If you have the luxury of a little time to prepare before you enter in-patient drug addiction treatment, you are sure to be overcome with questions. In addition to the unknowns of treatment itself comes the laundry list of unfinished tasks and “to-dos” you didn’t quite get to before your program begins. The truth is, there is no perfect guide — no ideal timeline or checklist. Every facility is different, and everyone’s experience will vary. Only you can know what will work best for you and your unique day-to-day responsibilities. Just do your best to think through each aspect of your life to make sure there is nothing critical you’re overlooking. But also be kind to yourself during this process. Things may slip your mind and will not get crossed off your pre-admission list. And that’s okay. People will be far more understanding than you’d expect.
But if you do have a minute to think things through, there are a few things you can learn from someone who has “been there and done that” before you make the step to reclaim control of your life and begin your path to recovery. Your treatment team will want you laser-focused on your recovery. And if you’re constantly worried about missing a power bill, you won’t be able to do that. Here are some things to consider:
- If you can, ensure your healthcare coverage is squared away before check-in. A lapse in coverage could interrupt your treatment, so do what you can to ensure that doesn’t happen. Your facility’s finance department should be happy to work with you to make sure everything is in order.
- Autopay is your friend. Set up an auto draft or arrange payment plans for your insurance, power bills, rent, etc.
- If you’re one of those old souls who still receives a physical newspaper, put it on hold, so you don’t return home to a bonfire starter kit in your driveway.
- Similarly, you may want to call the post office and have your mail held or forwarded to a loved one.
- Set up an auto-response letting people know you have limited access to your account and when you expect to be able to get back to them.
- Send in your unemployment paperwork as soon as possible, so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re in treatment. Or, if you’re taking leave time from work, make sure to put in for those days off.
- If you’re availing yourself of Family and Medical Leave Act benefits, work with your employer’s HR professional to get those forms squared away.
- If you are filing for disability or short-term disability, you want to get those payments set up as soon as possible.
Take care of your logistics. The day-to-day things you handle without a second thought will need to be covered in your absence. Rely on others and trust that things will be fine while you’re gone.
- Get coverage. You will need to prioritize child care, pet sitters, and a house sitter. Get your responsibilities and shifts covered at work, if necessary.
- Freeze your bank cards. This might be a good idea if you know you’re going into treatment for a few months or more. This way, no one can make unauthorized purchases while you’re away.
- Notify loved ones. It is entirely up to you whom to tell and what to tell them. Just make sure the people who notice your absence know you’ll be away, so they don’t worry. You don’t want your neighbor filing a missing person report on you.
- Contact info. Provide a mailing address, phone number, and emergency contact info to loved ones and employers. If they need to contact you in an emergency, they need to know where to leave a message. They also may want to know where to write letters or call to check in with you if your treatment plan allows for that.
Know what to pack and what to leave behind. You’ll be living in this new facility, perhaps for an extended period, so it won’t hurt to be prepared. Check your treatment facility’s recommendations to see what is allowed. There may be a dress code, so make sure you stay within those guidelines. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to call and ask for clarification.
- Comfort is key. Don’t pack fussy clothes that require special care or will be extra effort to wear. Keep it casual and functional.
- Pictures of loved ones and pets. Fond memories can help remind you why you’re working so hard on yourself.
- Pens, stationery, and stamps. In some facilities, it will take a little time before you can make a call. Writing letters is a nice way to stay in touch with loved ones in the meantime. And who doesn’t like receiving mail the old-fashioned way?
- Individually-packed snacks. If your treatment facility allows it, you may want to pack some snacks or candy to tide you over between meals. Individual packs ensure you don’t have any open containers in your room that might attract pests.
- Paper or a journal for writing. Odds are you will have some kind of homework or classwork while you’re there. Many people also find it helpful to their recovery to journal and get their thoughts down on paper.
- Puzzle books, crosswords, coloring books, and the like. You will be kept busy with your treatment program, but you’ll still have downtime, particularly at the very beginning of your program. By the time you leave, you’ll be a crossword pro.
- Religious text. If you are religious, you may want to bring a text from your faith. It can provide immense comfort during a difficult time.
- Rain jacket. I try not to dwell on regrets, but I opted not to bring a rain jacket last minute, and I’m still mad at myself. Sitting through a class on grounding techniques while soaking wet was not the highlight of my time in treatment.
What not to pack:
- Heavily scented toiletries. Many facilities ban these, but even if your facility allows them, your roommate might not be too fond of you if all their clothes start smelling like a Yankee Candle shop.
- Mind-altering substances. This one is obvious. Don’t try to hide one last hit, don’t think that just because it’s marijuana, it will be fine. Just don’t try it. It will detract from the purpose of you being there and can even get you kicked out. Trust me; it’s not worth it.
- Books for pleasure. This one is a little controversial, but hear me out. My facility did not allow books, and I was more than a little upset by it. Their logic was that books provide an escape, and the whole point of treatment is to be present and soak up all the learning and healing possible while there. I was so glad I had that distraction removed. If I had been able to pack reading materials, I would have isolated myself in a corner with a sci-fi book the whole time and would not have had my full focus on my recovery program.
- Electronic devices. This falls into the distraction category again. Most facilities will lock these up for safe keeping when you arrive, but even if they don’t, they will only distract you from the real reason you’re there. They also can be a source of temptation from the outside world. Try to enjoy a break from the screens while you’re in treatment.
- Luxury items and valuables. If you would be upset about it going missing, don’t bring it. Plain and simple.
All of this may seem like a lot. It is. And you don’t have to do any of it if you don’t have the bandwidth to handle it right now. The most important thing is focusing on your recovery, so if it’s all you can do to walk through that front door, that is perfectly commendable. If, like me, you are an obsessive planner who knows you won’t be able to sleep at night if you don’t cross some of these things off, then go ahead and use the time you have to prepare. Do what you can, checking off the most important things first. Don’t overextend yourself or overthink it.
Show yourself grace — you’re suffering from a painful, deadly disease. Taking the step to seek treatment is hard. So do what you can to prepare, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and figure out the rest once you’re healthy and doing better. You will be amazed at the lengths people are willing to go to help you. Focus on the healing and, as they say, take it one day at a time.
From the JourneyPure team where we get to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. With years of experience working alongside those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, we bring important messages with unparalleled knowledge of addiction, mental health problems, and the issues they cause.