Going to rehab for the first time can be terrifying. Sometimes you hear people compare going to rehab to going to summer camp, which, I guess is true in that you bunk with people you don’t know and you write letters home, but the comparison really ends there. Summer camp is a happy, carefree time and rehab is life-or-death for those of us that go.
So how do you even begin to pack for a potentially lifesaving journey? Here’s what you should bring.
Bring comfortable clothes. You’re going to spend all day sitting around in groups or doing work, so comfy clothes are definitely awesome. But consider bringing a few special pieces, too. Rehab is not a club, so your stilettos and crop tops are probably not the best idea, but in my experience, I found it really helpful to have a few items that made me really happy to wear when I was having a bad day. I wore my sequined Minnie Mouse bow on my birthday. I had a tutu that I wore when I needed to smile. And the longer I was there, the more I enjoyed looking nice. None of this was to impress other guests that were there with me, but it symbolized that I was starting to care about myself again and that my self-worth was beginning to return.
Bring your own books and music. I didn’t read many books that weren’t given to me or recommended to me by the treatment center, but it was nice to have something mindless to help me zone out at the end of the day, which I spent tackling my innermost demons. My iPod was really helpful, too. I could listen to music while I wrote and worked on assignments given to me by the treatment center. I could shut off my brain for a few minutes. I could listen to cheesy pop music and find a little bit of joy in that (Ke$ha basically saved my life). Doing all that soul-searching can be overwhelming, and the ability to tune out can be life-saving.
Bring something that makes you feel safe. I brought my blankie. It was so comforting to be able to go up to my room after a terrible day of being in immense emotional pain and curl up with my blanket. It was a small piece of comfort during the most uncomfortable time in my entire life. My only source of relief and comfort, booze and drugs, had been taken away from me for the first time in years. Having my blanket was nowhere near the same, but it was something.
Bring a sense of humor. There is a lot of crying in rehab. Like, a lot of crying. I cried from a place that I didn’t even know existed inside me. It was terrible — but in between all the crying, there was laughing. Sometimes you just have to laugh because there’s nothing left to do. When you’re in rehab, chances are that you don’t have a lot of other options. So you can choose to be miserable the entire time, or you can choose to look for the bright spots. Whether it was the temporary tattoos that we put on our necks to freak our family out, listening to Ke$ha on repeat, or cracking up with my Bostonian roommate at the end of the day by imitating each other’s accents, the ability to laugh at myself was one of my saving graces.
Bring an open mind. My open mind saved my life. I didn’t go to treatment to get sober. I had absolutely no intention of giving up alcohol and drugs when I went to rehab. But I listened just a little, and slowly, my mind started to change. You don’t have to come in determined to never pick up a drink or a drug again in order to get better. That’s not what happened for me. But if you go in with just a shred of willingness, you might actually get this thing. Maybe you give it a shot just to prove to other people that it won’t work. Maybe you do it for lack of any better ideas. Who cares why you do it? The important thing is that you might actually save your life by going. You don’t have to chug the Kool-Aid right away, but you should at least be willing to give it a taste.