Inpatient Rehab: What Really Happens During Drug Treatment

Daily Life in an Inpatient Rehab for Addiction or Alcoholism

Daily life in an inpatient rehab program isn’t much like the way it’s depicted on reality television shows. While rehab certainly isn’t “fun and games,” it can be both enlightening and enjoyable when approached from the right perspective. If you or someone you love attends an inpatient program, you’ll likely make lifelong friends, meet powerful therapists, learn a lot, cry a little, laugh often and most importantly, change your life forever by putting your recovery first.

In this article we’ll discuss exactly what happens on a daily basis at an inpatient rehab center for drug or alcohol addiction. We’ll cover everything from meals and chores to medication and therapy, communication with friends and family, the counselors you’ll meet and the daily activities you’ll take part in. We’ll also tell you a little bit about what you can expect on your first day, and what items you should bring with you when you go.

Once you understand what really happens during drug treatment, you’ll see that it’s actually an effective and appealing way to get clean and stay clean for life.

You Must Detox Before Attending Inpatient Rehab

Detox isn’t nearly as bad as you might think

Unless the inpatient facility that you’re considering has an in-house medical detox center, you’ll need to go through detox prior to being admitted. This is because it’s critical that all drugs are no longer physically in your system. For most people this takes about 5 to 10 days, but in some cases detox can last as long as 2 weeks.

During detox you’ll be medically evaluated to determine what substances you’ve been using, in what quantities and for how long. This information is important because in rare cases it can be dangerous to withdraw from certain chemicals such as alcohol or benzodiazepine.

Because the physiological process of detox and subsequent withdrawal can be uncomfortable, symptoms will be addressed as appropriate, including with medication. Various therapies will also be provided to help cope with the difficult emotions and drug cravings that occur during withdrawal. These therapies are also designed to help prepare you for inpatient treatment.

Inpatient Rehab: What Really Happens During Drug Treatment

The Admissions and Intake Process

What happens when you first get to inpatient treatment?

When you arrive for treatment at an inpatient center, you’ll check in with an admissions specialist. In many cases this will be a person you have already talked to over the phone or possibly met in person. They’ll ask you some basic questions about your detox experience and how you’re currently feeling, and they’ll discuss with you any suggestions or treatment options recommended by doctors or therapists at the detox facility.

Because your health is a top priority, you’ll be quickly medically evaluated; i.e.: blood pressure, temperature, etc. Your current medications will be discussed and entered into your treatment plan, and any special needs will be addressed during this time.

It’s critical that you keep in mind that all of the staff you meet during your stay at an inpatient program are all dedicated to the same thing: your recovery. Even if you don’t like someone or they simply rub you the wrong way, they’re still dedicated to helping you. The fact of the matter is that most of them have been where you are now, so give them a chance and you’ll find you might change your mind.

In any case, be honest with the staff during the intake and admissions process, and if you’re not sure about something or have questions, be sure to ask.

After the basic intake meeting, you’ll be given a tour of the facility. You’ll be shown the kitchen and cooking facilities, laundry area, rooms and common areas, treatment areas and group rooms, etc. During the tour you’ll be introduced to all staff and patients you meet; overall you’ll be welcomed and things won’t be as strange as you might expect. In fact, many people report that they feel right at home; after all, a significant percentage of the staff at treatment centers are recovering addicts. Therefore, there’s often a great deal of solidarity at an inpatient rehab center.

Where will you be sleeping?

Knowing the basics about what to expect can make your experience much more pleasant

After your first day at an inpatient rehab center you’ll probably be exhausted. Sleeping arrangements vary from rehab to rehab but in general are dormitory style and separated by gender. In some cases there may be 2 to 3 people to a room or suite of rooms, while in other cases there may be private rooms available. Typically these types of treatment centers are more expensive.

Relationships are strictly forbidden while attending treatment – and with good reason. When you attend inpatient rehab you must place and maintain your primary focus on your recovery and nothing else. Even though treatment centers are coed, it’s not wise to become involved with someone while there, and precautions will be taken to ensure your focus is not lost. In many cases the consequences for engaging in a relationship with another patient is expulsion from the program.

Overall sleeping arrangements are quite comfortable and rooms are often spacious and well appointed with everything you’ll need for the duration of your stay. You’re free to personalize your area (with some restrictions) with photos or other personal effects.

At nearly all treatment programs sleeping is only allowed during certain hours. For instance, during the day you’ll be busy with therapy, groups and other parts of your individualized treatment plan. And while you may be permitted to get up early and take some time to yourself, you will likely be required to be up by a certain point and starting your day.

If you have trouble sleeping there may be medication options available for you, and other aids may be provided as well. Keep in mind that it’s important to be honest with your counselors; if you’re having a problem sleeping you must speak up, as you’ll need to be rested and fully refreshed each day in order to make the most of your drug rehab experience.

