Josh Chandler | April 18, 2015

What to Bring to Treatment (and what NOT to…)

Upon enter a treatment facility for an extended program, a detox (or both); one of the more common mistakes is bringing far too many personal items. The purpose of this article is to streamline the load you’re bringing in; and this is for various reasons. Aside from the fact that your space may be limited (and you also don’t really need that much), having too many items can be extremely distracting to your own recovery. Less is indeed more in these situations…



Generally at the top of the list of items that people over-pack for treatment. Overall, a good rule of thumb is to be of the mindset that you’re going camping for a couple of weeks. Much of your time is going to be spent in groups or therapy during your stay, and there is really no need for fancy clothing. Bring items for comfort: sweatpants/shirts, and if the weather is warm, casual shorts and tee shirts. Along with this, a couple of pairs of comfortable jeans and shirts should be enough. Hoodies, a coat and/or sweaters if it’s cold, but don’t overdo it: remember, you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors, especially in the early stages of treatment.

As far as meetings and/or outings, you might want to bring one change of nice clothing, but you really won’t need more than that.  Extra underwear and socks is a good idea, along with casual shoes and/or slip-on’s or slippers. This is all you’ll really need.



A very critical area. Any and all medications that you bring to a rehab are going to be stored in a locked med room or drawer, and this goes for over-the-counter medication as well as prescriptions. Prescriptions are going to be vetted through the facilities doctor and/or your own physician, so be prepared to discontinue certain medications. This is all dependent on what you’re detoxing from, as well as your treatment team. All of your items will be counted, so make sure you have the correct ones in each bottle. If you try to hide or disguise medications, you’re going to be found out, and all you will be accomplishing is a lot more scrutiny on yourself, which is unnecessary. You’re going there to get honest with yourself, so you might as well start off on the right foot.



You can certainly bring your cell phone, but keep in mind that you will have limited (or no) access to it during the early stages of your treatment. This is for your own good, to limit your access to the outside world (i.e. drug connections, and sometimes loved ones). No rehab will deny you monitored access to an office phone, within good reason, during appropriate hours. Don’t forget to bring a charger, too. As far as iPod’s and other personal listening devices, most rehabs allow them…although your time using them may be limited to non-program hours. The same usually holds true to laptop computers and tablets, such as Kindles. You will probably have to say goodbye to the Internet, at least as far as a daily lifestyle is concerned, for a while.



Definitely bring a couple of books and/or magazines of your choice; if you enjoy reading at all, you’re going to have some time for it. To be sure, most programs encourage reading The Big Book, but the escape of a good non-program book can be invaluable in the recovery process; it keeps your mind engaged and active, while also giving you an often well-deserved break from the program.



This is often dependent on a marriage between the program you are in, and your own personal choice of hobby. This is a viable question to ask before you enter the facility. You will have some down time. Most kinds of sewing and/or crocheting are usually allowed. As for musicians, most facilities will allow you to bring a guitar or other compact stringed or horn instrument. Most of them welcome this, as it can add some necessary camaraderie and group activity. Art supplies are generally allowed, and often provided. Most facilities have some purchased or donated board games. A deck of cards is not a bad idea, but remember, some facilities that treat gambling addiction may frown on this.



Most general items are allowed, and this usually includes soap, shampoo, deodorant, hair and nail care products. However, most rehabs tend to disapprove of partially consumed products. A good idea is to purchase and bring in new, non-opened items, if possible. A quick run through the local CVS travel item isle is a good idea.



All facilities provide these items, but often a large personal bath towel is not a bad idea. Other than perhaps a small throw blanket, if you wish, you really don’t need anything here. I’ve seen people bring in an array of pillows and linen, and it’s just unnecessary. There’s such a thing as getting too comfortable in treatment…



All in-patient residential programs feed their clients at least three meals a day, and usually provide snacks. If you have special dietary needs or requirements, it’s very good idea to address these before you enter the facility; they will work with you.



The good news for smokers is that most facilities will allow you to bring in sealed cigarettes. If you’re a heavy smoker, you might want to invest in a carton or perhaps a new bag of loose tobacco with papers. E-cig’s are usually allowed, but often their use is limited to pre-defined smoking areas, just like regular cigarettes. Some facilities lock these items up during program hours, so be prepared to have somewhat limited access. One other thing: there will be smoking residents who just don’t have any supply. If you bring in your own smokes, you’re going to be asked to share, to some extent. It’s not a bad thing at all, but a good idea is to have some boundaries in this case.



Another critical item on this list, in so much as you’re probably going to need less cash than you think – if any. Aside from cigarettes and snacks, most all of your day-to-day needs will be met. If you haven’t yet spent it all on drugs or alcohol, a good rule of thumb is to only bring perhaps a day or two of wages from whatever job you may have. Be aware, though, that almost all treatment facilities will lock up cash and/or ATM cards for the duration of your stay, to not only limit your access, but also to cut down on theft. Your access to these items will probably be very closely monitored. Remember, you’re generally going to be staying with other addicts. This reminds us: don’t bring any valuable jewelry or timepieces. Be assured, someone in the facility you’re at is going to “go out” during your stay, and unfortunately, the addictive side of human nature is often to take what you see on your way out.

In the end, even if you have none of the above items, you’re going to be just fine. Once you make the decision and commitment to get clean, the things that you need in order to survive will always materialize, one way or another.

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Josh Chandler
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