7 Tips If You’re New to Rehab
If you’re attending rehab for the first time, you’re likely a lot nervous. Addiction treatment is a big deal and it’s important to be prepared, to go in ready, and to adopt the right mindset as you go through treatment. Taking steps to actively change your life can be intimidating at best and it’s understandable if you’re hesitant, resistant, or even scared. So is everyone else.
Getting started with rehab is easier than you might think. The programs are designed with the idea that you don’t know what to do or why. That means you’ll be walked through every step of the process. Instead of worrying about what you’ll be doing, you have to consider how you’ll be doing it.
These 7 tips should help you navigate rehab for the first time.
1. Talk to Your Therapist About Your Needs and Goals
You’re going to have a talk with your therapist and counselors when you go to rehab. They’ll use this to figure out what treatment you need, to build your recovery program, and to get to know you. At the same time, this conversation is for you. Going into it prepared can help you to get better outcomes, because you are defining goals and options for yourself. Here, it’s important to consider that if you know what you want and you know how to get there, you’re already well on your way to recovery. Yet, most of us go into rehab with no real idea of what we want or why. Emotionally, many of us are also completely resistant to therapy and treatment as well. You’ll get that when you listen to therapists and counselors dismissively, when you think of other people dismissively or judgmentally, and when you find yourself looking for reasons to laugh or disregard parts of treatment.
- Why do you want to recover?
- What are your short and long-term goals?
- How do you feel about treatment now? How do you want to feel about treatment?
- What are specific emotions or behaviors you struggle with that you’d like to fix? E.g., are you lonely, stressed, have difficulty dealing with emotion at all?
Your therapist will help you work through this and set goals. Understanding that and working with them, and intentionally deciding how you’re going to spend your time working on yourself can help immensely as you move through therapy.
2. Keep an Open Mind
Going to therapy or treatment the first time is a lot. It’s easy to be resistant, to be dismissive, or to dislike things. Most substance use disorder treatment facilities have fairly strict schedules. You’ll have to get up at the same time every day, you’ll have to share a room with one or more people, you’ll have to eat with a group, this can all be a lot.
Keep an open mind. Plan to participate in things. Plan to engage, to fail, to do well, to just be there and to do the exercises and maintain the lifestyle. If you’re willing to commit whether or not you like or approve of the activity, you’ll be that much closer to the mindset and mentality that help you to recover.
3. Be Part of the Group
Most people think rehab centers use shared rooms to save costs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, cohabitation is a deliberate choice to prevent you from isolating yourself. That’s important because addicts often isolate as a symptom of addiction. Getting to know your peers, seeing them as people, and participating in group failures and successes will help you on your way to opening up. That’s a positive step in learning how to do so with your friends, family, and new people you might meet.
Peers are an important resource in addiction recovery. They offer support, they offer camaraderie, they offer nonjudgement, and they know where you’ve been. Growing together with them can be a powerful part of recovery. Social support, social accountability, and having emotional outlets are extremely important as you move along your journey to recovery.
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4. Invest in Yourself
Most addiction treatment centers offer plenty of ways to invest in yourself and in your health. Many force at least some of it. But, the more you actively partake in self-care and building good routines, the more you actively reinforce the behaviors that will help you recover. That means:
- Actively participate in exercise. Yoga might not be your thing but it’s good for your body and it helps you relax. Otherwise, walking, swimming, and even a gym might be options.
- Take part in mental health rituals. Many rehab centers offer daily meditation. That might be weird and unfamiliar but try it. It’s incredibly relaxing and helps you manage and deal with stress now and in the long-term.
- Eat healthy meals. Any residential treatment center will offer regular meals. Most will also restrict your access to sugar and caffeine. That’s because these substances have been shown to negatively impact recovery. Yet, even if they don’t, you should take care to make healthy food choices. Avoid too much caffeine, limit sugar intake, eat well, and eat regularly. Building up your body will improve how you feel, will give you the tools to overcome addiction, and, overtime, will help to undo the negative health effects of addiction. Of course, choosing to eat well and building good routines help you to build the focus and discipline that allow you to build a positive and healthy life once you leave as well, so you win in more ways than one.
- Schedule downtime. Most treatment centers will integrate plenty of time to relax. Use it and relax. Even if you’re doing outpatient treatment, you need downtime. Relax, take a hot shower, read a book, do something fun. It’s good for you.
Most people either go into rehab with the idea that they don’t’ want this and it won’t’ help or that they will be 100% on all the time and constantly have to try and succeed at everything. Both mindsets are bad because neither make room for being human, for moving through something at a sustainable pace, fand for finding a good rhythm for your body and mind.
5. Practice Asking for Help
Rehab is about asking for help. That can be difficult, it can feel shameful, it can be painful. But, from the moment you step in the door at a rehab center, you’ve asked for help and gotten it. Keep doing that. Ask your peers for help, ask your therapists for help, ask your counselors for help. Asking for help is an incredibly valuable life skill that will help you to stay clean and sober. And, importantly, it doesn’t have to be about asking for help when things get to be too much. Did you struggle to understand something, ask. Do you want to talk about something specific, ask. Do you want to repeat something you did the other day, ask. And, if you really are struggling, ask. Humans are social creatures; we need to lean on each other to succeed.
Being self-aware and self-critical is an important skill that will help you to understand how you feel and what you should be communicating. Here, you should avoid self judgement. Self-criticism isn’t about criticizing yourself, it’s about being critical of your emotional and mental state, about self-evaluating. Why do I feel this way? How do I feel? What can I do about it? Can I/Should I ask for help? Practicing that awareness in the safe space of rehab, when you can reach out whenever you want, will help you to be more aware of your emotional state as you navigate recovery and as you move back into the real world.
7. Commit to Ongoing Recovery
Rehab isn’t the end of recovery. While many of us go to rehab expecting to be there for a few weeks and then go home, completely cured, that isn’t how it works. Rehab will give you a toolset, it’s up to you to keep applying that toolset. Recovery is an ongoing process and you’ll have to keep investing to keep getting better. How long does that last? Probably the rest of your life. The good habits and skills you build now will help. You sticking to them when you leave are the actual recovery.
Rehab is a big step. It’s normal for you to feel nervous, uncertain, and afraid. But, there are plenty of people there to help you through it. Hopefully these 7 tips give you a better idea of what to expect and how to approach your treatment once you’re there.