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What to Expect from Addiction Inpatient Rehab Treatment

by Demarco Moore

September 5, 2022
A patient comforts a woman during inpatient rehab

Many people considering a residential treatment program for a drug or alcohol addiction want to know what a typical day at an inpatient rehab center is like. Inpatient treatment at Landmark Recovery provides patients with a safe and caring environment, where they can focus on understanding their addiction and learn skills to avoid a relapse.

Day-by-Day in Addiction Recovery

To really understand addiction rehab, it’s best to listen to someone who has experienced a residential program. This will give you a better idea of what inpatient treatment centers are like. Eric Jordan’s experience with inpatient treatment demonstrates the design and operation of a residential program, although no two recovery journeys are identical.

While in the emergency room, Jordan received a warning about his drinking. His drinking had damaged his stomach to such an extent that he couldn’t hold down food. He had to make a life-saving change.

“It was a matter of life and death,” Jordan said. “I basically had a medical doctor tell me that if I did not seek help and quit drinking, my family would be burying me in six months to a year.”

A resident of Bowling Green, KY, Jordan got into a residential treatment program at Praxis of Louisville by Landmark Recovery.

Day 1-3: Getting a Feel for Treatment and Aftercare

Jordan said he felt “humbled” during his first day at Praxis of Louisville. He’d gone through another treatment program and experienced a relapse, followed by the grim ultimatum from the ER doctor. The motivation to recover from his drinking and drug problems drove Jordan. He could’ve stayed close to home for treatment, but decided to travel almost two hours to Louisville without a car to show how committed he was to his recovery.

“My mom had a hard time understanding why I chose to come to Louisville for treatment,” Jordan said. “I had to explain to her that I had to go away from Bowling Green. If I’m in Bowling Green, I can walk out of treatment and get to my vehicle. If I’m in Louisville, where am I going?”

The Beginning is Important

Addiction treatment professionals like Keith Farah, executive director at Praxis of Louisville, believe the first few days of treatment represent some of, if not the most, important days for patients in recovery. Most inpatient rehab facilities follow retention protocols when patients want to leave rehab early. Many of these occur during the first five days of treatment. 

Therefore, both the facility and the patient should understand from the beginning that people often view residential treatment as the first phase of recovery. This understanding of the program gives staff the chance to build rapport and trust during one stage of the patient’s lifelong recovery marathon.

“The retention process starts as soon as the patient gets in the building,” Farah said. “We tell patients our job here is to get them as mentally, emotionally and physically stable as we can to prepare them for further treatment when they leave. The intake process is the opportunity for us to begin to make this a place that they want to be and that they trust to take care of them.”

Staff assess incoming patients for the severity and symptoms of their substance use, using this information to determine their residential treatment and aftercare plans.

Jordan said his treatment plan was laid out by day three. He knew he’d be on his way to intensive outpatient rehab after graduation. But first, he needed help safely removing the drugs and alcohol from his system.

Eric Jordan at an alumni event for former patients at Landmark Recovery

Eric Jordan graduated from inpatient rehab at Praxis of Louisville by Landmark Recovery. He attends alumni events and is often invited to come to speak to current patients. (Photo provided by Eric Jordan)

Day 4-7: Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Jordan was one of the exceptions to the typical withdrawal timeline. He arrived at Praxis of Louisville with detox medication in his system after a brief withdrawal at the emergency room.

Medical detox is often the most challenging time for many patients. They become physically sick as they experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, their withdrawal timeline depends on the substance they’ve used and the rate of use before they arrive at the facility.

“You can count on anyone who has been using alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines, their first three or four days is just gonna be rough,” Farah said. “We do the best we can to mitigate that medically.”

During residential treatment, the facility staff might allow patients with painful withdrawal symptoms to skip certain activities if they feel too sick during their first few days.

“Their withdrawal symptoms are going to be much more acute and more difficult to mitigate for the first week,” Farah said. “The expectations of them and treatment initially are going to be different.”

Withdrawals Begin

Jordan’s withdrawal timeline started at the hospital after he relapsed. He started residential treatment at Praxis of Louisville ahead of schedule, so to speak, and was able to engage in daily activities and group therapy quicker than someone who didn’t start detox until after they arrived at the facility.

“I know that if you want to kick this you cannot just lay in the bed,” Jordan said. “You have to be active in your treatment.” 

If Jordan felt unwell during group or individual therapy sessions, he said they allowed him to rest in his room until he recovered. That expectation was a part of the intuitive nature of the staff at Praxis of Louisville. Knowing and understanding that patients sometimes needed time to acclimate themselves into the program also helped establish a relationship between the patients and facility staff, many of whom are in active recovery.

“They would tell me to go lay down and if I felt better later, come back to class,” said Jordan, who suffers from migraines and drank alcohol to cover them up in the past. “I would communicate with them if I wasn’t feeling well and they could tell if I wasn’t feeling well because I wasn’t myself.”

Dealing with Withdrawal

Farah said he and his staff get creative with how they handle the different detox and withdrawal timelines patients deal with. If a patient is feeling too sick to go to meetings, a patient engagement specialist goes into their room, sits with them for about 30 minutes and talks to them. Medical professionals monitor patients around the clock to mitigate any harmful withdrawal symptoms with the proper medication.

“They understand what their withdrawal looks like, what the person’s feeling, and they kind of just intuitively know how hard to push them,” Farah said.

