man and woman holding hands
people seated on table in room

For many people, a day in rehab sounds gloomy and depressing. It might even seem like a loss of freedom or being in jail. In reality, rehab is nothing like that. In fact, rehab clients typically look upon their time in rehab as an invaluable voyage of discovery — a voyage that brought them inner peace, tranquility, and fulfillment.

Everyone’s personal experience in rehab is different. Each person takes away their own set of internal tools they can use to negotiate a sober, addiction-free path in life. But to start this recovery process, clients need to follow a prescribed regimen of therapy, activity, and recreation designed to heal both body and mind and help them feel whole again.

You’ll find that each day follows a set routine and has a simple structure. This helps clients know what to expect. It also helps them feel more relaxed rather than intimidated or confused. Plus, by avoiding unplanned time, clients are less likely to be bored or worry about a relapse into destructive behaviors. Finally, a structured schedule helps distract clients from any lingering cravings they might experience.

With this in mind, let’s look at a typical day in rehab, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between. We’ll start by looking closely at some programs and activities you’ll take part in, either by yourself or with your fellow clients.

Therapies, Programs, and Activities in Rehab

Each rehab center offers a unique combination of counseling sessions and activities for its clients. Here’s a look at the programs that are generally available, either daily or at scheduled times during the week.

Support groups

Support groups are typically small so there’s plenty of time for everyone to discuss the challenges of addiction and recovery with fellow clients. A group moderator will guide the conversation, and you’ll be able to share your thoughts and feelings in a relaxed, supportive environment. This may feel awkward at first, especially if you have never talked about your experiences before. With time, it gets easier, and you might start looking forward to group time.

Family counseling

Family counseling sessions involve you and members of your immediate family. Your partner or a concerned, actively involved relative or friend that you consider family might attend instead. Treatment centers typically offer a variety of family counseling and education programs for clients and their loved ones.

Everyone gets a chance to talk about their challenges, express difficult personal feelings, and ask questions. The therapist will moderate in a non-judgmental way and suggest ways to improve communication and resolve problems and conflicts. He or she will also lead discussions about family roles, rules, and behavior patterns.

Private counseling and therapy sessions

These sessions are the core of your rehab journey. They involve private, one-on-one therapeutic conversations with your rehab therapist. They are much like the private sessions that you would have with your therapist outside of the treatment center, and the primary focus is on developing the personal tools you need to recover from addiction.

Relaxation therapies

For many clients, these are a favorite part of rehab because they offer many of the same features you would find in a luxury spa. Today’s rehab centers offer saunas, whirlpools, swimming pools, and other enjoyable spa amenities.

Fitness programs

Rehab specialists know that a sound mind and body are your greatest tools in fighting addiction, and fitness classes are a pivotal part of rehab. Besides aerobic conditioning and standard exercise programs, your rehab center may offer classes in martial arts, dance workouts, and even indoor cycling and other activities. You’ll also find classes for yoga and meditation to help you keep a balanced mind and body.

Life skills classes

Do you have trouble communicating with other people? What about day-to-day job pressures, parenting, and managing bills and money? Even the basics like healthy eating, getting exercise, and taking care of your living space can feel overwhelming. Life skills classes help you create a schedule and develop new skills and habits that reduce stress whether your challenges are at home, work, or with friends and family.

Art therapy

Have you ever wanted to learn how to paint, draw, or create crafts? Art therapy1 is proven to be helpful in addiction recovery. Many rehab centers offer a variety of arts and crafts classes to choose from. Depending on your rehab center, you can spend afternoons learning to paint or how to use fiber and other materials to create beautiful works of art.

Education about addiction

With so much information available today, most people know substance abuse exists, but many know little about it. They’ve heard of alcoholism and drug addiction, but they don’t know what these addictions involve or how they start. To help clients understand the nature and challenges of addiction, rehab centers offer programs that educate clients and their families about types of substance abuse and addiction. They learn how it starts, how it’s treated, and how those affected can recover and lead fulfilling lives. By understanding exactly what you’re fighting, you’ll have a better chance of conquering it and winning.

What’s the Food Like in Rehab?

Today’s rehabilitation physicians and other experts understand the importance of a well-balanced, varied diet that provides whole food from the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains, and dairy. The term “whole food” means food that’s not processed, so don’t expect to find fast food or junk food on the menu. Instead, you’ll find healthy selections of fruits and vegetables, appetizing meat and egg entrees, and bread and cereals made with whole grains like quinoa and oats. Many rehab centers also offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free selections.

You’ll find fruits packed with antioxidants plus vegetables and meats rich in amino acids like tyrosine and L-glutamine. These reduce anxiety by boosting levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation), while boosting your immune system and cleansing your body. Rehab doctors agree whole foods are ideal for early recovery because they have nutrients that boost health plus elevate mood and ease withdrawal symptoms. These healthy foods can promote healing and speed up the recovery process. You might have to give up pizza and chips, but the trade-off is a sound mind and a healthy body.

What About Medication?

