Top 5 Surprises Waiting for You in Drug Addiction Treatment

Few people living in addiction are excited about the prospect of going to rehab. It is understandable to be a little nervous about what is about to happen. After all, you are beginning a brand new life, and the first steps into that new life are completely uncharted territory. Most people know that detox and associated withdrawal symptoms will characterize the first days or weeks in recovery, and many know that intensive therapeutic treatment is the next step. To dispel some of the myths you may have heard about recovery and remove some of the mystery that may be causing you to procrastinate, here are a few things to know in advance.  

1. Little Privacy

When you first walk through the doors of an inpatient drug treatment program, they will likely go through your bags. The idea is to make sure that you have left all contraband items at home (e.g., drugs and alcohol, porn, weapons, etc.) and to put these aside for you if you have not. At some rehab programs, sexually suggestive clothing; anything that has racist, homophobic, or misogynist connotations; large amounts of money; expensive jewelry; and electronic devices are not allowed. Even some toiletry items, like nail clippers and mouthwash, may be taken. The goal is to make sure you don’t lose anything or have it stolen, spend time focused on anything but recovery, or otherwise distract others from their recoveries. Throughout your time in treatment, your possessions may be looked through as needed – not to snoop but to ascertain whether or not you have acquired any contraband items and are keeping them in your room. 

Additionally, whether or not you are in an inpatient drug rehab program, you will likely be subject to random drug testing at any time.  

2. Communication Blackout

During the first couple weeks of treatment if you are in an inpatient drug rehab, you will likely be asked to avoid communicating with friends and family at home. This means no visits, no email contact, no letters, no texts, and no phone calls. There are a number of reasons for this. First, it helps you to disconnect from stressors at home and transition into treatment where your sole focus should be you and your recovery. Second, if you have relationships with people who are toxic or in any way contributing to your continued use of drugs and alcohol, then you have a chance to break free from those influences for a time and stabilize in recovery. Though you will eventually have to deal with these issues, it is helpful to disengage briefly and focus on nothing but your own health and healing for a time.  

Many argue this one, stating that their support at home is a big part of their recoveries, and that to remove this support would make the transition into treatment harder than it has to be. For many, however, the relationships that survived addiction are far from healthy, but with time and treatment, they can become healthier. In the meantime, the rule is kept in place for everyone without exception to protect those who are in harmful relationships and to allow for total focus and concentration on recovery. 

3. Not Much Downtime

During the week at an inpatient drug rehab program, you will be busy from the (assigned) time that you get up through the end of the day. Though there are brief periods throughout the day where you may be free to journal or read, usually around or after mealtimes, they rarely provide for you to be alone. Even on weekends, when many of the onsite medical professionals head home, there are often field trips planned or workshops and events held at the recovery center. In many cases, you may also be expected to help maintain the facility through cleaning or little projects beyond just keeping your room clean and/or assist with meal preparation and planning. The idea is to get as much as possible out of the relatively brief time that you spend in treatment. 

4. Earned Privileges

When you first arrive at treatment, you have no freedom whatsoever. You will be escorted everywhere you have to go, have your medications handed to you dose by dose and take them under the watchful eye of a staff member, and not be able to make phone calls or leave the building for any reason. Over time, however, as you begin to make progress in recovery, you will begin to earn privileges. You may be able to go for a walk or head into town with a group, make phone calls or use email, or take some extra downtime. But it is important to note that if you break the rules, you will be even more restricted than before. 

All of this is done not in an effort to control you or make you feel powerless but, given that addiction is a time often defined by manipulation and rule-breaking, to remind you that rules do apply to you in recovery, no matter how you feel about them or if you like them. 

5. Effort Matters

The more effort you put into every therapy session, your interactions with others, and the little choices you make each day (e.g., choosing to be positive, eating well, etc.), the more progress you will make during your time in treatment. Of course, the more progress you make in treatment, the more stable you will be in recovery, and the more stable you are in your recovery, the less likely you will be to relapse when you return home.  

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