There is nothing scarier than when a therapist says, “We think you might need a higher level of care.” I hated those words. When I heard them, I was already in a five day a week program. The next level up was residential treatment. I was terrified.
Diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders, I was already trying to adjust to the seemingly large meals and restrictive atmospheres. The thought of having to spend twenty-four hours in an even more constrictive environment of treatment seemed unbearable.
The treatment facility that provided residential care was also in another state which meant I would have to leave my family and friends behind throughout the extent of my stay. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life, and I had no way to prepare myself mentally or physically for it. Had I been more ready, the process could have been much smoother for me.
Here are a few tips that I wished someone could have told me to help me better plan for residential treatment.
1. Pack accordingly.
Avoid sneaking in sharp objects or anything that rehab does not allow unless they are necessary for your health. They will be found and confiscated immediately, which means they’ll either be thrown away or kept until you are released. If they do keep these items, it’s easy for them to get lost during processing. With multiple patients being entered and discharged each day, there’s a high chance your confiscated items might get lost or mixed in with others’.
2. Put money in the facility’s convenience store.
Almost every residential facility has a store in which you can deposit money and purchase essential items such as toothbrushes, alcohol-free toiletries, feminine hygiene items, and sometimes even stress balls. When I first went, some of the items I packed were confiscated and I did not have a deposit in the store. I had to call my parents who then put money in for me, but it took a few days to be processed. I remember going three days without brushing my teeth. So go ahead and make sure you have a deposit ready by the time you check-in.
3. Get a prepaid phone card.
Most rehabilitation or residential centers do not allow their patients to keep their phones. Almost every phone can be used to access the internet, which can lead to exposure to potentially triggering material. By holding their patients’ phones, it decreases their chances of being subjected to negative media and benefits their recovery.
However, the need to stay in contact with supportive loved ones and friends is very high during this period of your life. The best way to ensure you can stay in touch is by keeping a physical list of their phone numbers and obtaining a prepaid phone card that has enough funds so you can call everyone you need to. For me, these were two of my most valuable possessions in residential treatment as it gave me access to my friends, family and outside world. Residential treatment can feel very restraining at times and you will need this small gateway to the outside world while you’re there.
4. Remember to relax.
This will be one of the hardest experiences of your life, but try your best to loosen up a bit. When I first arrived, I almost had an immediate panic attack. I felt like none of it was real and that I’d wake up to discover it was just a dream. It will feel quite surreal, especially if it’s your first time in rehab but just relax and focus on you. You’ve come to a point that your addiction has taken over your life and you need to be watched 24/7 for you to stop. Otherwise, you may lose your life so put your 100 percent on overcoming this trial.
Residential treatment won’t last forever. I’ve entered twice and can say I’m living a happier life today. The most important thing to remember when you’re there is that you're exactly where you need to be. Accept that this will improve your life, and ease your loved one’s minds as they see you work on getting better. Once you’re released, your life will be so much better for it.