January 31, 2022

Drug Rehabilitation: What is it Like to Attend Rehab?

by Psych Times Staff

If you think you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, or if you know you do and are considering getting help from an inpatient treatment facility, you may wonder what it’s like to attend rehab. It’s understandable to have a fear of the unknown. If you’ve never been to rehab before, it makes sense that you’d be nervous about taking the plunge to get help or scared of what life will be like in rehab.

The Process of Rehab

There are three main steps to the process of drug or alcohol rehabilitation:

  1. When you first enter a rehabilitation facility, the first step is to check in. You’ll go through an intake session with a staff member, which is a private meeting where the staff member asks you some questions to get a sense of who you are, your history, what substances you use, and your immediate needs. This intake interview is the first step in a process geared toward coming up with a customized treatment plan for you that takes into account your specific needs.
  2. You’ll have a medical assessment, and if you need to physically detox off drugs or alcohol, that will be the next phase of your treatment. Heroin, morphine, benzodiazepines, or heavy alcohol usage are some substances that make stopping cold turkey very uncomfortable physically and psychologically. These substances are highly prone to causing physical addiction, so medication is often administered while in rehab to ease withdrawal symptoms. It can take three to 14 days to detox completely. It’s an important step that will help you as the drugs or alcohol leave your system.
  3. Therapy. During your time in rehab, you’ll have an hour of individual therapy once a week with a counselor. You can also expect more frequent group therapy with your fellow rehab participants. Sometimes there’s family counseling available, if appropriate in your case. Working one-on-one with a therapist gives you a safe place to delve into the reasons for your addiction. You’ll take stock of how your addiction has affected you, your health, and your emotions. You’ll work through a process with your therapist to explore the underlying causes of your addiction and address them to help you move forward.

Addiction Triggers and Learning New Coping Skills

As an addiction specialist, your therapist will help you identify your addiction triggers. Addiction triggers are any feelings, events, thoughts, places, or people that may trigger the desire to abuse substances again. Identifying them is an essential part of avoiding them or handling them if you’re in a situation where facing a trigger is unavoidable. Your therapist will help you develop new healthy coping mechanisms to deal with your desire to abuse substances. This process may often include learning to cope with stress, deal with strong emotions, or overcome conflicts you may experience.

A Day in Rehab

Usually, a day in rehab will begin early in the morning. Your nurses will come in, often checking your vital signs and administering any medications you may be taking. You’ll have a little time to get ready before having breakfast in a communal setting. Often, there’s a rec room that doubles as a cafeteria at mealtimes.

Structure is one of the most important features of rehab. A structured day helps you focus on your recovery without leaving you a lot of time to be alone with overwhelming thoughts or while wrestling with the intense cravings that can be a part of early recovery. After breakfast, there will usually be scheduled activities, individual or group therapy sessions, or other special programming geared to help you in your recovery process.

Most rehab facilities offer art therapy, music therapy, physical movement (such as yoga), practices to help bring calm (such as meditation), and on-site 12-step meetings. You can benefit from groups and other recreational offerings in rehab. All of these activities give you something new to focus on without focusing on the use of substances.

Lunch will usually be at noon, and again, you’ll return to eat communally in the designated dining area with your fellow rehab participants. Part of the reason for the communal meal times is to give you a chance to form friendships and find the peer support you need.

Likewise, group therapy sessions are a chance to benefit from interacting with other clients. One or two therapists will usually lead groups that are specifically formed to include clients dealing with similar issues. Being grouped with others who face similar challenges makes it easier for you to relate and form supportive relationships. Sharing issues you’re facing in recovery helps everyone learn and leads to valuable mutual support. Not feeling alone in your recovery is a significant benefit which, along with other new tools and skills you’re learning in rehab, can help you maintain your sobriety.

You may also find yourself with a bit of downtime during the day or evening. You can use this time to play a board game, journal, read a book, draw, or color in an adult coloring book. Many rehabs will also allow time to go outside for supervised walks. Sometimes group fitness classes are available. After groups, therapy, or other activities, it will be time for dinner with your peers. After dinner, there are often 12-step meetings and group TV time.

Planning for Aftercare

Your time in rehab may last from 30 to 90 days. Often 90 days is recommended, as you’ll receive more treatment in that time, which can put your recovery on a firmer foundation than a shorter stay. No matter how long you stay, the time will come when you’ll leave and rejoin the outside world. That can be a very vulnerable time in your sobriety, so the staff, your therapist, and a case manager or social worker will meet with you to formulate an aftercare plan to support you after you leave rehab to help you prevent a relapse.

Hopefully, your potential concerns have been addressed, and you now have a better idea of what to expect from inpatient rehab treatment. Seeking help is still a big step, but bravely choosing to go to rehab to address your issues around substance use can lead you to a whole new healthier, happier life, and you’re worth it!


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