Trusted Content

Can I Send Mail To A Loved One In Rehab?

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

January 24, 2019

Entering a treatment facility is a difficult transition. This process can be unsettling to both the individual entering treatment and members of their support system. Maintaining communication can be one way to alleviate the stress and sense of alienation that individuals in both parties may feel.

How To Stay In Contact

Most facilities permit contact between individuals and their support system, including phone calls, personal visits, letters, and care packages. These methods of outreach can be very helpful in positively engaging a person and instilling a sense of confidence. These communications remind them of the life that they are fighting to retain and, most importantly, that they are not alone on their journey.

Please be advised that there may be certain times within the treatment process (such as during detox or intensive treatment procedures) that communication, or outreach, may be temporarily unavailable. Please speak to the specific facility to understand these times and to plan your communication schedule around them.

Letters are a great way to reach out as they provide a means to remind people of the positive things they need to focus on during their pursuit of wellness. A heartfelt note also provides a unique opportunity to boost morale; the recipient can reread it whenever their spirit is down or to fight loneliness—especially when it’s too late for a phone call.

If you have time, preparing a care package is an excellent way to reach out and show your commitment to your loved one’s recovery. This is a thoughtful way to exhibit consideration and it provides them with things that can bring comfort, engage their spirit and mind, and keep them occupied in their downtime.

If you struggle to find the time to write a letter or prepare a care package, remember that it is ultimately the thought that counts—even sending a postcard with a brief message shows your support and provides inspiration.

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Important Things To Consider

  • Research and familiarize yourself with the facility and their protocol concerning mail, packages, and acceptable contents.
  • Speak to the staff so they can help you better understand what items are permissible and most helpful. They may also be able to offer you a suggestion, such as something the patient has been asking for during their stay.
  • Be mindful of what could trigger thoughts of substance abuse. Be careful not to depict, either through a letter or a photo, people or situations that are associated with substance abuse.
  • If it is appropriate, mention that you have been in communication with the staff at their facility. This reiterates your commitment and displays that you have an interest in their recovery.
  • Take the time to make it personal as it should be evident you set aside time to think about them and considered what would be helpful, meaningful, or encouraging.
  • Remember, this should be encouraging: communicate your support, love, understanding, forgiveness, and faith in them.
  • The package may be searched by the staff so do not send anything that breaks the facility’s protocol as this could revoke your privileges. Also, be aware not to include things, either within photographs or letters, that might embarrass or incriminate you.
  • Many centers allow you to send money. They recommend not sending a cash or personal check and generally require funds to be in the form of a money order or cashier’s check. Some places limit the amount you can send.

What Should I Include?

Boredom, loneliness, and doubt are things that those with substance abuse problems commonly struggle with and they may also contend with these during treatment. When a person receives a letter or care package it activates their sense of well-being and belonging. It can also provide something to occupy the moments when these emotions threaten to derail their progress or blind them to the hope that is crucial in recovery.

Consider your five senses—smell, sight, touch, taste, and sound—and build off them. Try to include items that have relevance to a person’s life and highlight one or more of these senses as stimulating them can provide comfort and diversity in tumultuous times. Here are some suggestions of things you may consider including within your care package:

Photos: These can be a welcome reminder of positive things. Some facilities have a limit as to how many photos a person can display, however.

Food: This can be a hazy area. Many do not allow candy. Though you may think sending salty or sweet snacks may be nice, remember that they are not necessarily the most healthy thing for a person during recovery. Instead, consider healthier options such as whole-grain cracker, snack bars, dried fruit, or unsalted nuts. Depending on your access to the facility you could also drop off fresh fruit.

Clothing: It can be helpful for a person to have items of clothing that remind them of their individuality or provide comfort. Only send items that are modest, comfortable, practical, weather-appropriate, and which fall within facility guidelines. For example, items should not have any illicit or offensive language or illustrations. Workout clothing is practical and encourages them to become active during their stay and engage in a practice.

Familiar Objects From Home: Most individuals feel homesick at some point during rehab. Depending on what is permitted you could send a pillowcase from their bed at home, a favorite hoodie, or a small trinket for them to set in their room. These small things can remind them of home. If these items are not permitted you may want to consider sending a picture of something sentimental.

Personal Hygiene Items: In addition to being essential, these items allow a person to devote time to their self-care. As simple as it seems, sending items that smell good are often especially appreciated.

Small Gifts: When people are in rehabilitation they may struggle with the notion that they are missing out on significant life events, including birthdays and holidays. Not only does a small gift acknowledge that you’re thinking of them it allows them to remain rooted in their life outside of the facility.

Reading and Activities: Consider a novel by a favorite author, a Sudoku or crossword puzzle book, or a journal. Books, paper, pens and colored pencils may also provide a relaxing and creative outlet. Zentangle and adult coloring books are two popular options.

Some facilities only allow for materials to be recovery-related. These materials are helpful on two levels—first it furnishes them with another avenue by which to educate themselves and secondly it provides an affirmation that you support their efforts and transition towards recovery.

Inspirational Items: Consider a unique way to reach out by including a framed inspirational quote, favorite verse, poem or song—keep in mind that the text must not contain explicit language. Small framed pictures of peaceful outdoor settings may also be nice. If the individual has access to play it, you can also send music or even positive messages that you’ve recorded.

Things That Are Not Allowed: Do not include alcohol, pills or medication of any form, pornography, tobacco, or anything within a photo or letter that is too personal for anyone to see.

Keep in mind, the above categories are suggestions and some items may not be applicable within all facilities or situations. We recommend that you take time to research or inquire with the specific facility to ensure that every item is permissible and beneficial to the individual.

Being Mindful Of What You Communicate

You must consider the language and circumstances that you use while you are composing your letter and preparing your package. It is important not to include any language or circumstances that could potentially be construed as triggers.

Avoid expressing feelings of guilt or blame in your letters. While it is important to get these feelings out, you should do so at a time that is constructive for their recovery. Doing so in the form of a letter may do more harm than good.

Keep in mind that any contact you make is actively creating a space between you and your loved one. If approached in a conscientious way, this space could allow you a better chance of having an open and constructive dialogue.

Offering stories or anecdotes about those they love, or what is going on outside, may help them retain a sense of hopefulness. But be careful of the manner in which you portray these things: keep your tone positive and constructive rather than guilt-stricken.

Try to avoid a tone that seems to boast, condescending, or unrealistically optimistic. This tone could breed resentment and develop loneliness, bitterness, or an obstruction in your relationship—and these things can be very detrimental at a time when they need support and understanding.

Remember, they likely feel like they are missing out on their life and that of their loved ones. Be sensitive to this and take time to compose your words so you portray your support, respect, and confidence in them.

Get More Information On How To Support Your Loved One Today

Having the support and faith of a loved one can make a big difference in both the treatment and the time after. If you find yourself wondering how to approach a loved one about their substance abuse problem or if you have any other questions concerning the rehabilitation process, contact us at today.

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