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What Should I Bring to a Drug Detox Treatment Center?

So you’ve admitted you have a chemical addiction and are ready for professional help. You’ve had the sense to reject dangerous “quick fixes” such as home detox and so-called rapid drug detox. You’ve found your perfect treatment center (no small task when Googling “drug rehab San Diego” alone can get you over 500,000 search results), gotten medical leave from work, and confirmed that your doctor, health insurance and loved ones have your back. Now—as you prepare to check yourself into your chosen detox center—one last “getting ready” question hangs over you: What should I bring with me (and what should I leave at home)?

A drug and alcohol detox center isn’t a torture chamber, but it isn’t a resort either. It’s a hospital, and what you should bring are things that contribute to your comfort, things that help you relax, things that encourage healing by helping minimize all forms of stress. (One of the benefits of going for rehab in San Diego or the near vicinity is you keep the rejuvenating southern California climate as a bonus.) Here are our top hints on packing for a stay in drug or alcohol detox.

1. Know and follow your detox center’s recommendations.

If your chosen treatment center didn’t provide you with a “Things to Bring” list during initial interviews, ask for one now. There may be some “leave at home” rules you hadn’t anticipated: various items banned at various centers include razor blades, cosmetics, alcohol-containing mouthwash, outside food or drink, candles, aerosol sprays, electronic gadgets, playing cards, outside bedding and certain types of literature or clothing. (The idea is to protect all patients from exposure to anything that might become a weapon, intoxicating substance or reminder of tempting situations. Ask about the “whys” if you want, but don’t be argumentative or expect exceptions to be made.)

Focus your attention on making the most of what you can bring rather than getting upset over what you can’t. Your essential needs will be provided for, and much of your time will be occupied with getting well and planning for the future.

2. Pack your favorite comfortable clothes.

Especially during the initial withdrawal period, you’ll inevitably have some very uncomfortable moments that don’t need any compounding, so besides following official dress codes, avoid wearing anything that itches, pokes or scratches. If you have a favorite “lounge around” robe or shirt (that you don’t associate with drug-using situations), include that: it’ll provide comfort in more ways than one. Or you might invest in a new casual-dress item or pair of pajamas (not so new it’s stiff—pre-launder it) to reinforce your sense of transitioning to a new life. No “business suit” clothes—besides not being particularly restful, they trigger “stressed out and hectic” mental associations.

A typical detox-center wardrobe includes comfortable shoes; full-length shirts with sleeves; pants or long casual skirts; climate-and-season-appropriate wraps (at a San Diego detox center, one sweater, windbreaker and coat are usually enough, even in winter); one dressier outfit for the occasional special event; and, of course, adequate socks and underwear. Limit accessories to simple items you always wear (e. g., your wedding ring).

3. Use discretion with cosmetics and related items.

Keep things as basic as you can: at some centers, you may need only your own toothbrush, antiperspirant, hairbrush and comb. Others require you to supply toothpaste, shampoo, soap, shaving lotion, feminine-hygiene items and/or sunscreen—or you may have a favorite brand you always use, in which case ask if it’s included in the center’s stock or if you should bring it. Strong perfume and excessive makeup are out; rules vary concerning “lighter” cosmetics such as lipstick.

If you need prescription medication, bring it in its original bottle. You may or may not be allowed to include over-the-counter vitamins or supplements; again, check your treatment center’s rules.

4. Bring your favorite down-time items, as allowed by center rules.

If you’re serious about detox, you’ll be at the center for around three months (rapid drug detox, or just rushing back to everyday life after the worst of withdrawal is over, deprives you of the therapy and careful planning that ensure lasting sobriety). This means you’ll have some free time with no structured activities and the need of something fun to do. Don’t, however, drag along a whole extra suitcase crammed with recreational pursuits—long-term care facilities supply their own books and games. And most centers won’t allow patients to bring sporting equipment, radios, “inappropriate” reading or games with lots of parts and pieces.

Leisure items you might bring (no more than will fit in a shoulder bag) include:

  • Inspirational or self-help books
  • Coloring or puzzle books
  • Sketchpad and pencils
  • Knitting or beading projects

Bring a journal or diary as well: besides filling leisure time, it’ll be helpful in planning your future.

5. Expect outside-communications options to be limited.

You can write all the snail-mail letters you want, but you won’t be allowed much email or other electronic communications. Even phone calls may be limited (if you bring a phone, expect to leave it with staff for most of your stay). One of the points of detox treatment is to keep a boundary between you and any input that might tempt you to yearn for the “good old days” of self-medication, while you build strength to face the outside world again.

6. Keep a little cash handy.

Most inpatient detox centers have vending machines, snack bars or bookstores where you may buy things not included in the cost of your stay. Don’t spend thoughtlessly: plan a budget in advance, or have a family member bring you an “allowance” during semi-monthly visits. Remember, one important element of detox is learning responsibility and self-control in all aspects of life.

7. Do not bring any work with you.

In these days of multitasking and quick round-the-world communications, the employee who goes on vacation and never checks in with the office is an endangered species—and resulting stress levels are partly responsible for the high numbers of “functional addicts” among the outwardly successful. If you’ve committed to three months at a San Diego detox center, that tiny “neighborhood” of rehab in San Diego is your world for those three months—and what goes on in the rest of the international community, the rest of the United States, and even the rest of San Diego is no concern of yours.

These days, cutting yourself off from the larger world (except for check-ins with loved ones) can be almost as traumatic as cutting yourself off from a drug of addiction. But take courage. By the time your detox treatment is completed, you’ll understand that whatever you brought into the center, what counts most is the new health and self-respect you’ll carry out!

Inland Detox offers top-quality drug rehab for San Diego and the rest of southern California. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please call (888) 739-8296 to learn more about detoxing successfully.