what to expect in rehab

What Is Drug Rehab Like? | New Life House

What is Drug Rehab Like? What Every Parent Needs to Know

What is drug rehab like? This is no doubt a question that crosses the minds of parents with children struggling with substance abuse. To best understand what to expect in rehab, we wanted to share some personal insight.

Parents, drug rehab isn’t like what you’ve seen in the media


Placing a teen or young adult in drug rehab is one of the hardest things a parent will ever do – I know because I had to do it. While I was relieved that my family had held a successful intervention and thankful that my child was on his way to rehab, it was difficult to understand exactly what to expect in drug rehab and how they would get him the help he needed and to know what would be in store for him in the future.

The term “drug rehab” is fluttering around conversations everywhere: in coffee shops, at the gym, in the newspaper and on the television. It’s the subject of TV shows, fodder for song lyrics and it seems that everyone knows someone who has gone. Celebrities, athletes and high profile individuals are repeatedly in and out of drug rehab and just can’t stay sober. Unfortunately, the press does not portray drug rehab in an accurate light and for a parent this can be extremely disconcerting. When dealing with a condition that can be life or death, why does rehab appear to take so many go-rounds to get it right?

Because I have navigated my way through this maze of drug rehab, I’ve learned a few things along the way that will make the journey a little easier. There are definite details about addiction to absorb, new ways to relate to your child and strategies to put in place so the entire family heals. In addition to this there is what most professionals in the recovery community would consider the critical factor: ensuring your child follows up drug rehab with time in sober living home or better, a recovery community.

What Can Parents Expect in Rehab?


While there are different styles of treatment (wilderness, out patient or residential to name a few), varied locations, length of stay (30 or 60 days usually) levels of amenities and facilities with gender or age requirements, there are some general similarities that reputable drug rehabs share.

  • Upon admittance, each patient is assigned his or her own inter-disciplinary care team consisting of team members who are specialized in different areas that are important to the recovery process. The members of this team can include addiction specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, family care advocates, physical health/nutrition and wellness specialists, spiritual guidance counselors and technicians who have gone through the drug rehab process themselves. This team will assess the unique aspects of your child’s life to determine the specific factors that may be influencing their behavior, and how best to help them.
  • Based on this assessment, your child’s team will develop a specific recovery plan that will be thoroughly integrated during his or her stay and carefully modified when necessary.
  • Throughout their stay in rehab, you can expect the team will be monitoring your son or daughter’s progress in order to ensure on a daily basis that they are receiving the precise care and support they need. *It is important to note here that a drug rehab which incorporates participation in gender specific programs to help clients focus on sensitive issues in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Some young patients have co-occurring mental health issues such as bi-polar disorder, depression, an eating disorder or anxiety. If this is the case with your son or daughter, a reputable drug rehab will help them understand how their specific diagnosis interacts with their addiction and how best to manage these issues to support their recovery. There are instances when undiagnosed co-occurring mental health issues have been discovered as a result of attending drug rehab. A mental health professional is designated to patients who have a co-occurring disorder to ensure their mental health needs are identified and treated along with their addiction.
  • Fun activities will be incorporated while your child is in drug rehab in order to demonstrate that there are plenty of healthy ways to have a good time in sobriety. Activities might include things such as: exercise sessions, arts and crafts, movies, karaoke, creative expression, dance, walks or hikes, listening to or playing music, ping pong, etc. Additionally, off-site activities will be made available to your son or daughter and might include things such as: theater, sporting events, movies, other activities and 12 step meetings.

Can My Child Come Home After Drug Rehab?


Now that you have a better understanding of what drug rehab is like, you may be wondering what happens after. One of the questions I hear parents ask repeatedly is: When my child has completed the drug rehab program, can they come home? More and more people, professionals and addicts themselves, are finding out that drug rehab doesn’t even begin to chip away at the underlying reasons for addiction. Drug rehab is intended as a detox and stabilization facility where the addict or alcoholic acquires an introduction to life without substances. It provides an introduction to the 12 steps. It educates families as to what their roles are and where they learn the basics about addiction. Drug rehab is the first part of the foundation that life in a recovery community will solidify. When a young person comes home directly following drug rehab they have no defense against the first drink or drug, they are simply not ready for all the triggers they will encounter. Peer pressure, driving by old haunts and hanging out with friends who party will sooner or later take their toll on your child. Most young people do not stay sober when they are thrust back in the same environment they were using in. This period following drug rehab is a delicate time that deserves your respect and close attention.

The Non-Negotiable Discharge Plan


Addiction is a chronic condition, and alcohol and drug rehab treatment is just the first part of the recovery process. Work closely with the drug rehab’s team to create a non-negotiable plan for your child to go directly to an aftercare program. Adolescents and young adults can be headstrong and manipulative. Your child may try very hard to convince you that he or she does not need to attend aftercare but this is a very critical time in your child’s recovery. Your child may insist – and be very convincing in doing so – that they’ve “learned their lesson,” or vow never to speak to you again if you don’t comply with their wishes. Expect all sorts of tactics, including crying, threats, cold silences and begging. Listen to your child, but then explain that you love them and that drug rehab will all have been for nothing, unless aftercare comes next.

What Makes Rehab a Success?


