Dealing with Homesickness in Rehab

Deciding to go to rehab is no small or simple choice. Every situation presents different circumstances, and the decision could have been made for any number of reasons. Some of the common reasons include failing health, exhaustion, problems at home or in the workplace, being court-ordered, or simply wanting a better life. Whatever the reason, the first step toward deciding to go is an important one.

Whether it is a person’s first or umpteenth time going away to rehab, leaving home, or wherever they have been living is daunting. The hope of gaining what a rehab facility promises is usually the motivating factor, and while it may outweigh the nervousness associated with committing to a residential program, it doesn’t mean discomfort won’t be felt, or that the person won’t be faced with homesickness. If the person is armed with the right mindset and proper support, it will make for an easier transition for them and their loved ones, too.


What’s Beneficial About Going Away to Rehab?

One of the most difficult things about getting sober is breaking out of your old habits and routines. As the old saying goes, humans are creatures of habit. A large part of our routine is our environments, how they affect us, how we interact with them, and whether they inspire healthy decisions. Throughout the span of a person’s substance abuse, their habits have likely synced up with their place of residence. This could include hometown bars, a group of friends who also use or drink, local liquor stores, dealers’ hang out spots, particular streets or parks, etc. These people, places, and things might serve as reminders or triggers while you are trying to get on the road to recovery.

Separating yourself from the environment where you used is a great starting point. By going away to a rehab facility, you are choosing to surround yourself with others who have the same goal, and with people who can help guide you along the way. Furthermore, these spaces won’t have any alcohol or drugs to be available to you during the especially vulnerable first few weeks. These controlled environments are safe places, and are designed to foster healthy thinking and mindfulness so you can focus on yourself without any distractions.

Going away to treatment is the best way to immerse yourself fully into getting yourself well. If you can take time away from your job, they will likely be understanding and supportive of your decision. If you have children and a family, they can rest assured that this time away will make you a stronger and better part of the family once you return. Think of it as pressing pause while you finally address the disease that has had a relentless and exhausting grip on your life.


Homesickness: How to Cope

Once you’ve made the decision to go to rehab, read up on what you are allowed to bring with you. Those in charge at the facility want you to be comfortable and stable, so keep in mind that any restrictions aren’t imposed to keep you isolated or anxious. The main objective is to be able to focus on getting well. Depending on what type of facility you are at, you may be in groups during the day and writing Step Work or some equivalent in your free time. While you will be kept busy, it’s a good idea to be prepared and bring some things from home that might alleviate some homesickness symptoms.

Some tips that might be helpful:

  • Call/write loved ones: Phones are often taken upon admission at intensive inpatient facilities, so you may want to write down some important numbers and addresses in a small notebook to bring with you so you can call or send letters to loved ones.
  • Mementos from home: It might sound silly, but if the facility allows it, bringing a pillow, blanket, or even a stuffed animal can help you feel less homesick. Photos of friends, family, and/or pets are also a great idea—see if you are allowed to tape them up around your bed, or keep them in your notebook so you see them often.
  • Bring music: Music is a great therapeutic outlet no matter where you might be, but it can be especially comforting when away from home. If the facility you’re going to allows iPods or mp3 players, definitely bring one with a pair of headphones.
  • Make new connections: Try to make the best of your situation, and find some common ground with your peers. They’re likely going through the same feelings of sadness and missing home that you are. It could be a good opportunity to forge new friendships with sober people.
  • Utilize the help around you: Try to open up to the professionals that are working with you. At Green Mountain Treatment Center, for example, many of the Recovery Support Staff are in recovery themselves. They’ve been there, and they’d be happy to share some wisdom.


It’s Worth It

Remember: rehab isn’t forever. You’ve likely been chasing your addiction for a lot longer than you’ll be asked to stay in rehab, and though you may have to sit through difficult feelings and discomfort, it is all making you stronger. The further away you get from your last drink or drug, the better you’ll feel. If and when you return home, you will be able to experience it clear-headed and more open-hearted than before.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder, or simply would like to hear about your options, our Admissions staff is available to talk 24/7 at 866-597-1404. We offer a continuum of care beginning with medical detox, and able to guide you all the way to structured sober living.

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