This approach enables the staff to understand the individual needs of each patient, ensuring they can push them appropriately to engage and successfully complete inpatient rehab.

“We’ll err on the side of caution of getting them moving and attending things and being a part of the groups here,” Farah said. “Even if it means irritating them a little bit, we expect that and we don’t take it personally. We know how hard to push, and we also know when they just need to rest.”

Life After Detox

Many facilities stagger patients throughout residential treatment, meaning there are just as many incoming patients as outgoing patients. It might seem challenging to someone on the outside looking in. However, Jordan saw the process as a positive for his progression through inpatient rehab. It allowed him to see what impact the program had on patients at different stages during his 23-day stint.

“That actually helps the new person coming in because that helps them get settled more quickly,” he said. “If they have questions, I can answer. That way the staff members aren’t the only ones having to answer questions.”

Farah said that patients should typically start engaging in daily activities and counseling sessions after four-to-seven days of the worst part of their detox. According to Jordan, witnessing farther-along patients provides a model for incoming ones to emulate, enhancing their comfort level in opening up to other patients and during counseling sessions. Regardless of a person’s length of stay in treatment, interacting with other patients, who can prepare a newcomer for upcoming experiences, offers benefits.

“It’s good to have people at different levels because they can talk about their experiences,” Jordan said.

Day 10: Halftime Reflection

Jordan said that around the 10th day, he reached a turning point in his treatment journey. This marks the halfway point for many patients in a typical 21-day residential treatment program at Praxis of Louisville. While some withdrawal symptoms may linger, we expect most patients to start feeling and sleeping better, as well as eating more and engaging more actively in their treatment. Jordan said his mind cleared as he remembered the words of people like his uncle and a temporary sponsor, who encouraged him to do things like go to sober living and get a sponsor after inpatient rehab.

“I was like okay, maybe I should listen to my uncle,” said Jordan, whose uncle has more than 16 years of sobriety under his belt. “I started thinking about what they were telling me before my relapse and thinking maybe I need to listen and take the advice of some people that have told me, ‘Take the cotton out of your ear, put it in your mouth, shut up, sit down and listen for once.”

Jordan also saw possibilities of what was to come if he didn’t follow the advice of the people with years of sustained addiction recovery. He said it was eye-opening to witness patients who had graduated as he got to Praxis of Louisville leave the facility and come back by the time he was halfway through the program.

“It’s like okay, maybe I need to listen, because I don’t want to be like them and be returning not even a week later,” Jordan said.

Family Visitation in Rehab

Landmark Recovery places a high value on family dynamics. Evidence shows that without a strong support network at home, patients are less likely to sustain their recovery after completing residential treatment. Family members are invited to participate in group counseling sessions.

Jordan got to see his mother, who came for visitation around the 10-day mark. It turned out to be another moment of reflection and clarity he needed to finish treatment.

“When my mom told me that I looked a lot healthier than I have been in a long time, it just made me push harder,” said Jordan, who remembers losing more than 70 pounds during inpatient rehab.

Jordan’s mom came bearing “tough love” as well. Her words resembled the kind of boundary many families of people struggling with substance misuse establish to stop enabling their loved one. Jordan’s mom wouldn’t block him from facing the consequences of his addiction.

“She basically told me that if this didn’t work, if I didn’t stop doing the drugs, the alcohol, and everything, there was gonna be a point that she was gonna say f–k it,” Jordan said. “She was gonna be like, ‘I’m done with you. I ain’t gonna help you anymore,’ because of all the sleepless nights she’s had.”

Post-Rehab Prep 

About one week prior to graduation, Jordan said he felt uncertain about leaving inpatient rehab, even though his aftercare plan was solid. He would stay in Louisville to participate in the intensive outpatient program at Praxis of Louisville. As part of a local partnership with the Healing Place, he would have free transitional housing while he traveled to and from Praxis of Louisville four times a week for counseling sessions. 

Coming out of Landmark rehab, Jordan knew he wanted and needed accountability. He understood this meant submitting to drug tests and avoiding alcohol to maintain his housing.

“I had that accountability to where I knew that if I showed up drunk or anything I would lose my housing,” he said.

However, because this was as far as he’d gotten in his recovery journey, he was reminded of his relapse before coming to Praxis of Louisville. He wanted to avoid that by any means necessary.

“I was terrified that I was gonna mess up again,” Jordan said.

The transition turned out to be smooth for Jordan. He graduated from Praxis of Louisville on a Friday, entered IOP the following Monday and finished up in June.

The Takeaway

Rehab is not easy, but it’s an effective tool for conquering addiction day by day. We’re not asking you to enter a residential treatment program today. Instead, reflect on your substance misuse. Then, consider and trust that there are people out there willing to help you overcome it. 

Since completing residential treatment, Jordan has been invited as a guest speaker at both Praxis of Louisville, and Landmark Recovery of Louisville

After speaking appearances, Jordan said he’s been approached by former patients who he “helped be able to adjust to rehab.” Others have handed him notes with kind words of appreciation. However, none of it was possible without “tough love” from the ER doctor and his family, as well as inpatient addiction treatment.

Ready to Learn What Your Options Are?

If you or someone you know struggles to manage your drinking or drug use, call 888-448-0302 to connect with a recovery specialist. The confidential phone line is open 24/7. Learn more about addiction recovery services, the cost of treatment or the admissions process. 

Click here to see a full list of Landmark Recovery locations and addiction treatment centers near you.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.