Going to Rehab: How to Prepare for Rehab

3 min read · 2 sections
Entering rehab can be a bit daunting. But several steps can ease your fears, help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the upcoming experience, and allow you to focus on recovery while in treatment.
What you will learn:
Navigating employment and family obligations.
Managing financial and legal responsibilities.
Packing for rehab.
Preparing family and friends.

Steps to Take in Preparing for Rehab

For many people, deciding to seek treatment for a substance use disorder can be daunting. Particularly if this is the first time the individual has entered treatment, myriad unknowns can be intimidating, prompting some people to bypass treatment altogether. In fact, according to 2021 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 94% of people aged 12 and older with a substance use disorder didn’t seek treatment for their addiction.1

But if you’re struggling with substance misuse, you don’t have to be among this 94%. Rather, there are several things you can do to prepare for rehab—including everything from managing employment and financial obligations to packing appropriately and seeking support from friends and family. Knowing what to do before going to rehab can ease your fears, help you mentally and emotionally prepare for treatment, and allow you to focus on your recovery while there.

Navigating Employment and Family Obligations

Life doesn’t stop when you enter treatment, and many people have employment and family responsibilities that must be maintained or perhaps transferred to others during treatment. Addressing these responsibilities before you enter rehab will allow you to focus on your sobriety during your care.

When it comes to family, friends, and colleagues, it’s usually best to be honest—as opposed to secretive—about your treatment plans, as any deception can impact your sobriety before and after treatment. Sadly, there’s still some stigma associated with addiction. So feeling nervous about telling your family and friends you’re going to rehab is normal. Know, however, that those who truly want the best for you will understand your decision and offer support and encouragement while you’re away.

It’s also normal to be worried about approaching your employer to seek time off for treatment. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) typically protects you from being fired for going to rehab. Under the FMLA, many employees are allowed 3 months of unpaid leave for substance use disorder treatment.2 That said, some employers are exempt from these stipulations, and there are some additional eligibility requirements.3 The Department of Labor offers a fairly extensive FAQ page with additional details to answer your questions. Plus, the Wage and Hour Division of the department, which has various offices throughout the country, can answer further questions.

Bottom line: Asking for time off work for treatment can be stressful. But treatment is vital to your mental, emotional, and physical health. And any employer that truly cares for its employees will likely be willing to make accommodations for your treatment. After all, you’ll likely be a far better employee if you’re sober rather than struggling with substance misuse.

Aside from work, many people have other major responsibilities, such as childcare, pet care, elder care, and/or attending school. It’s critical to figure out who will handle your obligations before going to rehab.

Sometimes, a friend or loved one can temporarily assume some of your responsibilities. However, even if you don’t have support at home, other options are available, such as hiring professional caregivers, using long-term pet sitters, taking a leave from school, etc. Additionally, while not common, some specialized rehab facilities offer family-based or parent-focused treatment that often includes on-site or nearby childcare services while the parent is in treatment.

Whatever your plan, figuring things out before leaving for treatment gives you peace of mind and allows you to focus on yourself once you arrive.

Also keep in mind that depending on the severity of your addiction as well as other factors, inpatient treatment may not be required. That is, outpatient programs may be an option. If you don’t need 24/7 care, you may be able to attend a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), or traditional outpatient care. However, it’s critical to the success of your treatment to match your needs to the various levels of care, and healthcare or addiction professionals are the most qualified individuals to make these determinations with you.

Managing Financial and Legal Obligations

Other factors to consider while preparing for rehab are financial and legal obligations. The amount of time you spend in treatment can vary, and utility bills, car notes, rent, the mortgage, and tuition won’t stop while you’re gone.

To ensure your bills are paid while you’re in treatment, consider setting up automatic payments, paying your bills ahead of time, or entrusting a loved one with making payments on your behalf.

If you have health insurance that’s paying for part or all of your treatment, it’s also a good idea to verify what’s covered and ensure that all the necessary steps have been completed prior to your arrival at the treatment facility. It’s helpful to know how much your insurance covers, along with co-pays and deductibles. Taking a bit of time to go over these details can ensure you’re not surprised by expenses nor left worrying about finances during treatment.

If you have any legal obligations such as court dates, parole meetings, or probation appointments, it’s critical to inform the authorities about your treatment plans. Contact your parole officer and/or other officials to notify them that you’re going to rehab. Do so as early as possible, and consider providing this notification in writing to ensure there aren’t any misunderstandings or mistakes.

Packing for Rehab

Packing might sound like an afterthought—or at least a less-critical component of your pre-rehab plans. But going to treatment means entering an unfamiliar space at a vulnerable time. Figuring out what to bring to drug and alcohol rehab can ensure not only that your stay is as comfortable as possible but also that you’re well prepared for the treatment experience.

Each treatment center typically has a list of things to bring and to leave at home, so you’ll want to obtain and employ this list when packing. However, here are some essentials you’ll find on most facilities’ packing lists.

  • Insurance cards.
  • A form of identification.
  • A small amount of cash.
  • A credit card, debit card, or checkbook.
  • Prescribed medications (if any) in their original bottles.
  • Alcohol-free hygiene products and toiletries.
  • Comfortable clothes.
  • Workout/walking clothes and shoes.
  • Pajamas/sleepwear.

Some facilities might also recommend items related to their amenities. For example, rehabs with an on-site pool such as Laguna Treatment Center might recommend packing a swimsuit or swim trunks. Or a facility with equine therapy such as Oxford Treatment Center might recommend that you bring jeans and boots for horseback riding.

Additionally, some things you generally shouldn’t bring to rehab include:

  • Drug paraphernalia.
  • Weapons, sharp objects, nail clippers, etc.
  • Products containing alcohol.
  • Baby powder.
  • Outside food and snacks.
  • Aerosol cans.
  • Revealing clothing.
  • Shaving equipment.
  • Valuable items (e.g., expensive jewelry, watches, electronics, etc.).

Treatment centers may also have different stipulationgs regarding electronics such as mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.

Preparing Family and Friends

Support from family and friends can aid you in achieving your recovery goals. If you have loved ones willing to stand by your side through your journey, take all the support and encouragement you can get. Many treatment facilities also offer family therapy, which can provide support for all members of the family, as opposed to only the individual struggling with substance misuse. Family show support during rehabilitation, man holding woman's hands

If you have a support system at home, determine the rules at your chosen facility regarding contact and visits from friends and family. There might be times when you can’t access your phone or when visits aren’t allowed. So it’s important to obtain and share this information with your loved ones to ensure everyone is on the same page and people are able to offer support when appropriate.

Letter Writing and Journaling

Keeping a journal prior to and during treatment can help you to express your thoughts and emotions and to track your progress through your recovery journey. In fact, past entries often become testaments to how much you’ve grown.

Writing letters (or emails) to loved ones before entering treatment is another great way to express your emotions, particularly because it’s sometimes hard to say everything you want face-to-face. A letter allows you to think about what you want to say and write out your feelings in a way that is easily understood.

Letters and emails also help you keep in touch with loved ones during treatment. You might not be able to see or call all your loved ones while in rehab. But you can still stay connected by writing to them.

Preparing for Rehab Today

Stepping away from your life to enter an addiction treatment program can be intimidating. So it’s easy to keep pushing it off for another day, especially when you don’t know what to expect or how to prepare for rehab. But it’s never too late to start treatment, and today—right now, in fact—is the best time to take that first step.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) can guide you through the entire process, from finding a suitable treatment program to answering questions and preparing you to enter rehab. Reach out to us at . We’ll not only offer guidance but also listen to your story and help to ease any fears.



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