facilities may let people smoke cigarettes, while others are completely addictive-substance free. If you’re a smoker or vaper, check with your facility before packing these.

Expect to have one or more roommates in your rehab center, so bring a bathrobe and shower flip-flops just in case. You’ll be provided bedding, but many people feel more comfortable with their own pillow and a comforter from home. A few photos of your family and loved ones may help you miss them less and give you a visual of what you’re working towards.

You may anticipate that there’s a lot of downtime in between group therapy sessions and be tempted to bring books or magazines. However, many inpatient treatment facilities don’t allow these. You’re encouraged to use your off-hours journaling and thinking about the nature of your addiction. You’ll also be expected to work through some of the homework you’re given, like worksheets, writing down choices to help prevent relapse, and examining forgiveness in your life to help you let go of negative experiences that may be weighing you down on the road to recovery.

Make sure you bring enough toiletries to last a month. Check whether you can bring razors or tweezers, as some stricter facilities may not allow these either. For women, make sure to bring plenty of tampons and pads as well. Finally, some rehab centers have vending machines, so bring a couple of rolls of quarters.

Step 3: Reach Out to Create a Support Network

Take the time to enjoy the positive people in your life and make connections that can be supportive after you leave rehab. Being upfront with your loved ones about seeking help can be scary, but in most cases, those closest to you probably already know that substance abuse therapy can help improve your life. You may have much more love and support than you anticipated, and knowing that you have people who care about you at home can help motivate you to work hard in rehab.

Where to Go for More Help and Additional Resources

If you feel like you’re ready to take back your life and move ahead with rehab, you have many options. Here are some additional resources to help you make an informed decision.

  • Healthline has information about understanding the nature of alcoholism and guidelines to see if you may be suffering from alcoholism.
  • details the short- and long-term effects of excess alcohol consumption.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers insight into the many ways to treat drug dependency.


Will my insurance pay for rehab?

Each policy varies, but if you have a medically demonstrated need, many insurance policies cover at least a medical detox. You’ll want to call your plan’s provider to see what is and isn’t covered.

Can I bring my phone to rehab?

Most facilities hold your cell phone while you’re in treatment, although you’ll usually be able to make phone calls from the facility phone, so make sure to write down and bring along the numbers for your family and loved ones.

What happens if I relapse?

Relapse does happen, and if it happens to you, don’t feel that you’re a failure. Kicking drugs or alcohol is very hard, so just pick yourself up and try again. In most rehab centers, you work with a counselor to create a relapse prevention plan. If you get tempted, review your plan each day after you’re out of rehab to keep you on the right track.

Should I seek treatment close by or far away?

Seeking rehab close to home may help you feel more comfortable, and you may make sober friends there who can help with support after you leave. However, going away for treatment ensures that there are no distractions, and you won’t have the temptation to leave. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision, and one you may wish to make with an addiction counselor.