This is a question that is often at the forefront of a person’s mind when they enter residential rehab. For some there is the fear that they will be abandoned and cut off from life. I wanted to discuss this a little so that if there is anyone out there putting off rehab because of contact, they know exactly what to expect.

The fact is, most rehabs will cut off contact completely for the first week to two weeks (depending on duration of stay and individual circumstances). The reason behind this cessation of contact is to make sure that the person is focusing entirely on getting themselves better without any distractions from home. For example, if a mother enters rehab and hears that their child is unwell, they are likely to worry about their child and not get the most out of their treatment programme. The same applies to work, if a person is concerned about what is going on outside, they are unlikely to be engaging fully with the programme.

It is also worth mentioning at this point that that first week or so without contact can be a welcome break for the family. That is not to say that they do not love or care about the person, but often when an addiction has reached the point where the person needs alcohol or drug rehab it will have been a draining experience for the family. They may have had to take care of the addict, or lost sleep wondering whether they are going to be ok. The knowledge that the person is somewhere where they are being thoroughly looked after is usually a welcome relief for the family.

Lots of people will ask about taking their laptops into rehab with them. Whilst there are some clinics that will accommodate this, I would strongly urge everyone to seriously consider going without it. There is a sense of freedom to be gained from being removed from reality. Often the stresses of the outside world have contributed to the addiction and so taking 28 days away from it all can really help the person get themselves in a strong enough place to cope again.

After the initial period of no contact, the person will normally be allowed phone privileges. Typically this will be the use of a mobile phone or pay phone between particular hours. This structure is good for recovering addicts because it helps them learn to respect boundaries and get into a healthy routine. The family will always be able to check the person is ok with the clinic staff, so there is no need to be concerned during times of limited contact.

Most rehabs will also allow visits at the weekends after the first few weeks, and some will even incorporate a family programme to help the family cope with the situation. These family programmes can help the family move past any resentment they may hold, get them to understand the nature of addiction, and teach them the best way to help the person once they leave rehab. Weekend visits often provide the addict with the motivation to get through the week; rehab can be tough, but the reward of being reunited with a proud family member can make that all worthwhile.

So yes, it is true that contact can be limited whilst in rehab, but this should be viewed as a positive thing. Often if people look at the length of time they have had the addiction in comparison to the duration of residential treatment, it is a drop in the ocean; what is 4-12 weeks when it gives you the rest of your life back?

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