Your rehab therapies may involve drug therapy as well, all under the guidance of your doctor. In addition, if your doctor permits it and under certain conditions, you may bring medically necessary medications from home. Once you discuss this with the medical staff, they’ll ensure that you have access to the medications you need.

Now that you’re familiar with the different programs available, it’s time to look at a typical day in rehab, from sunup to sundown.

Mornings in Rehab

For every client in rehab, the day will start just as it always does for millions of people around the world. You’ll get up early in the morning — many centers have a set time around 7 a.m. — with enough time to get dressed and ready for breakfast. If it’s part of your routine, you’ll probably have enough time for meditation, yoga, prayer, or other early morning exercises. If you’re on a drug therapy regime, this might also be the time of day you take your first doses of medication.

You’ll head for breakfast about an hour after your wake-up call. You’ll join others on a similar journey in a communal dining setting. These meal times are valuable in fostering friendships and support during rehab, and they also help clients avoid isolation and feeling alone. For many clients, this type of socialization is pivotal to recovery. You’ll want to make as many social connections and friendships as possible during your stay.

After breakfast, you’ll take part in your first daily activity. This is usually a group therapy session. Along with the rest of the group, you’ll discuss topics involving addiction challenges and recovery techniques in a supportive, caring environment. These sessions will also further your bonding as a community, so you’ll always know you’re never alone. Depending on your program, you might have one long session or two shorter sessions before lunch.

Afternoons in Rehab

After lunch, you’ll have a one-on-one therapy session with your therapist. This is a chance to talk in private about your problems, your concerns, and your progress. Your therapist provides the mentoring you need to reach your goals. In these private sessions, your therapist may use cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a technique that helps you understand how your thoughts relate to your emotions and behaviors. Your therapist will help you understand the reasons for your reactions and behaviors and help you develop the skills to react and behave in more constructive, healthier ways.

After this session, you might take part in another group session, or you might join a smaller group that focuses on topics like grief, depression, stress, or anger management. These smaller group sessions will include other clients with issues similar to yours, so you can share and support one another in an empathetic environment.

After your afternoon session, it’s time for some self-care in one of the many spa amenities of your rehab center. These can include pools, saunas, and massages as well as acupuncture and chiropractic care. Recreational activities might include billiards (pool), ping pong, or even horseback riding. Other activities might be yoga classes, meditation sessions, art therapy, fitness classes, and educational seminars. You might also have some personal time for a walk around the grounds or writing in your journal. These relaxing, entertaining activities will take you to dinnertime. It’s a break from the hard work you’re doing — everyone needs some downtime — and you won’t have a moment to feel bored.

Evenings in Rehab

After dinner, your treatment center might schedule one more group session in which you can talk about your day and your progress so far. In addition, many treatment centers offer evening support group meetings for those taking part in specific programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Your day in rehab will end with plenty of time for recreation and socializing before bed. During this time, you can visit with your fellow clients or spend the time watching a movie. The atmosphere will be so calming and relaxing, you’ll be ready for bed before you know it.

Before bedtime, nurses will visit to see if you need anything. If you’re on drug therapy, this is when you’ll get your last doses for the day. Once you’re in bed, you’ll need to turn your lights out right away — you won’t be able to sit up and read for an extra hour or two. This lights-out policy helps you get enough sleep every evening without distractions. Doctors know that sleep disturbances are a common side effect of withdrawal, and the best way to combat this and other side effects is to get a good night’s sleep throughout your stay. When you’re well-rested, you’ll be better able to handle cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, and you’ll have the energy to stay with your recovery plan without relapsing.

What Can You Bring to Rehab?

Many clients worry they won’t be able to bring their favorite clothes or personal items to rehab. Most treatment centers allow clients to bring selected personal items, so with a few exceptions, you can bring your favorite clothes, pajamas, toiletries, and other essentials. The treatment center typically requests that all toiletries and medications be new and unopened, and items such as mouthwash must be alcohol-free.

On the flip side, the treatment center will request that you leave your laptop or tablet at home. If you bring your phone, it will remain in storage until you leave. These rules are in place because of client privacy issues. Plus, clients focus better on their recovery without distractions from the internet or social media. Remember, you’re here to create a clean slate and start over with your life. One of the best ways to do that is to break away from any distracting social media, emails, or gaming that could affect your recovery.

Rehab takes concentration and focus, but you will reap satisfying rewards. Many clients look upon it as one of the most liberating and fulfilling times in their lives. They discover that the structured schedule makes them look at themselves, make an honest assessment of challenges, and finally deal with them — all with the support and encouragement of others who are there to help. In rehab, you’ll discover that you’re not alone, and you may make friendships that will last a lifetime. You’ll find the tools, the strength, the energy, and the inner serenity you need to tackle the problems of addiction as well as the issues that led to it.

At Windward Way Recovery, your recovery journey can start with just a single phone call. If you’re ready to take your first step toward recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, or if you’re concerned about a loved one’s alcohol or drug use, please call our 24/7 Free Admissions Helpline. You’ll get a free clinical assessment for yourself or your loved one, with no obligation to enter our treatment program. When it’s time to take that first step, we’re here to give you the help you need and deserve.

  • 1