Drug rehab is a success when the addict has accomplished some fundamental essentials:

  • Completion of the detox process and the body’s elimination of alcohol/drugs
  • Stabilization – acute issues have been assessed, identified and treated until they have passed
  • Receiving an introduction to the disease of addiction and the 12 steps
  • Beginning recovery work and/or therapy
  • Securing an aftercare plan for your child
  • Completion of the drug rehab program

As your son or daughter makes their way towards lifelong sobriety, my experience has shown me that there is one definite step that will ensure whether their time spent in drug rehab is successful or not….a solid discharge plan with the goal being life in sober living, or better – an established recovery community. Unfortunately, I had to find this out the hard way – or should I say – many hard ways! On three separate occasions, I let my son dictate the terms of his discharge, namely that he wanted to return home immediately, and each time he did, he relapsed. This is not something parents do intentionally, but allowing your child to return home immediately following the good foundation of drug rehab is a co-dependent reaction when what is needed is a decision based on facts and not emotions.

Sober Living or Recovery Community?


Drug rehab and detox alone may help the patient to stop abusing drugs and alcohol, but without follow-up care, relapse will soon follow and a return to full-blown addiction addictive behavior is rarely far behind. It is critical to spend a good chunk of time in a reputable and structured recovery community following drug rehab. Most people understand the term “sober living” but it is important to point out the differences when compared to a “recovery community.” The two can be as different as night and day for many different reasons:

  • Sober living is usually treated more as a boarding house where those in recovery come and go according to their schedule or will. There is oftentimes no set structural outline and genders and ages can be mixed. There has been a high incidence of drug and alcohol use on these campuses, as there exists a lack of supervision.
  • A reputable recovery community has clear house rules and will have facilities that are specific to age and gender. They will provide opportunities for personal growth and discovery and an opportunity to bond and be held accountable by peers. They will lead and support the young addict through the process of gaining responsibilities and privileges in a “stepping stone” fashion, which allows them to digest change in pieces, rather than thrusting them into life as usual straight out of drug rehab. A reputable recovery community will also possess a strong alumni contingent who stays involved with newer members, demonstrating that they have completed their stays and have many years of successfully living sober.

Luxury in Aftercare


While luxury in rehab and sober living may seem attractive, I encourage parents to think beyond the drug rehab experience and look into your child’s future. Too many nonessentials such as massages, private chefs, acupuncture, maid service and the exposure to social media can actually be detrimental for the recovery of the young adult. These extras can detract from the experience of being 100% present and discovering the reasons they became addicted. Extravagances can distract your son or daughter from implementing new healthy behaviors, they are rewards that the young adult has not yet earned and they set up unrealistic expectations for life once they have completed their stay. In addition to this, some sober living homes are masking a poor recovery infrastructure behind a beautiful exterior. These are all factors you will want to consider when making a decision this important.

Ask yourself whether this is something your son or daughter really needs. When I dropped my son off at aftercare, I was glad to see all the young men contributing to the care of the home, cooking in the kitchen together, and being responsible for their rooms and personal belongings. My son had an attitude of entitlement that I believe impeded his ability to gain humility. Humility is the number one quality that drug addicts or alcoholics must acquire in order to get the help they desperately need. Through humility comes the ability to ask for and receive help. Through humility is born a deep sense of gratitude and a desire to give back when at one time, all the addict did was take.

Drug Rehab is Not the End of the Journey – It’s the First Step in Recovery


I recently spoke with Nick S. who had attended eight drug rehab facilities and only one sober living before coming to the New Life House recovery community. He told me that he had only gone to sober living once after eight stints in rehab. At that time he had completed a 50-day drug rehab and went on to a sober living that he termed a “flop-house.” Nick admitted that he decided he could stay sober on his own and moved out after only two weeks. He was high less than a week later.

I then asked Nick what was different this time around. “I admitted to myself that I had not put enough effort or care into recovery at any of the other rehab centers before and that if I wanted this eighth one to work, I would have to make some serious changes. With this shift in perception, doors began to open for me and I started to receive the help that I needed. I noticed that rehab provided a lot of useful information for building a foundation for sobriety.”

Nick continued, “I didn’t understand the power of the disease. The better understanding of my life and addiction that I learned in drug rehab fueled me to commit to working through whatever obstacles came moving forward. A lot of recovery-based practices were set in motion in rehab that ultimately prepared me well for change. Rehab was the very important first step in creating the solid foundation I could build on in aftercare.” I asked Nick why he chose New Life recovery community and he replied, “I knew I had to do something different, I knew I needed more structure, I didn’t want it, but my life depended on it.”

Remembering to be Patient


Recovering from any addiction is a long-term process. Your child will go through different stages along the way. Sometimes he or she will feel positive, other times they may act depressed or pessimistic about their addiction or recovery. With the solid foundation of an established drug rehab followed immediately by the guidance of a reputable recovery community, your son or daughter will re-learn how to think and feel without drugs or alcohol adversely affecting their brain. And isn’t that what every parent wants even when we can’t put words to it – a healthy, happy child, moving forward in a purpose-filled life, handling responsibilities and meeting all that life offers them with dignity and grace? It’s what I want for my son!

To learn more about what to expect in drug rehab, we invite you to visit our blog, Into the Heart of Addiction – where you’ll find a library of information on all aspects of recovery.


  • Robyn M.
    Posted at 18:09h, 25 April Reply

    Thank you Martha. I would have to say I agreed with everything in your article !Structure is so important in a sober living house and I think it has truly helped with my son’s recovery thus far at Miracle House.

  • Taylor Bishop
    Posted at 12:42h, 26 June Reply

    Thanks for the cool article about drug rehab. It’s good to know that this is a success when acute issues have been treated and passed. I’m interested to learn what these could be depending on someone’s condition.

Post A Comment