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how to prepare to go to drug or alcohol rehab
March 17, 2018

From Call to Day One: How to Prepare Mentally and Physically for Rehab

how to prepare to go to drug or alcohol rehabWhether it’s for you or a loved one, getting help for an addiction often begins with a simple phone call to a drug or alcohol treatment provider. After that, depending on when the facility can admit you, there is a usually a brief period of time during which your (or a loved one’s) main job is to prepare mentally and physically for rehab.

What we’ve found from experience at Beach House is that clients who are well-prepared for the experience that awaits them, starting with the intake and admissions process, are better able to adjust to detox and treatment and to focus on their plan of recovery. (If you’ll be entering one of Beach House’s drug or alcohol programs, learn more about what to expect upon arrival.) What follow, then, are some tips for preparing mentally and physically for rehab, including firsthand advice from our very own Director of Admissions Rian McGuire, who has reams of expertise in the area of prepping clients for what happens next after that first phone call to Beach House.

McGuire and her team of admissions counselors are your first point of contact with Beach House—and unlike at other rehab facilities, they stay your point of contact throughout the admit process. Uniquely, they also work and take calls on-site at our Beach House facility, and are therefore among the first people to greet and meet with you in person upon arrival.

How to Prepare Mentally

It may not seem intuitive upon first thought to think about preparing mentally for rehab. One person in recovery, recalling what it was like to make that first call to a rehab facility asking for help, described the experience this way: “I was just wanting to get help. I wasn’t really thinking about anything else.”

His experience is not uncommon. Often when people make that first call to one of our admissions counselors, it is because they are in a place of desperation, having come to the realization that their substance abuse problem is no longer manageable (if it ever was). Sometimes it’s hard to think about anything other than getting in to the first rehab facility that will take you as soon as possible.

Enter McGuire and her team, whose job is to help you be thinking about what is important to keep in mind as you anticipate Day 1 of treatment—in order to help you achieve the most optimal treatment results. In a recent interview, McGuire recommended the following:

  • Try to go in with a positive attitude. This can be hard to do if you’ve gone to treatment before only to relapse after discharge. “If you’ve gone to treatment before and it didn’t work, it’s easy to go in with negative thoughts and let that be something that weighs you down,” McGuire said. On the other hand, “knowing you’re making the choice to go to X treatment center” and “leaving behind any past negative experiences” can help the transition into treatment go more smoothly.
  • Accept that you’ll have good days and bad days in treatment. Unrealistic expectations—preconceived or idealized ideas about just how great every day in treatment will be—will inevitably set you up for some level of disappointment. (What’s true in life is also true in a treatment center.) Here McGuire emphasized that “it’s important to keep an open heart and open mind” when you’re getting ready to start rehab.
  • Prepare your family and loved ones for your good days and your bad days. McGuire suggested having a pre-rehab conversation with close family and friends about the reality that you will have good and bad days while in treatment—and, that on the bad days you will need your loved ones’ encouragement to keep up the hard work and not quit. This way your family and friends will be ready with words of encouragement when you call them on a bad day wanting to leave rehab.
  • Be ready for the reality that during detox your body is “not going to feel wonderful.” On account of the withdrawal symptoms, as you gradually taper off of one or more substances, those first couple of days will be rough, according to McGuire.
  • Be prepared for a lengthy admissions process, anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes. “You’re being admitted to a high-level facility and this admission includes detailed paperwork and a medical assessment, so you’re not immediately going to receive a bed or medication. We’re here to guide you, but you do have to go through that process,” McGuire said. She added that it’s also important to “understand that as you pass your belongings, your things will be searched. We want to make sure you’re not bringing in any medical paraphernalia or drugs.”

How to Prepare Physically

As for how to prepare physically for rehab, McGuire offered these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. In cases where doing so is not possible, McGuire counsels incoming clients to at least be prepared to adapt physically to no longer having one or more substances in their system.
  • Dump any bottles of liquor or open drug paraphernalia, so that you can come home to a fresh start. This is especially crucial if you know that after rehab you’ll be going directly home as opposed to another sober living environment. McGuire added that in some cases when clients don’t feel able or ready to do this, she recommends that they ask a family member to do it for them. “Ask them to prepare your house physically for your return,” she said.
  • Pack light. “You don’t need 65 days of clothing,” McGuire said. Learn what you need to bring.
  • If you’re traveling for treatment, be prepared that traveling can be stressful and a potential trigger to drink or use. “Sometimes coming to treatment will be the first time someone has ever flown or traveled before,” McGuire said. She always cautions clients that traveling can be stressful, and when you don’t have healthy coping mechanisms, you may drink or use more than usual, consequently missing your flight.

What You May Not Know About Treatment and That Could Surprise You

In addition to these guidelines for preparing mentally and physically for rehab, McGuire was quick to touch on key aspects of the treatment experience at Beach House that often surprise arriving clients:

  • The opportunity to meet with your admissions counselor and see them face to face
  • The comfort of the Beach House facility
  • The good food
  • And, most importantly, the opportunity to tap into a level of support and connection that many clients have not experienced before, including opportunities to learn from others in similar circumstances.

If you would like more information about the admissions process and how to prepare mentally and physically for rehab, please contact us today. One of our admissions counselors will be happy to talk with you.

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