Meals and Food While at an Inpatient Rehab Program

Nutrition is important, and food gives people in recovery a social element to bond to

Meals while attending an inpatient program will vary from place to place, but most rehab centers place an emphasis on maintaining a healthy diet. Proper nutrition is a critical part of long lasting recovery from addiction. The better your diet, the better you’ll be equipped to deal with life’s daily stresses and problems without turning to drugs or alcohol.

In some rehab centers chores are assigned, which means that a group of patients might be responsible for preparing meals as part of their assigned chores. In other cases patients are permitted to prepare whatever food they like for themselves during certain times, and everyone eats in the same common area.

Still other treatment facilities may provide a kitchen within the room, allowing patients to cook and eat as they please during free time. In most cases this also means that people attending rehab will be required to shop for themselves during supervised group outings to the grocery store.

Finally, luxury inpatient centers may provide full meal service to their patients including specialized nutritional needs or requests.

If you have allergies or food sensitivities, most rehab centers will be able to accommodate your needs. However, if you have very particular or unusual needs, it’s always best to discuss this with the treatment center when you call for the initial consultation.

Inpatient Rehab: What Really Happens During Drug Treatment

Phone Calls, Email and Visits while Attending Inpatient Rehab

Family is important, but so is your recovery

In this modern age where people are addicted to technology nearly as much as drugs, it can be hard to imagine life without the same level of regular communication that you’re used to. But when it comes to your recovery, your focus needs to be on treatment. As a result, most inpatient programs will restrict your ability to easily communicate with the outside world. This is especially true of cell phones.

In addition to taking focus away from your recovery plan, cell phones and other forms of fast communication are also the ones most commonly used to arrange to have drugs brought into the clinic – a fundamental violation of all treatment center rules.

However, maintaining contact with your friends and family is also important to your good health and state of mind. Therefore, phone calls are permitted at certain times using the clinic’s primary phone of a payphone if one has been provided. Use of email may or may not be restricted, depending on the clinic in question.

Successful inpatient rehab programs often request family members to play an active role in the treatment of their patients. This is usually accomplished via family therapy sessions moderated by an experienced additions and/or family counselor.

In many cases people attend rehab quite far from where they live, which means that visits with friends and family might not be possible. In any case, most programs are only 30 days in duration and are quite intense, leaving little time for a social life. Remember; your life is on the line here. Rehab is time to save yourself from spiraling further down a path of destruction; concentrate on that and you’ll be back home before you know it.

Inpatient Rehab Therapies

Just how does drug treatment work?

Inpatient rehab isn’t just about warehousing addicts or alcoholics long enough for them to stand a chance at staying clean once they complete their treatment program. The fundamental component of rehab that is responsible for the success of thousands of addicts nationwide is evidence based therapies. These therapies have been proven and are established practices within the treatment community and include:

Individual Therapy:

One on one sessions with a trained addiction counselor can help to uncover the underlying causes of drug abuse and addiction or alcoholism. This type of therapy allows the patients to seek out their own answers with careful and unobtrusive guidance. This includes identifying and treating dual diagnosis conditions such as depression, bipolar, mania and other emotional disorders.

Group Therapy:

Group therapy allows all clients in an inpatient rehab to share their experiences in a professionally moderated setting. This can include free-sharing, guided sharing, group activities, movies or films related to substance abuse, worksheets and more.

Family Therapy:

Discussed previously in this article, family therapy can be an important part of treatment. Often family members are deeply affected by the drug use of their loved ones and part of the healing and relationship building process is to address and help to “correct” these issues. However, it’s important to understand that if your family member is currently using drugs or alcohol or is a contributor to your addiction, they will likely not be included in your therapy sessions. This is for your own safety and well-being.

Reality Therapy:

Reality therapy focuses on what’s happening right now, and what can be done in the future. The past isn’t addressed or typically discussed with reality therapy – what you’re doing now and what you’re going to change are the two primary points of focus.

Reality therapy can also refer to drug rehab clinics that strive to create an environment that is as close to “real life” as possible.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

In simple terms, cognitive behavioral therapy seeks to examine the way a person is thinking right now, and helps to develop plans and goals to change that type of thinking. The idea behind this type of therapy is that by changing the way you think, you’ll also be changing the way you behave.

Inpatient Rehab: What Really Happens During Drug Treatment

About James F. Davis

James F. Davis, CAS, is a Board Certified Interventionist and the founder of Recovery First. Inc. Davis is also an expert on Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) - the leading cause of relapse among addicts and alcoholics. Mr. Davis operates a website dedicated to sufferers of Post Acute Withdrawal, and has published the first-ever survey on the condition. Davis is also the author of two upcoming books on the topics of PAWS and Adult Children of Alcoholics. You can contact Mr. Davis directly via his Google+ Page, via the Facebook page for Recovery First, or by writing to editor@recoveryfirst.org

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