Helping a Loved One Transition Home After Drug Rehab

Helping a Loved One Transition Home After Drug Rehab

By In Addiction Recovery, Relapse Prevention
Posted February 12, 2015

There’s more to addiction than what goes on directly within the addict. The deadly cycle of addiction is far reaching, affecting the entire family. Recovery then, should also include the entire family.

Of course, this is not always possible. After rehab, some return to severely broken families or even to life alone. If you have a loved one who will soon be making the transition from an addiction treatment center to family life and are willing to take the necessary steps to support them in their recovery, you probably have some questions.

How will my life change?
Is he or she truly recovered?
Do I need to watch over them for signs of relapse?
What can I do to help them once they come home?

Planning for Life After Drug Rehab Should Begin During Rehab

The treatment program you choose should address the transition back into home life before the end of their program. As your loved one takes the necessary steps toward addiction recovery, he or she will begin to change from the inside out. With recovery comes a new freedom and a new hope. This is combined with the tools necessary to walk out recovery on the other side of rehab. So, what can you do to help?

Three Keys to Helping a Loved One Transition Home After Drug Rehab

1. Realize that You are Damaged as Well

The truth is, the entire family has suffered from the cycle of addiction. As a spouse or family member, you probably have some very real hurts and even confusion to deal with. You also have issues outside of the whirlwind of the addict. Maybe you are dealing with career stress, your own childhood trauma, or other outside issues. Although you love and wish to support the addict in their recovery, it’s vital that you go about it the correct way. Your first priority should be yourself. If you are able to walk in mental and emotional health, you’ll be a benefit to everyone around you, including the recovering addict. Seeking your own help by attending Al-Anon or other support groups designed for the family is a good way to make sure your main focus remains on your own healing, growth and spiritual walk.

2. Be a Supporter, Not a Stalker

You may have a certain amount of anxiety about the way life will play out when your loved one returns home from drug rehab. In a very real way, you may have gotten used to the whirlwind, the lies, and the repetitive cycle of destruction. It may be difficult to see past these memories and look with hopeful eyes at the new possibilities that lie ahead, but it’s vital that you do. The best way to accomplish this is by sitting down with your loved one and discussing their plan for the days and weeks ahead.

Ask specific questions like,

  • Do you have a plan to attend a certain amount of meetings? Can you share your plan with me?
  • Will you need a ride anywhere?
  • Do you want me to hold you accountable or ask you about the meetings or therapy you’ll be attending?
  • Are there any red flags I should look for, like isolation or certain people, that will help me to understand where your emotions or thoughts are? Do I have permission to let you know when I see these red flags?

Often, we want to hold onto the recovering addict more tightly than they would like. We love them and want them to do well. If we are not careful we can fall into an unhealthy mindset where all our focus and attention is on them. Where are they going? What are they doing? Who are they talking to? It’s vital to remember that their journey of recovery belongs to them. We can pray and offer suggestions, but the best way for a person in recovery to test their own waters is by doing just that. Allowing each person the dignity of their own journey, even if it means the possibility of temporary failure or setback, is the best and healthiest way to live.

 3. A Slip is Not a Complete Failure

What is your worst fear for your loved one? Is it the thought of a relapse or a slip in the wrong direction? The thoughts you have toward slipping into old habits have a lot to do with how healthy the dynamic between the two of you will be. Of course, no one wants to fall…But what if they do?

Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, has done extensive research on what he calls the abstinence-violation effect (AVE). “The abstinence-violation effect is a form of black-and-white thinking,” says Marlatt.

While he was researching cigarette smokers who were trying to quit, Marlatt realized that individuals who viewed the act of smoking a single cigarette after their decision to quit as a complete defeat were much more likely to end up in a full-blown relapse. What is a “full blown relapse?” The easiest way to describe it is that moment of agreement when we say to ourselves, “The damage is done. I can’t do anything about it. I’ve already failed.”

Instead of looking at relapse or a “slip” with an all-or-nothing, in-or-out mindset, compare it to your diet. Let’s say you’ve practiced healthy eating habits for three weeks solid. Today you ate a Big Mac and a candy bar. Are you going to throw out all of the fruit and vegetables in your home and fill your cupboards with potato chips and Twinkies because of this one time event? No! Then look at slipping into old habits within the realm of addiction and recovery the same way.

Okay, as a disclaimer, screwing up your diet for a day will not have as far reaching effects as returning to substance abuse. We are using this as an example because it’s vital that you support the recovering individual even when they slip. If boundaries have been crossed, there may be some repercussions that go along with this slip, but it is still important to believe and know that failure is often part of the journey.

These three keys are part of a healthy recovery plan that involves the entire family. Other things you can do include:

  • Being sensitive to changing moods and providing space for your loved one to “get their bearings” after drug rehab.
  • Realizing that every person is different and your loved one may take some extra time transitioning back to work and all responsibilities. This is especially true for those who had too much on their plate to begin with. Self care and a healthy amount of down-time is important to recovery.
  • A willingness to be included in some therapy sessions and educational opportunities.

Listening and supporting, however, doesn’t mean you turn into a pushover. Ray Isackila, a licensed chemical dependency counselor at University Hospitals in Cleveland, adds, “Hold addicts accountable for their recovery from the relapse, just as it was important to hold them accountable for their addiction in the first place.” A written recovery plan is a healthy reference point that can help ground the recovering individual in this new way of life.

Are you or someone you love struggling with addiction? The Shores Treatment and Recovery Center offers a holistic approach to recovery with a treatment plan individualized to fit each person’s unique needs. Give us a call today.


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