What to Pack for Rehab

By Amy Dresner 07/01/13

You've made the decision to go to rehab. You're a mess. Then you realize you need to pack for 28 days. A rehab veteran guides you through the process.

Carry-on Photo via

I got a strange call the other day. I was kicking it sober-living style, smoking my electronic cigarette on my narrow bed, when my phone rang. It was a girl I’d met at a now defunct meeting years before. I didn’t remember her that well but she sure remembered me. Back in those days I was notorious for my outrageous fur coats in the summer and my even more outrageous shares. Anyway, this girl was loaded and hysterical and completely overwhelmed at the mere prospect of just having to pack for her ensuing stay at the Betty Ford Center.

“I’ve been on my couch high for at least a week. I have no idea what day it is. I have to go into treatment for the first time tomorrow. I don’t know what to pack. I’m freaking out.”

"Soon you’ll feel better and you’ll wanna look better for some shmuck you’ll bone in treatment. We all get those rehab goggles."

“Hmmm... Well I’d hardly call myself a rehab veteran. I've only been to rehab three times, and to detox three times. But I did spend hundreds of thousands of my poor father’s hard-earned money at those treatment centers and overpriced detoxes. I think I can help.”

“Thank you, Amy.”

“Okay, girl, first question: Do you need me to come over and pack your shit for you, or do you just want me to lead you through it over the phone?”  

“I think the phone is fine.”

“You got it. Okay, first go grab a medium-sized suitcase. You might only be there for the typical 30 days but there’s good chance you’ll be in there longer."

“Great,” she says, sarcastically.

“Just the fruits of my experience, mama.”

I hear soft crying on the other end of the phone.

“Hey, it’s gonna be okay. Really. I promise. Let’s just pack your stuff and get you there.”

“I used to have 10 years. I don’t know how the fuck I got here again.”

“You got loaded, babe. But it’s all good. You had time before. You can have time again. I’ve relapsed countless times. Grab some underwear.”


“Throw some bras in there. We don’t want you hanging loose in rehab.”


“They’ll probably encourage you to go to the gym after you detox. Throw some workout gear in there and tennies.”

“I feel like shit. I’m not going to want to go to the gym.”

“You feel like shit right now. You don’t know how you’ll feel in a week or so. And also everybody gets fat in rehab. It’s called ‘sober body’. The food is good and food becomes your new best friend.” 

“Did you work out in rehab?”

“Fuck no. I’m incredibly lazy.”

I drag on my e-cigarette, thinking. “Grab some sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts,” I add. “You’re gonna be sitting around on your ass in process group for six hours a day, talking about your childhood trauma and poor coping skills. You wanna be comfortable. No camel toe.”


“It’ll be hot. It’s the desert. Throw in some shorts. I myself don’t wear shorts; I was cursed with kankles. If you rock sundresses, some of those. I dress like a bass player from Reseda from the 80’s, so don’t listen to me. And long sleeve shirts if you’ve been shooting up—cover up those battle wounds.”

“Oh yeah. Good point. Hey, should I bring make-up?”

“Oh fuck yeah! Soon you’ll feel better and you’ll wanna look better for some dumb shmuck you’ll probably bone in treatment. We all get those rehab goggles. Toss in some make up.”

“Okay,” she says, taking me seriously.

“I mean just the basics: mascara, eyeliner, blush, lip gloss. You don’t need to go all Tammy Faye drag queen on them...”

“Right.” I can hear her smile.

“They should let you bring condoms. Because everybody ends up having bad gropey detox sex with some 24-year-old junkie from Texas. But whatever. I mean, I personally know a girl that got pregnant in rehab and...” I stop myself and get back to the task at hand. “Anyway, sorry. Tell me what’s in there now?”  

She rattles off the contents of her suitcase.

“Socks, dude. You need socks,” I tell her. “I wore my moccasins without socks for a month in treatment and now they smell like expensive cheese. ”


“And flip flops. You’re gonna live in flip flops.”

“Yeah, right?”

“Let’s go into the bathroom. Grab your basic toiletries. They’re gonna go through all that stuff when you get there. But remember, if you forget anything or run out, somebody can bring it to you or they’ll take you on a store run. You’re not on the moon. Don’t stress.”

“Okay, cool. What about perfume?”

“Sure, bring it. I threatened to drink mine one day and they took it and never gave it back. Issey Miyake. That shit is expensive...fuckers.”

I hear her padding from room to room.

“What about razors?” she asks.

“Bring them. Unless you get all sideways and suicidal. They'll lock them up, but let you use them to shave if you immediately return them afterwards.

I hear her labored breathing as she rearranges things in her suitcase. A large fan seems to be whirring in the background.

“What meds are you on, girl?”

She rattles off a frighteningly long list of various anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, etc.

“Yes I’m familiar with all of them, unfortunately. Bring them. They’ll never let you have them but at least it proves that you’re on what you say you’re on.”

Ohhh, yeah...”

“Or have your shrink call them.”


“You have a laptop?”


“Bring it. You’ll want it. They’ll take it away at first but then you’ll get it back. Facebook saved my life.”

“Really. How?”

“Got support. Stayed in the loop. Remembered that there was life after rehab. Flirted with creepy emotionally unavailable foreigners. If you plan on developing a budding sex addiction, FB is key.”

“You’re funny.”

“And throw in a few books to read at night...”

“Did you read in rehab?”

“Just 50 Shades of Grey, which I borrowed from my horny older roommate. All my friends brought me the newest hippest drug memoirs, but they just got dusty on my dresser.”

“Jesus, how long were you in treatment?”

“Seven months.”

“Oh my God...”

“Don’t freak. The other stays were much shorter.”

“What about jewelry?”

“I wouldn’t. You know the saying, 'What do you get when you sober up a horse thief? A sober horse thief.’ Don’t bring anything you’re not prepared to lose. But do bring a few big bangles. Not only are they hip but if you start cutting yourself like I did, they are good camouflage.”

“Yeah, I already do that.”

“See how well I know you!”

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Really, you’re an angel,” she says quietly.

“Tell my folks. And I hope you're writing all this down. I might need it if I ever... No, forget it. Good luck. You got this.”

Amy Dresner is a regular contributor to The Fix. She last wrote about kind of liking the 13th Step.

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Amy Dresner is a recovering drug addict and all around fuck up. She’s been regularly writing for The Fix since 2012. When she isn't humorously chronicling her epic ups and downs for us, she's freelancing for Refinery 29, Alternet, After Party Chat, Salon, The Frisky, Cosmo Latina, Unbound Box, Addiction.com and Psychology Today. Her first book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean was published in September 2017 by Hachette Books. Follow her on Twitter @amydresner.