How do I plan for detox?

Detoxing from drugs and booze is going to be uncomfortable. Hopefully, though, these tips and tricks will make it a bit easier.

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That’s the million-dollar question. How do I, an active alcoholic or addict, plan and prepare for detox? How do I, someone whose whole life has been centered around avoiding pain, plan and prepare for the inevitable emotional and physical discomfort of detox?

Well, fear not dear readers, for I have an answer to these burning questions! Unfortunately, my answer isn’t a silver bullet. Detoxing from drugs and booze is going to be uncomfortable. Hopefully, though, these tips and tricks will make it a bit easier. If not, please leave your questions or comments about who is in need of detox in the section at the end. We try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Tip #1: Taper Off

This is probably the most obvious tip. Try to drink less, or do fewer drugs, in the days before you go to detox. That’ll make your stay a bit more comfortable.

Now, there’s a huge problem with the idea of tapering off prior to detox. First of all, you may need medical supervision during drug or alcohol tapering. Benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal can trigger seizures or hallucinations, so always seek a doctor’s recommendation before trying this.

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Second, if we, as addicts and alcoholics, could moderate our use, we wouldn’t need detox in the first place!  While this tip may be wildly impractical, it’s still helpful. Try taking one less pill per day in the week leading up to detox. It might seem like crazy talk, but trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. Also, do research on specific withdrawal symptoms and their treatment: understanding detox and its stages in a more familiar way can help you identify problematic symptoms when they occur.

Tip #2: Eat Healthy Foods

This may also sound a bit like crazy talk, but it works!

In the days leading up to detox, try eating healthy. Substitute a salad for fast food. If you’re in the middle of an opiate binge, put down the salty food! If you’re in the middle of a stimulant binge, eat something!

Look, I’m a tried and true addict. I’ve gone on week long stimulant binges were food looks disgusting. I’ve been on the opiate and ice cream diet. I’ve smoked weed and eaten an entire delivery pizza.

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The bottom line is that if you can eat healthy, you’ll feel a lot better while in detox. Bonus points if you eat bananas. They’re rich in potassium and help to ease Restless Leg Syndrome.

Tip #3: Prepare Yourself Mentally

This one’s kind of obvious, but pays off big time. Prepare yourself mentally for the pain of detox!

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Detoxing isn’t fun. It’s painful and uncomfortable on every level. You’re going to feel like crap physically. You’re going to be overwhelmed with mental cravings. You’re going to feel emotions for the first time in a long time.

If you memorize a few affirmations, prayers, or general positive messages, you’re going to feel better. You’re not going to feel much better, but anything’s an improvement.

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Tip #4: Pack Comfortable Clothes

Duh! Don’t worry about looking good or wearing the latest trendy clothes. Worry about being comfortable. After all, you’re going to detox, not the club

For women: Don’t bring four-inch heels and skimpy dresses. Bring sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other comfortable clothes.

For guys: Don’t bring a suit or any tailored dress shirts. Bring basketball shorts and your favorite tee shirt.

Tip #5: Pack Comfort Belongings

I brought a stuffed animal with me to both detox and treatment.

I got made fun of by my roommates in both. I wasn’t the cool kid. Guess what, though? I didn’t care about being the cool kid. I just wanted something to make the painful and scary process of detoxing easier.

Have a favorite stuffed animal? What about a comfort blanket? Bring them! Trust me, when you wake up a four a.m. and have no idea where you are or what’s going on, you’ll be happy you did.

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Tip #6: Don’t Bring Unnecessary Items

A friend of mine brought handcuffs with her to detox. It’s a long story. Suffice it to say, they were confiscated and she never saw them again.

When I was packing for detox, with what few belongings I had, I didn’t really know what to bring. I was tempted to bring books and other unnecessary stuff. Friends of mine brought their iPads, iPhones, and all other sorts of crazy electronics. We don’t need those in detox! I’m not going to be watching Netflix. I’m going to be sweating and shaking. Unnecessary items are only going to take up space and probably be confiscated anyway.

Tip #7: Have a Plan

This is probably the most important tip for planning for detox! It’s easy to think to ourselves “Oh, I’ll get off drugs and booze and be fine.” Spoiler alert, you won’t!

I know because I tried it more times than I can count! Going to detox is great. It’s the first step to living a new, and infinitely better, life. It’s just that, though, the first step.

Detox alone isn’t going to cure us of addiction or alcoholism. It’ll separate us physically from drugs and booze. It’ll give us a chance to get them out of our system in a safe and secure environment. We need to do some work on ourselves, though.

So, have a plan. Decide if you’re going to go to a treatment center after detox. Decide which level of care would be best. If you choose not to attend treatment, decide what preventative measures you’ll take. These are things like joining a twelve-step fellowship, joining a non-spiritual recovery group, going to therapy, setting up a support system of friends and family, and many others.

Remember, sobriety and recovery are life-long processes. Plan accordingly!

About the author
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute. She’s been in recovery since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping other young women achieve and maintain long-term recovery.


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  1. I live in mount pleasant tennessee, and I’m on probation for a drug charge. I want to tell my probation officer, that I would like to get help. But I’m scared she will violate me or something. Can you please help me with some information?

  2. I have been a drinker for 40 years and i have quit a couple of times and stayed sober for almost a year both times. Well i had started back drinking and it take me two years to get sober. I have been sober for six weeks now and i am sick as a dog :0 I can be sitting down and just get so hot, I have had a headache everyday, I am getting upset, i feel like I want to leave my husband, I can focus, my brain feels foggy. I am just one hot mess.

    1. Hello Eve. Are you going to AA meetings or some other group therapy sessions? It helps to talk to others who are in the same boat, plus the psychologists or counselors can provide useful guidelines and advise on how to manage your emotions better, how to help yourself in recovery, etc. I really hope you can make the time to participate in this type of therapy, it has helped many…

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