Before physically entering a rehab program for the first time, individuals learn about what to expect from a rehab stay in a host of different ways. In most instances, a client will rely entirely on what the rehab program advises, though few visual aids are provided. In other instances, a person may turn to television and watch a show such as Intervention, one of A&E’s longest running shows. The show reflects one significant reality of entering rehab: In many instances, it’s a decision that is made quickly, often because the person in need of treatment is facing a significant risk of overdose or other harm. For this reason, it can be especially helpful to have an extensive but quick checklist of things to bring and not bring to rehab. This article is intended to provide a person on the way to rehab, or a concerned loved one, with a snapshot of what to take and what to leave home. However, the specific rehab center is the ultimate authority on which items are allowed and which are advised against or prohibited.

What to Bring to Treatment and What You Can’t Bring

What to Bring

  • Contact information, including phone numbers, for friends, family, and any other important people in the recovery process: It’s a good idea to have this information in written format as well as to store it digitally. The rehab center will likely have this information on file, but it’s still wise to have a readily available list.
  • An alarm clock: Many people today use their cellphone as an alarm clock, but a cellphone may not be permitted at the rehab, so it’s a good idea to get an actual alarm clock. It’s best that the alarm clock does not have a radio or DVD feature, as most all rehabs do not allow clients to play their own music without headphones. In some cases, the rehab may have a general wake-alarm system in place, like knocking on doors at a specified time each morning, but some people choose to get up even earlier.
  • Medications: Any prescriptions that the prescribing doctor and the rehab agree are necessary should be brought.
  • Contact information for doctors: A list of contact information for all doctors that are treating co-existing health conditions should be brought.
  • Pharmacy information: It is helpful to have the contact information for a pharmacy that would be able to refill an existing prescription if, for example, medication is misplaced during the rehab stay. In addition, pharmacies maintain records on all prescriptions that they have dispensed, and medication type and dosage information are helpful to have as a general matter.
  • Identifying information: This includes a state identification or driver’s license.
  • Photos of family or friends
  • Cards, letters, or other tokens received in support of the recovery
  • A journal, sketchbook, or other item to use to record thoughts about the recovery process, hopes, and goals
  • If a cell phone is not permitted, a calling card to use the rehab telephone to maintain contact with family (long-distance and local calling cards are recommended)
  • A memento that is particularly relevant and helpful (e.g., a piece of jewelry that is meaningful)
  • Inspirational books or music
  • Materials to write letters
  • A laptop or computer tablet, if permitted
  • A device to play music on headphones, if permitted

A person’s day-to-day clothing will typically be suitable to the rehab environment. Many rehab programs offer different programs that may require athletic clothing. It is always advisable to bring gym clothes and athletic sneakers if a rehab program has an onsite gym. Usually, a rehab program will describe the activities it provides, such as yoga classes. In other instances, a rehab may emphasize that the grounds are particularly inviting and recommend walks. Good sneakers, flexible clothing, and athletic socks are some helpful basics.

  • Comfortable shoes
  • Collared shirts, tank tops, t-shirts, cardigans, and any other layers, such as vests
  • Adequate outerwear if winter, spring, or fall, appropriate to the climate
  • Pants, including slacks (for social events, such as family day), comfortable pants, yoga pants, jeans, leggings, and other style and weather-appropriate legwear
  • An outfit that would be appropriate for off-site events
  • An ample supply of athletic and dress socks and undergarments
  • Swimsuit
  • Pajamas that adequately cover the body and a bathrobe
  • Slippers for general living quarters
  • Sandals for the shower
  • Hair care supplies: shampoo, conditioner, blow dryer and/or curling iron (if permitted), hair styling products, combs, brushes, and hair accessories, such as rubber bands and hair pins
  • Accessories, such as a belt, hat, and bag
  • Makeup and any needed accessories such as a mirror (but first check the rehab guidelines) and applicators
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
  • Deodorant
  • Shaving supplies, including blades (check the rehab’s guidelines), shaving gels or creams, and aftercare products
  • Bath soap, a body sponge, body lotion, face lotion, facial cleaner, and any other beauty and health maintenance products that are permitted

What to Leave at Home

  • Drugs or alcohol, obviously
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Contact information for drug dealers or persons with whom one has a history of drug use
  • Items that can trigger a drug relapse (e.g., a certain possession associated with a drug use memory)
  • Books or magazines that are pro-drug use
  • Music that is conducive to drug use or that has a pro-drug message
  • A lump sum of money
  • Items that preserve an attachment to a person who is in the grip of drug use, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend

As the foregoing items on these lists reflect, there is a dual goal in a rehab program to keep a person safe while at the same time comfortable. However, rehab programs have to be careful to ensure that their guidelines do not unknowingly permit a person to bring in drug use triggers or things that could somehow cause conflict (e.g., a radio on an alarm clock). Yet, the risk of any triggers being acted on is greatly reduced because of the high level of care and attention clients receive during a rehab stay.

Rehab centers may have guidelines, but they are also environments that will adapt, as necessary, to the needs of clients, as long as they are supportive of everyone’s recovery. It is important to keep in mind that rehabs go to great lengths to optimize the environment for effective recovery. For this reason, a rehab center may have beautifully maintained grounds but no computer facilities. This same rehab center is making a statement, in terms of its environment, about the best ways to heal addiction. The same can be said of any guidelines. Whatever a person can or cannot bring to rehab, it’s important to understand that every facet of the rehab process carries an intention to help a person effectively recover from addiction.