What Rehab is Like

Frankie Harlow
Feb 1 · 5 min read
Photo: Ryan McGuire

Yes! Going to a rehab facility is beneficial in many ways, not just helping someone get sober. Given the amount of celebrities that enter rehab on a daily basis, yes, more than it’s publicized, you would think a decent rehab is only for the rich. This is one of the many misconceptions about rehabilitation centers.

The time you even consider going to rehab, or maybe you are court ordered, you have a million thoughts run through your head. How can I afford this? What are they going to do to me? I’m not a real addict, maybe I don’t need this? and then there is the BIG statement: “I’ll go tomorrow”. Which translates to, “I am not going and just saying this in hopes you quit bugging me”.

First of all, you may have to wait until tomorrow. Don’t stress out over getting there or timing. Unless a plan in already in place with a bed available, chances are if you aren’t a celeb, you will have to wait a few days. During this time, you will have doubts. But you agreed to this, so let’s go…

All rehabs have similarities, the aesthetic design may be more luxurious than another, but the process is the same. Don’t be fooled by the luxury part of it, you’re still detoxing and getting strip searched by someone who will undoubtedly snap their glove and give you the feeling that you may regret this. After 30 days, you won’t even remember the first day’s inconveniences.

If you are detoxing, this transition will be hard. It is ugly and makes you vulnerable, but you can get through it. You’ll likely spend the first few days in bed getting all the guck out of you through every orifice. You’ll look bad, you’ll smell bad, and you will be angry. Then you take your first real shower. You’ve taken showers before but this one is special. You feel the physical and mental stress leave your body. For a few moments, you feel at peace.


Benefit №1: You get a fresh start! Leave your anger and rebelliousness in the shower and let it wash down the drain. You start over today. You are starting to feel emotions and you might cry. This is good. It releases a lot of stress hormones through emotional tears.


By the second week you should be introduced in groups and have started a schedule. This is important! Rehab is not just sober talk 24/7 and groups with people you want to punch. There are art, music, and yoga classes. There is generally a place to go outside and hang out or maybe there’s a basketball court. Being outside during this time is helpful because you need to take in those deeps breaths of nature (if you’re at a truly beneficial place). You will get 3 meals, to wear you own clothes, if you need to shave then shave, it’s not a psych ward.


Benefit No2: This structured schedule is teaching you how to how to manage your time effectively, get into a routine that will assist your recovery, and to start good habits. It takes the brain roughly 60 days of repetition to form a habit. By day 28, you are halfway there to starting to do things automatically.


The best habit to form in rehab is to make your bed! Seriously. I never made my bed before rehab but even years later making my bed means I start the day out without intentions of being complacent. Chances are if I don’t make my bed my day will not be as productive. It’s something that makes me feel good. Find that one thing that gives you peace in rehab and stick with it afterwards.

You will have plenty of free time in between groups, 1-on-1 therapy, med checks, and church. Church? Yes. Many people scared off by that but it helps when you are there. They do have a couple to choose from. One that I attended had Non-denominational, Catholic, and Buddhist services. You may be in the same chapel just have rotating clergy. You don’t have to be religious or even believe in God to sit in. It’s just a nice time to reflect on your recover and find whatever higher power works for you, even if it’s that cheeseburger you’ve been craving from your favorite joint since you arrived.


Benefit №3: Find something to believe in especially if you don’t believe in yourself. These moments you have in rehab are special. You are away from the distractions of the world and you get to search yourself for something else to fill that void. Something you couldn’t feel before.

Photo: Alexandra Koch

Remember, this is your chance to change. It really isn’t about not using or drinking or eating. Whatever your addiction is. It is about changing your reality and creating the life you want. Nobody wants to be an addict. Here is your chance to find out WHY not what made you choose the path you did. Listening is more important than talking but you also need to get that junk out of your brain! Find someone there you can relate too, someone you trust that works there. There will be one, I promise. Let the staff guide you and understand that most of them save for the doctors, were once in your shoes and now help others to live their best lives clean.


Benefit №4: As you leave rehab, you will hear to find your people. It is encouraged to hang out with sober people. Here you will meet all kinds of people, use that to hone your friendship making skills! This is just another coping mechanism to keep you on the right path.


People say rehab friends aren’t real friends but I disagree. Even after 10 years I still talk to 4 people I met in rehab. One of them is my son’s godmother. Rehab, especially if you have various age groups, is a lot like highschool. People will sign your 12 step books and say to keep in touch but most don’t. The people that do, are your people! Keep them close.

Chances are someone will want to “date” you in rehab. There is a whole subculture of rehab romances and you do not want any part of it. Even in the fanciest rehabs I’ve seen people sneak into empty offices or stairways to engage in activities. Starting a relationship in early recovery, especially if you haven’t left rehab yet, is dangerous. The mutual feelings you encounter are symptoms of being clean and feeling for the first time in awhile.

As you leave rehab there are a lot of mixed feelings. They range from not wanting to leave to what time does my car get here? I loved rehab. I didn’t want to leave but that is also why I work twice a month in a local one. I want to take my experience and share it with others who may not have all the opportunities I had.

You can choose to look at this as an opportunity to change your life or as an obstacle that will be out of your way shortly.

So, what is rehab really like? It’s what you make of it and what you take from it can transform your life.

Frankie Harlow

Written by

Honest confessions about mental health and life lessons in hopes of helping & inspiring others. Gen X, free spirit, world traveler.

More From Medium

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade